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Even while at a loss for words (Miss Fairbairn is not--her novel runs to more than 900 pages) to evaluate this as anything more than a popular novel, it is intended to synthesize the Negro experience in terms and through people which will involve the reader. As people, the characters are unrememberable; as writing, it is unremarkable; but it is at all times a readable book which traces the semantic worlds of difference and discrimination from ""nigra"" to ""white man's nigger"" to the point where the Negro can be an individual without a tag. David Champlin is the hero to whom the Biblical title allusion refers: his grandfather, L'il Joe, first seen cleaning out a lavatory in New Orleans during the depression, is determined that there ""ain't no black skin gonna hold"" his boy back, and with the help of a Danish intellectual, David goes on to get his education--at a small college in the midwest, then Harvard Law. At the first he meets a good many of the people whose lives will be contiguous with his throughout the book: Sara, a white girl, who falls in love with him; Hunter Travis, a light-skinned Negro whose father is a prominent statesman; Suds Sutherland, son of a Boston doctor; etc. Here at college, there is an attempt to Jim Crow him out via a homosexual slur. And by the time he is graduated, there is the recognition of his unchangeable love for Sara even though he feels ""it is not enough."" Travelin'--travelin'--from Boston to England (Oxford) to Paris (Sara and her art) to plans to accept a diplomatic post in South Africa, the novel and David return to the South after the death (David insists murder) of L'il Joe. This takes him right into the middle of Civil Rights action. After he is badly injured, he finally marries Sara; but with his return to the violence in the South, he is killed....Five Smooth Stones will be presented with tremendous publisher expectations and it has the Literary Guild endorsement. Even if the timing is a little off, it might do both good and well. The comparison to make is Exodus in that it dramatizes and empathizes the experience of a minority in a way which will reach the majority. Not the enlightened, the horizontal common denominator, which will not cavil with its utter predictability.

Pub Date: Dec. 27th, 1966
Publisher: Crown