The Avenue, Clayton City

C. Eric Lincoln, Author William Morrow & Company $17.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-688-07702-0
Set in a fictional Southern town in the late 1930s, this depiction of lives fettered by racial prejudice burns with anger and bitterness. Lincoln, a professor at Duke and author of several works of nonfiction, obviously knows the milieu and has suffered from its injustices. His canvas of vividly differentiated characters trying to live with dignity despite the ""pain, . . . ignorance . . . and resignation, which sucked remorselessly at black existence'' is a realistic picture of that era. Unfortunately, his writing skills are not equal to the task. Instead of a coherent plot, we have a series of loosely bound vignettes, each illustrating another circumstance that victimizes and humiliates the black people of Clayton City, all of whom are insidiously and relentlessly ``kept in their place'' by their white employerseven those who seem relatively benevolent. The only ``good'' white people are the teachers at the ``colored'' academy (the segregated school for blacks); they have all come from the North and are resented and physically threatened by Clayton City's ruling families. This is a message novel whose plot moves mostly through exposition, with little dialogue, action, suspense or drama. In fact, the best parts are really extended essays on such topics as the reason that young bloods demean each other with vulgar ``jive'' talk. To those who do not remember the time before civil-rights activism, this will be an eye-opening look at recent history. But, despite the authenticity of his material, Lincoln has failed to produce a moving or convincing novel. Literary Guild alternate. (March)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-345-36034-2
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-8223-1745-6
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