Books: Born Witness

CLEAR PICTURES: FIRST LOVES, FIRST GUIDES

by Reynolds Price

Atheneum; 304 pages; $19.95

Unless your childhood was as magical as Mozart's, writing an extended memoir of those primal years is a risk bordering on chutzpah. Why on earth should anyone else care about the assorted teachers, neighbors and maiden aunts who were your early sources of inspiration? Such people are the private memories of the ones who knew and cherished them.

Readers can be persuaded to care, however, if the memoirist is Reynolds Price (The Source of Light, Kate Vaiden), one of a few writers whose full- length fictions do honor...

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