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Fiction

December 29, 1985|STEVEN TICE

A GLANCE AWAY by John Edgar Wideman (Holt, Rinehart & Winston: $6.95, paperback). Wideman's sixth novel, "Sent for You Yesterday," won the 1984 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, "A Glance Away" (1967) was his first and is now receiving new interest. A 30-year-old black man, Eddie Lawson, chooses Easter to return home after a year in voluntary treatment for drug addiction. Eddie's rebirth is brief. His newfound sense of self-worth is nearly shattered on the long bus ride home. "He must remember to go to the back . . . if the bus becomes crowded he must not sit while a white man stood . . . In a rush it had all come back. How to be nothing. If there was an eternity somewhere, (it) would not be long enough to forget some things." Then, the bleak situation he had fled: the ghosts of his long-dead father and brother to compete with; his aged, half-paralyzed mother clinging to the past; the futility of life "on the strip." The other central character is white. Robert Thurley's life is a tangle of difficulties. A homosexual college professor, he struggles with troubled memories of childhood, a failed marriage and the crises of middle age. Wideman stretches sentences to 300 words at times in a stream-of-consciousness style approximating how images, memories and feelings form and change. First and third person points of view share the same paragraph and quotation marks are not used. Wideman, at 26, showed a gift for language--it is in the larger contexts of style and structure that "A Glance Away" wavers. He is an author of undeniable energy and talent and this, his first novel--though jam-packed with too many sources of anguish for such a slender book--was quite a commendable debut.

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