A TIDEWATER MORNING by William Styron

A TIDEWATER MORNING

Three Tales from Youth

KIRKUS REVIEW

A short little trip into a half-comfortable kind of writerly nostalgia in three stories (declares an Author's Note) that "reflect the experiences of the author at the ages of twenty, ten, and thirteen." Bending his hand again to scenes of WW II, Styron visits ("Love Day") a Marine Division in the Pacific, offering in brief form a standard cast of characters from Many-a-Movie: the tough but just-a-guy commander; the platoon leader who wants to be a writer; the narrator who has secret home-thoughts and, through them, learns something about meaning and fear. Throughout, the rickety narrative is made forgivable--barely--by the pleasures of the period detail. "Shadrach," set in 1935, is more complex--and perhaps overall less convincing, though even more painstaking in its (in this case) recalling of rural Depression-era details. In it, a middle-class boy admits to his envy of the slovenly but life-rich existence of a family of fallen white trash (the Dabneys), to whom a 99-year-old ex-slave returns to die. Finally, set in 1938, amid rumblings of approaching war, "A Tidewater Morning" shows a boy rebelling against one kind of tyranny (his mean and niggardly paper-route boss) while his mother (once a classical singer) dies horribly of the inescapable tyranny of cancer and his father crumbles gradually through weakness and pity. Styronic plusses and minuses: the displeasures of the overly- written-about and revisited, and of the rickety narrative shortcut ("This is a farce! We didn't come out here these thousands of miles to sit around that stinking little island and watch our hands and feet rot off. We were trained to kill Japs, for Christ's sake!"); and, meanwhile, the pleasures of atmosphere, detail, and the now-and-again indisputably lovely phrase.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0099285533
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993




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