cover image Clear Pictures: First Loves First Guides

Clear Pictures: First Loves First Guides

Reynolds Price. Scribner Book Company, $19.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12075-6

Evoking the sights and textures of a small-town North Carolina boyhood in the 1930s and '40s, Price's memoir is remarkable for its Proustian recall. The author, a prize-winning novelist and essayist, claims that self-hypnosis in 1987 opened the floodgates of memory. Whatever the impetus, he offers a nuanced psychological self-portrait of a small child locked in a fierce, loving triad with his overanxious mother, Elizabeth, and his alcoholic father, Will. His mother's sister, calm, patient Aunt Ida, would come to serve as a ``parallel, safer mother.'' Other formative influences included his bachelor cousin Macon Thornton, and Grant Terry, a black friend of his father who was the author's babysitter. Price ruefully contemplates his family's unthinking acceptance of institutionalized racism, a mindset from which he gradually broke free. The narrative leaves off at his father's death, an event thrusting him painfully toward maturity at age 21. Interspersed with family photographs, this lucid autobiography portrays a mind learning to trust and reach out to the world. (June)