Platitudes

Trey Ellis, Author
Trey Ellis, Author Vintage Books USA $9 (183p) ISBN 978-0-394-75439-0
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Earle Tyner, 16-year-old black bourgeois in contemporary New York City, falls in love with Dorothy LaMont, a young waitress at her mother's down-home Harlem diner. As Earle plots encounters with Dorothy, taking an after-school job near the restaurant, the teenagers' friendship weathers upsets but eventually deepens and strengthens. Earle and Dorothy are characters in a novel-within-a-novel here, ostensibly creations of newly divorced, depressed black writer Dewayne Wellington. Dewayne appears mainly in his letters to Isshee Ayam, successful black feminist author and critic of Dewayne's work-in-progress called ``Platitudes.'' Isshee, whose own novels bear such titles as Chillun' o' de Lawd and My Big O' Feets Gonna Stomp Dat Evil Down , offers in letters to Dewayne her revisions of ``Platitudes,'' with Earle and Dorothy cast as poor schoolchildren in 1930s rural Georgia. As the writers reconcile their differences over Dewayne's rapidly developing story, the two relationshipsthat of Dewayne and Isshee and that of the doubly fictional Earle and Dorothyparallel each other, both closing with pat endings. Ellis demonstrates an ear for adolescent lingo and a sharp grasp of teenage pursuits and pleasures; at its best, his book is entertaining and the young protagonists sweetly appealing. But too often, Platitudes degenerates into tedious attempts at wit and humor, as in Isshee's plodding literary contributions or Ellis's version of Earle's PSAT exam, an annoying joke. This aptly named first novel is, finally, predictable and self-indulgent. Illustrations not seen by PW. (August)
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