Back There Where the Past Was: A Small-Town Boyhood

Charles Champlin, Author, Ray Bradbury, With
Charles Champlin, Author, Ray Bradbury, With Syracuse University Press $29.95 (213p) ISBN 978-0-8156-0235-4
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
Much of what we read about growing up in American small towns tells us that life there is stultifying and well worth escaping. Yet Champlin ( The Movies Grow Up, 1940 - 1980 ) begs to differ: ``Violating all the traditions of small-town writers-to-be, I was never frenzied with impatience to be away or to experience life as it truly was in the city.'' Yet he left Hammondsport, N.Y., in 1942 at 16 and has since worked as a reporter, film critic and editor in New York, London and Los Angeles--and in this memoir he revisits the village where he was born. Critical intelligence, not nostalgia, drives these essays, and even expected local color--Saturday nights, the neighborhood church, the gas station hangout--is handled freshly. Without illusions the author writes of being poor, of his parents' divorce and of the Depression: ``The image of the gray men sitting on the back porch stays with me forever.'' Though his prose lacks toughness and bite, and at times slips into repetitiousness, Champlin is generous and realistic in his portrait of ``the closeness of the community with its everlasting scrutiny.'' Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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