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Fiction

October 04, 1987|Sharon Dirlam

SUCH WAS THE SEASON by Clarence Major (Mercury House: $16.95; 213 pp.). For his sixth novel, Clarence Major has chosen as the narrative voice an elderly woman who is about as interested in what's going on around her as she is in her soap operas and other television shows. They carry equal weight with a scandal that besets her son, her daughter-in-law's political campaign, and a mysterious disease that threads its way through the plot. When it comes to a suspected homosexual affair involving a minor character, she refuses to hear another word about it.

As for the main characters, Annie Eliza as narrator barely understands that her visiting nephew is a pathologist, let alone that he's a prestigious researcher specializing in sickle-cell anemia. Nor does she understand the situation that kept him from returning to his Southern roots for some 30 years. This narrative tack provides more annoyances than enlightenments.

However, the old woman is an amusing soul and she can at least be counted on to pry (listening in on a private telephone conversation) and snoop (investigating the details of the scandal) just enough to keep the story moving along.

Maybe what happens, as the dozens of characters parade in and out of focus, is that the reader comes to recognize this point of view as a sort of cinema verite of common existence: how we see things, one eye on the television screen, the other on a combination of illusion and reality or what passes as "real life."

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