Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, a pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature whose imaginative power in Beloved, Song of Solomon, and other works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race, has died at age 88, reports the AP. Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Morrison died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Morrison's family issued a statement through Knopf saying she died after a brief illness. In its obituary, Vulture shares these words from Morrison's Nobel Prize address: "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."
Few authors rose in such rapid, spectacular style. She was nearly 40 when her first novel, The Bluest Eye
, was published. Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved
, she was one of the book world's most regal presences, with her expanse of graying braids; her dark, discerning eyes; and her warm, theatrical voice, able to lower itself to a mysterious growl or rise to a humorous falsetto. "That handsome and perceptive lady," James Baldwin called her. By her early 60s, after just six novels, she had become the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, praised in 1993 by the Swedish Academy for her "visionary force" and for her delving into "language itself, a language she wants to liberate" from categories of black and white. (Read much, much more on Morrison's life and work here