Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 27, 1972 · Page 85
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 85

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 27, 1972
Page 85
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Page 85 article text (OCR)

SPEAKING OF BOOKS Growing up sick "GERONIMO REX," by Barry Hannah, Viking, $7.95. Barry Hannah's "Geronimo Rex"- is not a novel about the famous Apache chief. Instead it depicts the high school and college years of Harriman Monroe, a young man who grows up in Louisiana and Mississippi in the 1950's. Geronimo happens to be Harriman's hero. The work is one of the large host of novels which present the adolescence of a young man; and a reader might ask, quite naturally, in what ways this particular novel is d i s t i n c t i v e f r o m t h e numerous other examples of · the type. The novel does succeed quite well in evoking the spirit of the 50's, and anyone who grew up in this period m a y f e e l a t o u c h o f nostalgia. The author has Harriman tell his own story, and he effectively and consistently presents the young man's experiences from the adolescent's point of view. Indeed, the work gives the impression of actually being written by a talented, sensitive adolescent. The novelist has the gift of being able to describe scenes and experiences in a vivid, poetic way, a no he gives the impression of being intoxicated with language and its possibilities for evoking moods. In other respects, however, the novel is less satisfactory. With one exception, the characters tend to be either uninteresting or unconvincing. I was not able to get excited about the narrator-hero. He lives an aimless, somewhat unhappy life, but I was never able to determine the source of his unhappiness. the motivation for his behavior, or what made him tick. Best Sellers (C) 1972 New York Times News Service This analysis is based on reports obtained from more than 125 bookstores in 64 communities of the United States. FICTION "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," Bach. "The Winds of War," Wouk. "Captains and the Kings," Caldwell. "My Name Is Asher Lev," Po'tok. "The Word." Wallace. GENERAL "I'm O.K.-You're O.K.," Harris. "0, Jerusalem!" Collins and Lapierre. "The Boys of Summer," Kahn. "The Superlawyers," Goulden. "George S. Kaufman," Teichmann. Most of the other characters are also unsatisfactory. They range f r o m the f l a t and undeveloped (Monroe's father) through the stereotyped (Ma Rooney, the land-lady) to the highly exaggerated (Peter Lepoyster, a crazy bigot). The most successful character is Harley Butte, the enthusiastic Mulatto b a n d m a s t e r . Here the narrator has sensitively presented an interesting human being, and the reader eagerly follows his fortunes from enthusiastic optimism to tempered resignation to the r e a l i t i e s and compromises of life. I believe that the novel would have been more interesting if Harley Butte had been the hero rather than Harriman M o n r o e . T h e a u t h o r ' s success in creating this character is unusual, since white authors are often told that they cannot create convincing black characters. The special flavor of this novel appears to be the grotesque and the highly exaggerated. The narrator- hero seems to view the characters and his experiences from a distorted angle of vision. Indeed, the exaggerated characters and the many explosive adventures, w h i c h the hero himself helps to bring about, give the work the fantastic flavor of the comic strip. This element of the grotesque is blended with an atmosphere of disgust, which permeates the whole novel, and which I found the most unpleasant aspect of the work. The young hero has sexual encounters with women which are, for the most part repulsive, and the women tend to be social cripples, whom the hero refers to as "roaches." It is difficult for me to get excited about the love life of an adolescent which is un- relievedly dreary and depressing. Perhaps it Is not coincidental that the period of the 50's, which the narrator evokes, saw the development of the "sick joke ," and I would classify this novel as a "sick novel." Indeed, my own reactions to the work coincide with the hero's reaction to the sick jokes which his friends tell, and which he calls, "a true revenge attack on taste, beauty, and human emotion. They used sex only as a sort of springboard into horror and slime." It is always interesting to read what the very young American novelists are turning out, but I would have to express my own lack of enthusiasm for this particular endeavor. --Trevor Owen Dr. Owen is an associate professor of English at Davis and Elkins College. Character sketches "THE DEVASTATING B O Y S , " b y E l i z a b e t h Taylor, The Viking Press, $5.95. If, as a reader, you want more from a book than esc a p i s m , t h e n " T h e Devastating Boys and other stories," will satisfy that need. Each story is a careful study of real people as their i n t i m a t e f e e l i n g s a r e revealed for the reader to contemplate. Often their Behavior is at one and the same time both enlightening and emotionally touching. In the title story Miss Taylor shows a rather staid, elderly upper