THE COOL WORLD by Warren Miller


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This first person narrative of a fourteen year old Negro boy's near destruction by the Harlem jungle, will immediately suggest that here is Catcher in the Rye in a negative exposure. The white world of Park Avenue and Prep schools appear in a black perspective of the shabby hallways in which the knife carrying gangs congregate, the bare apartments in which tea is pushed. But to the intelligent and sensitive adolescent, they are in effect the same, both breeding anger, confusion and a curiously poignant tenderness. Unlike Salinger, Warren Miller has not moulded his characters into a series of exquisite episodes, nor does he achieve that perfect clarity which so distinguishes the former book. But he does succeed in exposing, through the language of his characters--that sometimes poetic slang--the emotional and intellectual rationale of that marginal world, which despite its immense disadvantages, carries within it the seeds of a rich creativity. Unfortunately for Warren Miller, whose mastery of the idiom is impressive, The Cool World will inevitably be compared with the world of Holden Caulfield and will inevitably suffer. For despite moments of blinding tenderness--the young prostitute who thinks God is an old Jew on the 8th Avenue subway, and who has a mystical experience at Coney Island, the superfluity of the hero's mother's ""husbands"", the hysterical white woman's tortured need to link her pale hand in the hand of a Negro--despite moments of appealing humor, this book, when compared to the richness of its predecessor is merely a swatch of the former's fine fabric.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1959
Publisher: Little, Brown