LIVING BY THE WORD

This surprisingly uneven collection of essays, addresses, journal entries, and casual writings covers the period from 1973 through 1987, and stands in sharp contrast to the high watermark of the author's The Color Purple (1982). Walker's subject matter ranges from reincarnation to politics and race, but raids on the bottom drawer seem strongly in evidence here. One journal entry records Walker's dream of a two-headed woman; another suggests that one strategy for examining history is to record the characteristics and "vibrations of our helpers whose spirits we may feel but of whose objective reality as people who once lived we may not know." Jottings, speculations, fleeting impressions abound but lack the kind of development and shaping that would transform them from journal notations to writings worthy of publication. Of greater interest is the more polished "The Dummy in the Window: Joel Chandler Harris and the Invention of Uncle Remus," an address given by Walker to the Atlanta Historical Society, as well as Walker's take on the frenzied Philadelphia police response to MOVE. Similarly, Walker's reaction to a proposed Oakland ban on The Color Purple, in the form of an essay read to the National Writers Union and the Black Women's Forum, presents the author's views in a stronger light and includes important commentary on Walker's use of idiom and approach to language. And of primary interest is the author's response to objections raised by readers and black spokespeople about the character of "Mister" in The Color Purple. At best, then, a companion piece to Walker's fiction, especially when read selectively with an eye towards the techniques and ideas driving her narratives.

Pub Date: May 31, 1988

ISBN: 0156528657

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1988

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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