middle class British couple acting as temporary foster parents to two young black boys from the raucous city, experiencing for the first time the silent beauty of the countryside."One learns from the'story that contact with the uninhibited young is what so often provides the first small cracks in the racial and social barriers. Setting too far removed "THESEIGE"byJerrold Morgulas; Holt, Rineholt and Winston; $8.95 "The Siege" is a voluminous (531 pages) novel of the Spanish Civil War and the family and personal conflicts that war generates. Unfortunately, any review of it is bound to be just so much filler and the novel itself will probably go unread by many. It's just too imposing, with characterization done in depth but excessively, description that is evocative but wearisome and a set of plot conflicts that are well-drawn and plausible, yet 36 years and 7.000 miles out of context for American audiences, especially when set alongside the Viet trauma and our own i n t e r n a l , near-civil-war problems. The author is a grdaute of Yale and a New York attorney with an earlier novel to his credit. While not consciously competing with Hemingway, and near opposite in style, he's still got to function in the shadow of "For Whom The Bell Tolls." Besides that, any novel of the Spanish Civil War--and maybe of any war, all nov'elistic hero worship aside--is just so m u c h confetti. --Joseph Meledin Jr. In many resets Miss Taylor's stories update life as it is being lived in Britain today. Changes are taking place, but they are being accomplished with far less a b r a s i v e n e s s t h a n elsewhere. Occasionally, as in the story entitled "Miss A. and Miss M.." one is given a glimpse of the past. . . of genteel ladies, fallen on hard times, eeking out a living by operating a guest house where the bookish set spend their time on the cheap. The story outlines delightfully the adolescent love of a young girl towards two schoolmistresses who have a cottage in the grounds of the guest house. With equal skill Miss Taylor tells the story of a l i t t l e g i r l , f a r t o o knowledgable for her age, who is a modern day village gossip; or the r a t h e r ludicrous tragi-comic saga of a middle-aged couple who have met for the first time on holiday in their attempt to satisfy the demands of the flesh. It is left to the reader to judge the morality of the behavior of the characters. The authoress presents the facts with clarity, warmth and great perception. This is a wonderful book for relaxed vacationing. --Joseph L. Roblou. BRITANNICA JUNIOR ENCYCLOPAEDIA COMPLETE COVERA6E WITH SIMPLIFIED VOCABULARY. EASV-TO-READ TYPE.. Pttoret MAPS GS. 15 VOLUMES.' THE YOUNG CHILDREN'S ENCYCLOPEDIA BEAUTIFUL fiRiSSY . " H£K HAIR \GKOWSWD GROW; TlNKERBELL BUBBLE AND SPRAY SET YOUNG gryHORSMAN, BEDkNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS mr- PROPEHEP ACTION BED N A BIS PRIZE! THI? CONTEST ENTRY. History with nuances "HISTORY AS LITERATURE" edited with an introduction by Orville Prescott, Harper Row, $12.50 "History as Literature" is a f i n e a d d i t i o n to any library. Its 50 selections are chosen, according to editor Prescott. "for their literary distinction and dramatic in- t e r e s t " a n d a r r a n g e d chronologically by subject. Thus, a 20th century scholar is placed alongside a 16th century philosopher/ politician, simply because b o t h w r o t e o f t h e Elizabethans, a Victorian beside a Roman writing of Herod because both are concerned with the decline of Rome. The comparisons and contrasts in style and viewpoint become as important as the historical subjects they examine, for, as Norman Mailer has pointed out in "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," there is no history without nuance. Yet, it's all done n o n - p e d a n t i c a l l y , references and editorial insertions are kept to a minimum, and the reading is fascinating. One weakness, as the editor admits, as a concentration of subject matter in which, unavoidably, some p e r i o d s , c u l t u r e s , a n d historians are ignored, but that's all part of the editorial agony, and he makes his decisions well. The resulting selections in ancient Greece and Rome, Elizabethan England and America to 1865 ( w i t h m i s c e l l a n e o u s s c a t t e r e d o f f e r i n g s i n Western Eur-opean history) r e a d s l i k e a W h o ' s W h o -- H e r o d o t u s a n d Thucydides; Gibbon, Bede and Hume; Strachery and the Trevelyans; Bruce Catton; historical and contemporary viewpoints; loyal and opposition viewpoints. This collection is a good example of the Renaissance maxim which postulated that literature and learning could both delight and instruct, could be aesthetic as well as utilitarian, an idea \ve tend to assume involves mutually exclusives in the p r a g m a t i c , categorizing, specialistic, expediental world of the 20th century. It's not bestseller material but, then, few truly good books ever are. --Joseph Mekdin Jr. WANT ADS 3 48 48 48 AND COIOI PUHII CUT OUT. HINT N*MI. *cr. »DDttSS Mll TO UMCU NUCINI. CAM Of THIS fAfll WINNII! HOTiniO IT Ml.". ] STAfE MAGAZINE; August 27,1972' CHARLESTON, W. 21 m

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