PERFECT TIMING by Philip Lee Williams


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 Williams's fifth novel (Slow Dance in Autumn, etc.)--a bittersweet comedy about a man who searches for the woman he loved in the Sixties--is sometimes tedious, but its familiar mix of southern argot and good-ole-boy humor, spiced this time with some religious parody, can also be clever and touching. Ford Clayton is a North Carolina music professor suffering from midlife crisis: wife Jill moves to Macon after he has an affair, and his opera, based on East of Eden, is getting nowhere. Then he sees Camille Malone, the woman he worshipped, in a documentary about the homeless; and, once the story kicks into gear (it takes a while), Ford takes off with cousin Clarence (``I'll just be like your private preacher or something''), who was ``released from prison and washed in the Blood of the Lamb at the same time,'' for Myrtle Beach, where Ford arranges to meet Camille. Interwoven are flashbacks to Ford's childhood (``First and always, there was music'') and to his life with Camille. She was a whiz at almost everything from classical piano to Sixties lit-chat; founded ``The Malone Society'' for ``Philosophico-Musico-Politico Discussion''; organized antiwar rallies; and then found religion. At Myrtle Beach, Camille--still crazy but no bag-lady--founds a new religion with Clarence and later follows Ford back to North Carolina (he becomes reconciled with his wife) to kick off ``The Test and the Text'' (their religion) with a beer rally. It flops-- and Camille returns to New York while Ford sets Yeats's ``Lake Isle of Innisfree'' to music, finally achieving something, if only in a minor key. The new religion (``The Book of Mister James Durante,'' ``The Book of Baseball Statistics'') is a lot of fun, and the humor is often right-on: altogether, then, a successful version of the Sixties Novel, about people who yearn to be who they once were but settle for what they have.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1991
ISBN: 1-56145-024-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Peachtree
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991


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