The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 June 2005

Return engagement

At the request of Cam Edwards: five books I liked enough as a teen/young adult to read again as an adult.

1. Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
I picked up on this at the beginning of the Seventies, when it was considered the hip read of the times. And I suppose it's a measure of something that the one character I connected to most strongly on a personal level at the time was the curmudgeonly Jubal Harshaw, whose distaste for the foibles of the world was exceeded only by his fondness for the fair sex, but the one I ultimately found most relevant to my own existence was his secretary Anne (did she even have a last name?), an official Fair Witness, who, when enrobed and therefore on duty, was expected to give the most accurate appraisal of any given situation. Would that I could be so discriminating myself.

2. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
I read this mostly so I wouldn't have to see the movie, which struck me as kinda creepy. While most of the sexual references went right over my head, obsession and possessiveness were concepts I could easily grasp, concepts I vowed (not exactly successfully) to avoid in my own life.

3. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity
Published in 1969 and bought by me the next year, this is a guide to getting ideas past the mossbacks on the right who were presumably in charge of the education establishment in those days, and it's nearly as useful for getting ideas past the mossbacks on the left who are presumably in charge of the education establishment in these days — provided you blow off the last chapter, which embraces moral relativism in the classic sanctimonious Sixties style.

4. Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
I've talked about this one before; it is, I suppose, an odd choice for a teenage boy, inasmuch as it's the journal of a teenage girl who's in love with someone unattainable and the one boy who fancies her is kind of a dork and she wouldn't have him on a bet, and — well, maybe it's not so odd after all.

5. Frank Yerby, The Foxes of Harrow
Yerby's specialty was the historical novel, often set in the American South, and this was his first: the tale of a rakish Irish fellow named Stephen Fox, or, as the folks of New Orleans were wont to call him, "Etienne Reynard," who builds (well, actually, absorbs) a magnificent spread in Louisiana and then manages to piss it away in his pursuit of a young lady of, um, dubious ethnicity. I found this fascinating, not only for Fox's ruthless attempts to achieve surface respectability, but for his willingness to risk it all for horizontal calisthenics. Having experienced none such at the time myself, I figure my own expectations were thenceforth distorted.

Posted at 6:22 AM to Screaming Memes


Hey, Chaz ...
I'm curious if you ever did end up seeing the Sixties version of "Lolita." You know, Lolita in that movie was portrayed by a onetime Oklahoman, Sue Lyon

Posted by: Chase at 8:55 AM on 20 June 2005

I did. She came off as really too old for the role, but then again that was probably intentional: if they'd put someone who looked about Dakota Fanning's age in there, you'd still be hearing the screams.

Peter Sellers, though, is always worth seeing, even when he's playing an asshat.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:21 AM on 20 June 2005

Still laughing at the Dodie Smith thing. It's extremely hard for me to believe you're a Dodie Smith fan, especially because of your explanation of it.

I guess the next thing you're going to say is
that you love Bill Peet too.

(rolling my eyes in my head)

Posted by: mary,queen of scots at 11:38 AM on 20 June 2005

Dubious ethnicity was a topic of interest to Frank Yerby. He was himself of mixed racial background. It is fun to go thru a stack of his books and note how he appears darker in the jacket photos as the publication dates get more recent.

Posted by: triticale at 12:27 AM on 22 June 2005