Toni Morrison’s fourth novel, Tar Baby, was published in 1981. In his review of Tar Baby in the New York Times, novelist John Irving wrote, “The more ambitious a novelist is, the more willing he is to elevate his characters to the level of myth – to give their births, their relationships, their deaths, even their names, the resonance of legend. Dickens conveys such an ambition in his titles (”Bleak House,” ”Great Expectations,” ”Hard Times”) and of course in his characters’ names (Lady Dedlock, Mr. Jaggers, Gradgrind). The 19th century novel is rich with such risk, such mischief. Toni Morrison seems to be returning such risk and mischief to the contemporary American novel, and never more extravagantly than in Tar Baby, her fourth and most ambitious book.