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"The Richer, the Poorer: Stories, Sketches and...


"The Richer, the Poorer: Stories, Sketches and Reminiscences," by Dorothy West. 254 pages. New York: Doubleday. $22

Though less famous and less widely anthologized than some other members of the Harlem Renaissance, Dorothy West is today's brightest remnant of that fabulous, golden age for the single, compelling fact that she survives.

In January, "The Wedding" was published, West's long-belabored second novel in which interracial bigotry plays out against a well-to-do black family's hopes for success and happiness. Now coasting on the wake of that critically welcomed effort comes "The Richer, the Poorer," a collection of 30 stories and essays dating from the 1920s to the '80s.

The fiction pieces, many of them noticeably autobiographical, are set in New York City, West's native Boston and Martha's Vineyard, her year-round home since 1948. And although some are dishearteningly conventional in plot and moralistic in tone, they do reconfirm West's lifelong preoccupations with the dynamics and ironies of ambition, race, class and the urban black female experience.

For fans of Harlem's literary heyday, they are essential reading for West's unique view of black culture and of women who refuse to be marginalized.

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