TO AFRICA WITH LOVE by Carroll Baker


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Novelettish romantic travelogue of the kind more often seen in France than America, about an aging film queen having a star-crossed last bash in Africa with a doomed epileptic lad 16 years her junior. Baker's fame rests on her screen roles as Tennesesee Williams' Baby Doll and later as Harlow, less so on her autobiography Baby Doll. Her first novel, A Roman Tale, is being co-published with the present book. Baker skillfully maintains a tone of moody restless egoism throughout her book--though after the first few pages, it's a tossup whether one wants to go on reading such emotional self-victimization. Readers have to wait only a brief 66 pages before Baker consummates her April-September affair on a beach in the Seychelles: ""He made love to me slowly and gently and to the point of madness. He languished over the exploration of my body until I was fully giddy with arousal. He made love to me completely with an awareness and understanding which should have been far beyond his years. This sensitive, gentle boy had the calculated wisdom of a true sensualist."" At other times, Baker comes through vividly while still showing a southern-belle loftiness, as in this about some gorged lions: ""Whether lying on their bellies, their sides, or on their backs with their paws in the air, they kept their jaws stretched wide as if yawning. As they ventilated through their open mouths, the smell of raw meat digesting accompanied by the odor of copious tarts exploding in recurrent blasts was repulsive almost beyond compare."" At other moments, her eyes fill with tears looking at Kilimanjaro and thinking of Hemingway's elegaic short story. Deserted with her lover on an island, Baker is reduced to biting the heads off live lizards, sucking the juice from their bodies, then chewing on their rubbery flesh. Other outstanding moments are a crippled woman in a wheelchair being eaten alive by ants, and Baker's description of the tremendous annual Serengeti migration. Of course, the cruel time too soon arrives when Carroll must part forever from her lover and return to her children and film career, and weeks of sudden, tearful flash-floods. Blithe self-indulgence, unwittingly campy fun, too. Forty photographs.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1986
Publisher: Donald Fine