Against a Field Sinister

Edith Jenkins, Author City Lights Books $7.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-87286-263-0
The portrait of Jenkins ( Divisions on a Ground ) that emerges in this autobiographical work is that of a stereotypical member of the Old Left. Present are the pre-World War II pacifism, the seemingly endless rounds of parties to raise money for Loyalist Spain, the shock and rationalization at the Moscow show trials, and the disillusionment after Khrushchev's Secret Speech. There is also the horror and disgust of the McCarthy period and the uncomprehending sting and sense of betrayal when Jenkins and her ilk are bypassed by the New Left and the Black Power movement. The book is at its best when sticking directly to Jenkins's own life, told in short, incisive vignettes, including her acquaintance with actor/singer Paul Robeson and her long-standing, ultimately shattered friendship with atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. The volume works less well in stories in which she is only a tangential player, as in a muddled account of the drowning death of a friend. The author claims that if one lives long enough, one accumulates the baggage of one's own historic guilt. Here she has unpacked hers for all the world to see. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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