Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 19, 1974 · Page 75
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 75

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 19, 1974
Page 75
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Page 75 article text (OCR)

4 * Message from a teenager "FIRST PERSON, SINGULAR" by Via Demas, G. P. Putnam's Sons, $6.95 "First Person, Singular" is written in the form of an extended letter from Pamela Wilson to her psychiatrist, but the-use of the epistolary method here involves an assimilation of techniques through which the author blends interior monologue with action, character, and dialogue to dramatize Pamela's youthful experiences, thoughts, and feelings. This literary method al. lows the writer considerable latitude because external events are commented on in a retrospective manner as they filter through the narrator. The forward movement of the story, though episodic, permits the writer to pres- cind from antecedents and consequences of significant actions which pertain-to Pamela's adolescence, and to explore, step-by-step, human behavior as it is related to a scheme of ambiguous values in the present age where almost every incident or idea is subjected to an array of conflicting interpretations. The shaping force of the novel is not the outward action related to the epic of growing up, but he inward process of the narrator's mind, the inner tensions, conflicts, and attitudes. It is Pamela's mind, perceiving her aloof father, ill mother, and questionable friends; it is her consciousness search- Safe cities "AMERICA'S 50 SAFEST CITIES," by David Franke; Arlington House, $8.95. Don't bother to look. Charleston isn't one of them. Huntington is somewhat safer than Charleston. The safest city in America is Lakewood, Ohio, followed by Rome, N.Y., and Weymouth, Mass. Franke's logical sequel to "Safe Places," puts Charleston in 265th place; Huntington higher up in 216th place. Compton, Calif., is last among Franke's 393. Lowest ranking large cities are Newark at 392 and Detroit at 391. You should also avoid Wilmington, 388; Fort Lauder- rfale, 353; and Kansas City, 338. Franke's listings are drawn from crime statistics. He considered murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and car theft. The conclusions, sometimes are at variance with popular opinion regarding black population. Several Southern cities with heavy black population are among the relatively safe communities. -- L.T. Anderson ing tnrough a panorama of shifting scenes, people, and images to find her identity in what her parents think is the "blue-jeaned, pale, barefooted world" of innocent-looking teenagers, modeling clothes in Seventeen; but in what Pamela knows is the demonic, fantastic, sexy world of sensation-seeking youngsters, having bacca- hanalian orgies in old cemeteries. Because Pamela's epistle is a mode of both recording behavior and communicating attitudes, it involves perceptual experience and the association of ideas. Therefore, this is a narrative about many things. It is about reality, illusion, impression, society, social symbols, institutions, false learning, adults, teenagers, isolation, poetry, drugs, truth, and. love. But most of all it is about time within the life of Pamela Wilson where its duration is determined by the ideas, emotions, and memories that are evoked and where fragments of experience and shades of meaning are examined. -Through the expressive rhythms of Pamela's composition, which are closed to casual speech, the reader gains a sense of immediacy by sharing her consciousness of sensory experience and her feeling of complete isolation. But this is more than a personal narrative since thematic development is given to main ideas, and a transition occurs. As individual sensibility is related to the interplay of characters and circumstances, it becomes an extended metaphor for the poignant drama of contemporary adolescence. Much of the narrative force is the result of pressure that evolves from Pamela's home life. She finds aberration from the truth in family living together with mutual affection, but seldom managing to communicate because they have succumbed to illusion and are obsessed with matters in their own private worlds. Problems "outside the home relate to Pamela's growing awareness that there is an aberration from the truth in a society where shallow people lacking vital understanding or compassion simply "come and go," where prejudice, racial tension, and social injustice'prevail, and where cranky, sour people make a living selling candy to laughing kids they hate. The central problem from which others develop is stated early in the first chapter when Pamela objects to her mother's attitude: "I mean, she wants me to be with it/but not too much, but with her at home to tell all about it." This is not a new posture, but an old one; it is the "hickory limb" philosophy concisely expressed in the old poem: "Mother dear, may I learn to swim?" "Yes, my darling daughter. Hang your clothes on a hickory limb; But don't go near the water." This desire to prevent children from making mistakes by protectng them from influences parents consider harmful or do not understand implies a strong belief in (or fear of) one's ability to discern truth and select that which is best for others. However, the real problem is that an impractical premise is involved, since those advocating restraint of this nature long for stability by hoping that the world will go on without changing. The answer--well, this is a letter youthful readers might ponder because of its earthy episodes, students of the novel could examine because of its eclectic form, and some parents should scrutinize because of its pertinent message. But perhaps most important of all, this is a cleverly written letter many readers will find interesting because it is about Pamela, an attractive, sensitive heroine sho tells a penetrating story of what it is really like to be a modern teenager. Dr. Hunter is a professor in English at West Liberty State College. Silent world "DUMMY," by Ernest Tidyman; Little, Brown, 16.95. This is the factual and highly interesting record of two murder accusations brought against a deaf, mute, illerate man, who, obviously, couldn't contribute to his own defense. In the course of retelling this strange tale, Ernest Tidyman also manages to convey all too well the inadequacies of society in dealing with its misfits, despite Herculean effort. The tide, it appears soon enough, runs too strongly against those who work in the fields. The murder accusations are brought as a result of reasonably strong circumstancial evidence in the first case, and what appears to me to be overpowering circumstantial evidence in the second. Tidyman tries not to take sides. But he does, nonetheless, as any of us might, I suspect, if we were to set out to chronicle the strange case of the Dummy. This is also .the story of a deaf-mute lawyer who defends the accused man, and who, despite a privileged background which enabled him to acquire education and training, finds himself slipping into the horror world of his client. -- L.T. Anderson CHARLESTON,^.'VA. 7m

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