MAN WALKING ON EGGSHELLS by Herbert A. Simmons

MAN WALKING ON EGGSHELLS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of Corner Boy, winner of the Houghton Mifflin Fellowship in 1957, fills a second book with some exquisite prose depicting the mood and morality of a cross-section of Negro life; but he doesn't quite make it as a novelist. Raymond Douglas is born in St. Louis on a day when jazz lovers mourned the passing of a great blues singer and a great quake shook the capital city of Missouri. Thus, Raymond's heritage is one of music and violence. His mother and grandfather vie for the young man's allegiance. To Mother Mae's objection that jazz is ""a lot of sentimental bunk playbed by a bunch of shiftless people who never had sense enough to grow up"", Grandpa Argustus replies, ""That's your history coming out of them horns"". Raymond masters an old cornet and goes out to be historian to his people. He travels, falls in love, marries, loses his wife, and becomes involved in a fanatical Back to Africa movement -- an evangelical vaudeville of hate, bitterness, and black racism. Mr. Simmons is a superb dialogist, a sensitive and subtle writer. But his failure is with Raymond. Handicapped by a basic inarticulateness, he neither speaks, thinks, nor acts. We're told that he blows a mean horn; from this the printed page profits not at all. In a Joycean attempt to portray the jazz musician as a young ""viper"", all the characteristics are here except internal dialogue. Lucidity suffers. Simmons is a man to watch, but the book is weak.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1962
ISBN: 0393316181
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin