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NONFICTION : PEOPLE WHO LED TO MY PLAYS by Adrienne Kennedy (Knopf: $17.95; 125 pp., black-and- white photographs).

July 12, 1987|Sylvie Drake

This slim volume is a collection of random jottings--often too spare, sometimes repetitious--that reads like notes for a future autobiography. The directness of the form has a certain immediacy because Adrienne Kennedy, who made a reputation for herself as a playwright during the effervescent Off Off Broadway movement of the '60s and '70s, is a sensitive and educated writer who knows how to grasp an emotion on paper. But it's a lazy way to get published, and the absence of captions under the photographs (especially family photos) is merely sloppy. Why leave us guessing? More puzzling: Why, on pages 25, 79, 107 and 109 are there headings without text to follow?

The book, divided into six parts, travels uneventfully from childhood to maturity at 30, hitting a stride in parts five and six, where the adult Kennedy finally explores the literary influences that shaped her. (Up to that point, the catchy title is a bit of a pretext.) It ends with a voyage to Europe and West Africa that heralds a new-found maturity and the writer's first published piece in a West African literary magazine. With it comes an undercurrent of disillusionment, though Kennedy's career as a playwright was just about to begin. This book ends where it should start.

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