Livin' The Blues: Memoirs Of A Black Journalist An...

BOOK BRIEFS

April 18, 1993|By MARILYN McCRAVEN PERSEUS. Warwick Hutton. Margaret McElderry Books. 32 pages. $14.95; ages 7 and up. | MARILYN McCRAVEN PERSEUS. Warwick Hutton. Margaret McElderry Books. 32 pages. $14.95; ages 7 and up.,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LIVIN' THE BLUES: MEMOIRS OF A BLACK JOURNALIST AN POET.

Edited by John Edgar Tidwell.

University of Wisconsin Press.

373 pages. $27.50. Franklin Marshall Davis started his autobiography but never finished it. Thank goodness John Edgar Tidwell did.

With the assistance of other academics, Dr. Tidwell, an assistant professor of English at Miami University of Ohio, rescued the manuscript -- some of which had been destroyed -- from oblivion.

Dr. Tidwell adds an introduction and, at the end, notes of explanation without disturbing the content. As a result, it's rough around the edges, much like a diary. But the value of the work is that it provides a view of 20th-century American history through the eyes of a black journalist who was an intimate witness to the struggle for civil rights from the 1920s on.

As an editor and reporter for black newspapers in Atlanta and Chicago until 1948, Davis was instrumental in uncovering discrimination in the military, housing, jobs and elsewhere. He left Chicago in 1948 for Hawaii, but was rediscovered in the 1960s by young African-Americans impressed with the freshness and vitality of his poetry. That led to the writing of his memoirs before his death in 1987. Thank goodness, indeed. In this telling of the Greek myth, we meet the baby Perseus as he floats ashore beside his mother in a huge chest. Danae introduces herself and tells her story to the man who rescues them and brings them to the king of the island, Polydectes. As the years go by, the king desires Danae, and sends the tall, strong Perseus on a quest in order to rid himself of an obstacle to Danae's love. He demands that Perseus "fetch Medusa's head." Perseus and the readers learn from the gods Athena and Hermes who Medusa is and how difficult it will be to bring back her head. Helped by the gods, Perseus begins his adventure.

Watercolor illustrations, and the accompanying clear, direct text, tell his story. With Medusa's head in a sack, he meets Andromeda, who has been sacrificed to a sea monster to save her country. Perseus frees her, and the two marry and return to his island to free his mother of Polydectes' unwanted attentions -- with the help of Medusa's head.

Author-illustrator Warwick Hutton, who has also written about FTC Theseus, the Minotaur and the Trojan Horse, ends this story happily, leaving the final scene involving Perseus' grandfather for another book. Children will enjoy this well-told tale as an introduction to the power of Greek mythology.

JUDITH B. ROSENFELD

THE VILLAGE.

Alice Taylor.

St. Martin's Press.

160 pages. $16.95.

This nonfiction memoir might as well be classified as fiction, given that it is the story of a faraway place: the small village of Innishannon, in County Cork, Ireland. It is the third volume of Alice Taylor's reminiscences, taking her from her childhood in the Irish countryside to life as a new bride, tending the village market and post office with her new husband.

What happens to her is hardly remarkable: She has four boys, at a time when women regularly gave up their work to raise the family, and then, to her joy, a girl. She chafes at the role of full-time wife and mother, and, once the last baby sleeps through the night, goes back to work with her husband, building a new supermarket for the village.

What makes the story unique is Ms. Taylor's disarming style; she writes as if she were sitting next to you, recounting the events of her week. A passage about an old man the neighbors felt needed saving turns into a poignant look at the consequences of meddling. Ms. Taylor has a knack for finding the universal truth in daily details.

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