WHEN THE CENTURY WAS YOUNG by Dee Brown

WHEN THE CENTURY WAS YOUNG

A Writer's Notebook
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Less a memoir than a handful of experiences shaped into short vignettes. Western novelist and historian Brown (Conspiracy of Knaves, 1987; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 1971, etc.) turns to his own colorful past for material in this engaging account. From his small-town Louisiana and Arkansas origins to his lengthy career as an agricultural librarian at the University of Illinois, Brown has seen most of the 20th century, his memories reflecting to a considerable degree the vast changes wrought in America during this time. Working at the age of 12 as an occasional letter-carrier for the Post Office, Brown witnessed the oil boom in southern Arkansas before moving into the heart of the Ozarks for his first newspaper job. A degree in library science from George Washington University offered few employment prospects during the Depression, so, with the onset of WW II, the author found himself a soldier, albeit one in privileged circumstances as a participant in the Army's Specialized Training Program. Forgotten, along with his unit, for a year while he studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Brown eventually served as a librarian near Washington, until the military's combination of cold war hysteria and hypocrisy prompted him to return to civilian life. At the University of Illinois, Brown befriended a personable Pakistani who wanted to use an American education to rise above his caste back home, and, on another occasion, the author found himself in a comic situation at the Missouri Botanic Gardens; throughout his narrative, self-effacement triumphs (reference to his bestsellers and other books is limited to a four-page epilogue). Fragments of a life that are told easily and with charm; as a whole, however, the narrative is much less than the sum of its parts. (Twenty-three b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-87483-267-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: August House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993




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