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374 Western American Literature in Perkins’office, or his account of southern hospitality when he was permitted to sleep in his car in Faulkner’s friend Phil Stone’sdriveway. One of the most useful sketches for literary criticism of Morris is that of his mother-in-law, the model for “Mother” in Man and Boy and The Deep Sleep. As Morris has alway focused in his fiction on the Jamesian question of consciousness, for depth of vision readers should return to the author’s novels and photo-texts. About his own consciousness in A Cloak of Light Morris appears characteristically reticent: he quotes himself in the book’s Coda: “. . . my true feelings were precisely those that I would learn to conceal.” Nevertheless, the book tells us something more about Morris’ personal life than has been revealed before. Two sections of photographs enhance the volume: we are treated once again to a small portfolio of Morris’ classic photographs, and introduced to personal snapshots which add dimension to the life explored in the text. JOSEPH J. WYDEVEN Bellevue College Strange Sunlight. By Peter LaSalle. (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1984. 182 pages, $15.95.) Though this is Peter LaSalle’s first novel it is his second book, following a fine collection of short fiction, The Graves of Famous Writers and Other Stories, published by the University of Missouri Press. The storyline is fairly familiar: Jack Willington, 32, divorced, leaves the cold, unhappy, alcoholic haze of his past in his native Rhode Island to become a sportswear salesman in Austin, making big money, going out with beautiful people (including a former Miss April Playmate), and driving a brand-new, black Mercedes 450SL. There is, of course, something wrong with all this success. Haunted by dreams about his two sons far away in the New England snow and troubled by his friendship with another salesman, Stath (a stammering, polyester-clad yokel who drives a 1965 model car he hand-painted himself, smells of Vitalis, is quickly failing as a sportswear salesman and is losing his grip on reality), Willington is headed for a fairly predictable moral crisis. The accouterments of success are all here, the details of fast living in the booming Sun Belt—the 450SL, magazine centerfolds, fat lines of cocaine, chic new restaurants with “mahogany trim and reupholstered Victorian furni­ ture . . . potted palms,” and new condos sold before the paint’s dry or the carpet’s down. But it is Willington’s sensibility, his reactions to all that is familiar here that makes the novel worth reading. When LaSalle is docu­ menting what the jacket flap calls “the Sun Belt phenomenon” the writer’s boredom comes through and the language suffers from pedestrianism. But when LaSalle works closer to the core of his characters—as in the moving scenes with Stath and Stath’s father, a retired Methodist preacher, in the little house he’sfixing up for his retirement years, and, later, when Stath has become Reviews 375 mute except for poems he hurriedly composes on a child’s magic writing pad—LaSalle is at his best. Interestingly, Stath appeared as a character in one of LaSalle’s stories in his first book. Stath (and Willington’s response to him) is a more suggestive figure for the conflicting needs of contemporary life than all those Sun Belt images. The strange dreams that LaSalle handles best are evoked in Sath’s last communication with Willington, a verse on the magic slate: STATH AND WILLINGTON SIT QUIET IN THE SANDSTORM. THEY COULD SIT LIKE THAT FOREVER AND EVER, IN THE CAR IN THE DESERT. Peter LaSalle is a good writer who will write better books, but Strange Sunlight is still worth reading for those moments in which LaSalle is at his best. ALLEN WEIR Florida International University The Jailing of Cecelia Capture. By Janet Campbell Hale. (New York: Random House, 1985. $15.95.) In this, her second novel, Hale, a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, illuminates the world of the mixed-blood Indian woman with compassion and skill, journeying in the thoughts of her protagonist from the jail cell in Berkeley where the novel begins, back to the Idaho reservation where she grew...


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pp. 374-375
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