MEMPHIS AFTERNOONS by James Conaway

MEMPHIS AFTERNOONS

A Memoir

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An affecting memoir that limns the sometimes bumpy journey to acceptance of one's people and the place they called home. On an assignment in his hometown of Memphis during the mid- 80's, Conaway (Napa, 1990, etc.) realized that his father's bizarre behavior was caused by something more profound than mere aging. The diagnosis of Alzheimer's meant that ``the comfortable melancholy'' Conaway had felt when returning home was replaced by an entirely different emotion--a sense of loss and of opportunities missed forever. This memoir is, in part, an attempt to answer all the questions the author had meant to ask his father but never did. Conaway--a member of the ``nowhere generation'' who grew up between the ``old post-World War Two verities'' and ``the opportunities and dangers inherent in the next social order''--records with wry humor his struggles to assert his independence in a family in which his father--who never completed his degree--dreamed of having a son as an engineer, and his mother--a sometime artist and daughter of a Pulitzer-winning cartoonist--longed for acceptance and fame in a city where social standing was all. The Memphis of Conaway's growing-up years was still in the thrall of the Old South and its rigid code of behavior. Segregation was a given--not only between white and black but between respectable whites and ``white trash'' (Elvis was officially recognized only when his fame attracted money to the city)--and the social life of Conaway and his peers was dominated by debutante balls and fraternity pledges. Old Memphis was a ``quirky'' place that didn't begin to change, the author says, until after the murder of Martin Luther King. Like all visits back home, a mix of humor, irritation, and love--as well as a deeply affecting tribute to a father who ``yearned for an immutable place where people and comforts, even foolish ones, endure.''

Pub Date: May 26th, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-62945-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993




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