CRABCAKES by James Alan McPherson

CRABCAKES

KIRKUS REVIEW

 McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prizewinning short-story collection Elbow Room (1977), writes here with an astonishing range of language and emotion. Having previously addressed the black experience in America on many levels, he now tells a profoundly personal tale of displacement and discovery that is poetic and universal. The life described in this volume comes into focus in a moment of retrospection, in a bitter season of doubt. ``Life itself'' had become his enemy, he writes: ``I sought to control its every effort at intrusion into my personal space''--space that was almost entirely confined to his bed, ``in which I perfected my escape from life into an art.'' Remembering the seasons of pain and repair in a lifetime of missed opportunities, he returns repeatedly in this account to Channie Washington, his longtime tenant, a nurturing, self-reliant, and deeply religious woman who represented sanctuary--``the place where you pause to get your bearings for the road.'' For McPherson, the present beckons to memory slowly, seductively, revelation then coming into Proustian clarity with a crabcake or the sensual gait of a brown-eyed woman descending a stair. The fish market of a Baltimore neighborhood where he first savored crabcakes, the fields of Iowa, where he now teaches, and the streets of Japanese cities, where he sojourned awhile, all gather into a personal monologue that invites us to understand the crossroads he has reached. Ultimately, McPherson finds renewal in simple sentiments. Late in a long conversation-letter to a Japanese friend that runs through the second part of the book, he reminds us that ``if nothing in the future of the present seems permanent . . . one can always focus on . . . the future enjoyment of a Maryland crabcake. Such exercises of the imagination keep hope alive.'' Although its ever-shifting form is sometimes unsettling, this is a thoughtful and life-affirming memoir, unforgettable for its humanity, its gentle pace. McPherson has traveled the world and never lost sight of the inspirational lure of one's origins.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83465-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1997




IOWA WRITERS’ WORKSHOP AUTHORS:

Nonfiction MARKING THE SPARROW'S FALL by Wallace Stegner
by Wallace Stegner
Nonfiction CRABCAKES by James Alan McPherson
by James Alan McPherson
Fiction THIRTEEN UNCOLLECTED STORIES by John Cheever
by John Cheever
Fiction A THOUSAND ACRES by Jane Smiley
by Jane Smiley

MORE BY JAMES ALAN MCPHERSON

NonfictionA REGION NOT HOME by James Alan McPherson
by James Alan McPherson
NonfictionFATHERING DAUGHTERS by DeWitt Henry
by DeWitt Henry

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionLONG DIVISION by Kiese Laymon
by Kiese Laymon