A WIDER WORLD: Portraits in an Adolescence by Kate Simon

A WIDER WORLD: Portraits in an Adolescence

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Simon continues her story of growing up in the New York of the 1920's and 30's which she began four years ago in the highly-acclaimed Bronx Primitive: Portraits in a Childhood. The present installment unfortunately is an all-too-familiar blend of impoverished Jewish immigrant parents, a rebellious child eager for education, of understanding teachers and contentious socialist comrades, of the Grand Concourse and Greenwich Village, of Marx and Millay, of ""New Masses"" and Nazimova, bagels and bohemia. If there is one element that distinguishes Simon's narrative from the current flood of similar reminiscences (for one, Doctorow's World's Fair), it is the unsentimental view the author takes of this highly personal tale. Simon refuses to wrap the story in a mist of nostalgia; her pages are dotted with sexual assaults, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, racist and sexist slurs. Simon has always taken a hard look at the world around her and here she recounts the events that have shaped her vision. Astonishingly independent from an early age--she maintained her own apartment when still in her mid-teens and formed a ""live-in"" liaison with a fellow student when such arrangements were unthinkable for ""nice young girls""--Simon was clearly a liberated woman. By focusing on the frustrations and terrors as well as the satisfactions of such pre-ERA independence, a number of passages in the book will speak out forcefully to many readers. In its general outline, however, A Wider World is annoyingly diffuse. Frequently characters and incidents contribute little to the overall theme, giving the impression that Simon has introduced them merely to pad out her narrative. Particularly in the final pages, the reader gets the feeling the author herself has grown slightly weary of her story. While certain details of A Wider World are freshly perceived and insightful, many others chip away at material that has been mined too often before. Could it be that the vein has run out?

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row