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August 29, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

CANE by Jean Toomer (Liveright: $7.95; 116 pp.). Jean Toomer's brief collection of sketches, stories and poems became one of the most highly acclaimed works of the Harlem Renaissance after it appeared in 1923. "Cane" provides fleeting portraits of African-American life during the early 20th Century, drawn in a few lively phrases: "Her soul is like a little thrust-tailed dog that follows her, whimpering. . . . But each night when she comes home and closes the big outside storm door, the little dog is left in the vestibule, filled with chills till morning." Unfortunately, Toomer failed to fulfill the promise of "Cane": He never published another book.

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