ALWAYS STRAIGHT AHEAD by Alma Neuman

ALWAYS STRAIGHT AHEAD

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A memoir in the form of an answer to a love letter delivered 20 years late, by the second wife of James Agee. ``Wanting so badly to answer'' that letter, mislaid in the interim, from the long-dead Agee, Neuman has finally eased her grief by writing the candid story of her life. As much an account of love and friendship betrayed as a memoir of 1930's intellectual bohemia and of postwar Germany, the narrative also describes a journey to painful self-knowledge and acts as a rueful confession of a tendency never to look back but to look optimistically ``always straight ahead''--with not always happy results. The daughter of mismatched parents--a cultivated mother and a barely literate but successful father--Neuman, an accomplished musician, was attracted early on to intellectual households where music and literature were important. Her first boyfriend, Frisk Saunders, was the son of an eminent professor who, with his wife, befriended the young woman, despite reservations about her Jewish background. It was in Saunders's home that Neuman first met Agee, who soon married Frisk's sister--a union quickly ended by Agee's affair with Neuman. The author traveled to the American South with Agee, visiting the families that he was to write about in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and she came to know Agee's friends; but when Agee was unfaithful, she fled with their son, baby Joel, to Mexico, where she met and later married German refugee Bodo Uhse. After WW II, the couple moved to East Germany, where Uhse, a longtime Communist and respected writer, enjoyed special privileges. His infidelity and an increasing unease with the regime, however, led Neuman to return to the US, where she finally learned how to live without depending on a husband's status. A life of great range and interest, told with disarming frankness by a woman of remarkable zest and experience. More than a literary footnote. (Photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8071-1792-7
Page count: 165pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993