Baby Soniat Tale from the Jazz

Neal Duncan, Author Peachtree Publishers $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-934601-88-7
Writing from the perspective of gray-haired middle age, Sudduth Meadows Spencer, the narrator of this brief, meandering, oddly charming first novel, reminisces about the glory days of his privileged youth as a member of the New Orleans upper crust. Suddie was 23 in the spring of 1966, and apart from a job editing a textile magazine in a fine old business on Carondelet Street, his main worries as a ``gentleman'' were curing his epic hangovers. These were the days of Carnival and the Knights of Momus Ball, of ``regattas and wenching,'' days when ``football was shining, noble and all consuming.'' Golden girls and boys caroused all night, but no one was more beautiful, more wild, more of a lush than Baby Soniat, one-time Queen of Carnival. Baby, who collected drawersful of boys' fraternity pins, lives at the center of Sudduth's memories; he never quite gets over hoping for her love. In choosing to narrate the novel in Sudduth's naive voice, the New Orleans-born author is not always in control of his material. But the narrative evokes its era effectively, capturing a dying moment in Southern culture when blacks--servants, trolley drivers and whores--were regarded with a fond but decidedly condescending attitude. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
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