Monday, April 4, 2011

Toni Morrison v. Snooki

This weekend's front-page literary news (at least for anybody in New Jersey) is the brouhaha over Snooki out-earning Toni Morrison at Rutgers events. Snooki earned $32,000 for two student-produced comedy Q&As, whereas Morrison will receive $30,000 for delivering the commencement address to Rutgers students in May.

From what I've ascertained, Snooki's biggest asset is her lush mane, which Toni Morrison's tongue could effectively trim/shred/hack apart in no-point-two seconds. But the priorities seem to be a bit skewed. The commencement address will hit over ten thousand students and offer them a chance to hear an iconic figure speak. Snooki, a "reality TV" (and don't get me started on that genre), hasn't made the intellectual and cultural contributions that a figure of Morrison's stature has.

A Star-Ledger editorial critiques Rutgers's decision to offer Morrison the $30,000 speaker's fee, yet...strangely, it doesn't even call Snooki into question. The editorial attacks the decision simply on a financial matter, and sure--maybe it's gratuitous. But it's a rare step from a New Jersey establishment that's been slicing funding left and right. Instead of axing connections between the arts and society, bringing Toni Morrison to Rutgers as a commencement speaker presents a dedication to literature and the arts that we need in economically trying times.

Now, $32,000 to Snooki...that might be a little too fat.

(By the by, Toni Morrison will be reading at Rutgers-Newark on April 26th.)


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