TWO TALES FOR AUTUMN by Berry Fleming

TWO TALES FOR AUTUMN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fleming has been producing spirited light fiction since 1927, but here he turns elegiac--or at least halfways. ""The Inventory"" is the more serious--and leaden--of these two novellas. Howard Stuart, an elderly writer newly widowed and about to take reluctant leave of his Georgia home for a rented apartment, is ""reprieved"" by a freak snowstorm. As he looks over the books on his shelves, their provenances return his life to him: a writer's life, full of exaltations and disappointments, incomplete participation in love, complete participation in loss. Fleming has a way here of jamming excess information, voices, and memories into a single sentence, making much of this tale breathlessly indecipherable. But ""Captain Bennett's Folly"" is far less lugubrious--sharp with wit, a little crammed and marble-mouthed still, but easier to take because of Fleming's refreshing trot. Uncle Nolan Bennett, pushing 80, lives down in the Florida Keys, where he transcribes prophetic dreams, a ""hallucinema,"" and is happy as a clam, thank you, with his much younger housekeeper, Mrs. Littleberry--and with the income he gets from the once-thought-worthless land he owns on the mainland. The family, afraid that Mrs. Littleberry has her hooks into the old fool, comes barreling down to declare the captain non compos mentis or at least get that land somehow signed over to them. Fleming, sharp-tongued, deflating, full of funny descriptions, keeps things spinning nicely. There's a bit of hugger-mugger at the end--Nolan being fought over by God and the Devil--but it brings nothing down that's been sent aloft by Fleming's natural effervescence.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1979
Publisher: Cotton Lane Press (2 Cotton Lane, Augusta, Ga. 30902)