The Avenue, Clayton City

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Overview

The Avenue in C. Eric Lincoln's fictional town is the principal residential street of the black community in Clayton City, a prototypical southern town languishing between the two world wars. Unpaved and marked by ditches full of frogs, snakes, and empty whiskey bottles on one side of town, it is the same street, though with a different name, that originates downtown. Only when it reaches the black section of Clayton City do the paving stop and the trash-filled ditches begin. On one side, it provides a ...
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1st Edition, Fine/VG+ 1" DJ tear on top edge, o.w. clean, tight & bright. No ink names, bookplates etc. Price unclipped. ISBN 0688077021

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The Avenue, Clayton City

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Overview

The Avenue in C. Eric Lincoln's fictional town is the principal residential street of the black community in Clayton City, a prototypical southern town languishing between the two world wars. Unpaved and marked by ditches full of frogs, snakes, and empty whiskey bottles on one side of town, it is the same street, though with a different name, that originates downtown. Only when it reaches the black section of Clayton City do the paving stop and the trash-filled ditches begin. On one side, it provides a significant address for the white people who live there. On the other, despite its rundown air, it is still the best address available to the town's black population. Some of them, in fact, are willing to go to any extreme, including murder, to get there.

In this novel, originally published in 1988, Lincoln creates with deft skill the drama that rises from the lives of the people of Clayton City. In turn amusing, disgusting, enraging, wistful, and, as one hears the secrets hidden deep in their hearts, shocking, they exist in a place whose vibrant personality is itself a unique configuration of geography, relationships, patterns of behavior, and events. It is also a place whose unspoken and hidden power lies in its crushing compulsion to maintain itself as it already is-a power that forces everyone to succumb to an inflexible social order. As one character, Dr. Walter Tait, knows, life in Clayton City is a nightmare that can be escaped only if one makes the agonizing and conscious decision to get out. For Dr. Tait, the decision specifically poses a question of having control over death since he has none over life. As another character, Buford Atkins, says, "It's dark out here on the Avenue. . . ."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in a fictional Southern town in the late 1930s, this depiction of lives fettered by racial prejudice burns with anger and bitterness. Lincoln, a professor at Duke and author of several works of nonfiction, obviously knows the milieu and has suffered from its injustices. His canvas of vividly differentiated characters trying to live with dignity despite the ``pain, . . . ignorance . . . and resignation, which sucked remorselessly at black existence'' is a realistic picture of that era. Unfortunately, his writing skills are not equal to the task. Instead of a coherent plot, we have a series of loosely bound vignettes, each illustrating another circumstance that victimizes and humiliates the black people of Clayton City, all of whom are insidiously and relentlessly ``kept in their place'' by their white employerseven those who seem relatively benevolent. The only ``good'' white people are the teachers at the ``colored'' academy (the segregated school for blacks); they have all come from the North and are resented and physically threatened by Clayton City's ruling families. This is a message novel whose plot moves mostly through exposition, with little dialogue, action, suspense or drama. In fact, the best parts are really extended essays on such topics as the reason that young bloods demean each other with vulgar ``jive'' talk. To those who do not remember the time before civil-rights activism, this will be an eye-opening look at recent history. But, despite the authenticity of his material, Lincoln has failed to produce a moving or convincing novel. Literary Guild alternate. (March)
Library Journal
This novel by a veteran nonfiction writer is, simply put, a stunning and beautiful work. Set in a mythical Southern town during FDR's early years in the White House, it has ten long chapters offering biographies of the blue-collar residents. Of special note are those of the obese proprietor of a hash house, the wandering dandy's return for his mother's wake, and the progressive white school marm. Race relations, while strained, never grow violentrefreshing in a book on Southern society. Poignant in its grief and humor, the novel depicts American black religion and culture with the power and interest of Alex Haley's Roots . Edward C. Lynskey, Documentation, Atlantic Research Corp., Alexandria, Va.
From the Publisher

“A gripping story.”—John Hope Franklin

“In a direct line of descent from both Richard Wright’s Native Son and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, C. Eric Lincoln’s The Avenue, Clayton City is one of the best written and most gripping accounts of the African American experience that I have encountered in years.”—Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“Truly a masterpiece.”—James H. Cone

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688077020
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/1988
  • Series: Black History Titles Ser.
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 320

Meet the Author

C. Eric Lincoln (1924–2000) was, at the time of his death, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Religion and Culture at Duke University. His widely acclaimed publications include The Black Muslims in America; The Black Church Since Frazier; Race, Religion, and the Continuing American Dilemma; and, with Lawrence H. Mamiya and published by Duke University Press, The Black Church in the African American Experience. He has also written a memoir, Coming through the Fire, published by Duke University Press, and a collection of poems, This Road Since Freedom. He is the founding president of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2011

    A wonderful book. Check it out!

    I read this book years ago and never forgot it. It is full of humor and features many, many interesting characters. It presents a picture of southern life prior to WWII that is straightforward and unforgettable. He describes the profound difference between the black experience and the white experience in America to a tee. I have often wished that the author had written more novels during his career but this is his only fictional work. I highly recommend it!

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