Tar Baby: Top Ten Quotes

Average Overall Rating: 5
Total Votes: 126
  1. “The clouds gathered together, stood still and watched the river scuttle around the forest floor, crash headlong into the haunches of hills with no notion of where it was going, until exhausted, ill and grieving, it slowed to a stop just twenty leagues short of the sea.”

    p. 9
    Nature reacts to the coming of the building projects on the Isle des Chevaliers that involve diverting rivers. 

  2. “A house of sleeping humans is both closed and wide open. Like an ear it resists easy penetration but cannot brace for attack.”
    p. 44.
    The inhabitants of the Street house sleep at night, quite unaware that an intruder is present.
  3. “ . . . her sex life had become such a wreck it was downright interesting.”
    p. 87
    Margaret contemplates one aspect of her unhappy life. 
  4. “The man . . . stood before the mirror looking at his hair. It spread like layer upon layer of wings from his head, more alive than the sealskin. It made him doubt that hair was in fact dead cells. Black people’s hair, in any case, was definitely alive. Left alone and untended it was like foliage and from a distance it looked like nothing less than the crown of a deciduous tree.”
    p. 132
    A description of Son’s hair that suggests his vital link with nature.
  5. “It seemed sticky. Loud, red and sticky. Its fields spongy, its pavements slick with the blood of all the best people. . . . It repelled him and made him suspicious of all knowledge he could not witness or feel in his bones.”
    p. 167
    Son’s view of the United States since he left it, gained through the international edition of Time and shortwave radio.
  6. “But underneath her efficiency and know-it-all sass were wind chimes. Nine rectangles of crystal, rainbowed in the light. Fragile pieces of glass tinkling as long as the breeze was gentle. But in more vigorous weather the thread that held it together would snap. So it would be his duty to keep the climate mild for her, to hold back with his hands if need be thunder, drought . . . and he would blow with his own lips a gentle enough breeze for her to tinkle in.”
    p. 220
    Son’s view of Jadine and his description of the role he has to play for her.
  7. “ . . . if every there was a black woman’s town, New York was it. . . . Snapping whips behind the tellers’ windows, kicking ass at Con Edison offices, barking orders in the record companies, hospitals, public schools. They refused loans at Household Finance, withheld unemployment checks and drivers’ licenses, issued parking ticket and summonses. . . . The manifesto was simple: ‘Talk shit. Take none.’”
    p. 222
    New York City as seen through Jadine’s eyes.
  8. “There was nothing to forgive, nothing to win and the future was five minutes away. He unorphaned her completely. Gave her a brand-new childhood. They were the last lovers in New York City—the first in the world—so their passion was inefficient and kept no savings account. They spent it like Texans.”
    p. 229
    Jadine and Son in New York City, completely in love.
  9. “He looked at her face in the mirror and was reminded of days at sea when water looked like sky. She surveyed his body and thought of oranges, playing jacks, and casks of green wine. He was still life, babies, cut glass, indigo, hand spears, dew, cadmium yellow, Hansa red, moss green and the recollection of a tree that wanted to dance with her.”
    p. 230
    How the lovers, Jadine and Son, see each other when they are at the height of their brief relationship.
  10. “An innocent man is a sin before God.”
    p. 243
    Valerian’s conclusion, stimulated by his guilty realization that he should have known about the abuse Margaret inflicted on their baby son.

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