BEETLECREEK by Demby William


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There's a deceptive simplicity in the telling of a story that somehow cuts at the roots of the tragedy of loneliness. Bill Trapp, a childish, inhibited old white man has -- for fifteen years- kept himself apart from the world represented on the one side of his farm by a white community, on the other by the Negro settlement of Beetlecreek. Then, with his catching young Johnny in the appletree, and finding Johnny unafraid, the bonds are broken -- he feels he has made a friend. Johnny has come South from Pittsburgh to stay with his Uncle David and Aunt Mary, and both Johnny and David, sensitive, disoriented in the life-in-death existence of the Negro in the South, feel drawn to the old man's elemental goodness. But evil tongues make more insidious evil of Trapp's inexperience and simplicity -- of Johnny's and David's sense of friendliness- of the old man's mistaken hope that, in the picnic he plans he can bring white children and colored together- than they do of the recognizable sense of sin represented by Edith. Edith had been David's sweetheart before his marriage to stolid Mary; Edith had gone on the street and now returns for her mother's funeral, alone in a hostile community. Tragedy is inevitable. Johnny, reluctantly choosing the comradeship of running with the gang, is forced in his initiation to a vicious act of arson against his white friend- and a probable murder. David, seeing escape in Edith, leaves with her on the northbound bus. And the story ends on a question...Oblique handling of an intensely sympathetic character study, with overtones that are almost Russian. Much of the sordid details of ugliness make this unpalatable reading for the thin-skinned. Libraries 'ware.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1949
Publisher: Rinehart