A Tidewater Morning: Three Tales from Youth

William Styron, Author
William Styron, Author Random House (NY) $17 (142p) ISBN 978-0-679-42742-1
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Paperback - 142 pages - 978-0-679-75449-7
Hardcover - 978-0-517-16450-1
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-09-928553-3
Hardcover - 978-1-56895-048-8
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-936317-25-7
Hardcover - 978-0-679-42963-0
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-0-307-57583-8
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The publisher bills this as Styron's first book of fiction in more than a decade. Sophie's Choice was published in 1979--but that is misleading: the most recent of these three Esquire stories collected here was published in 1987, and the other two appeared in 1978 and 1985. As one would expect, there are patches of startling writing here, particularly in the title story, in which Styron's evocation of the Virginia landscape of his youth is achingly beautiful. But on the evidence of these unremarkable pieces, Styron does not seem to be a natural short-story writer; his lush prose needs the breathing room of a long novel, space enough for his narrative to gather momentum before lifting off. The three tales are united by their single narrator, one Paul Whitehurst, and his search for ``light refracted within a flashing moment of remembered childhood.'' They take up the issues Styron has grappled with in previous fiction--the legacy of slavery and racism in the South, the constricting ties of family relationships, the tragedy of war--but with neither a refreshing new perspective nor the tremendous oratorical potency that Styron's readers expect from him. This is well-crafted magazine fiction that is satisfying only for as long as it lasts. (Sept.)
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