Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Next Reading List Recommendation

I long ago tired of juvie lit: coming-out stories and other YA prose. I figure we paid our dues with Rainbow Boys nine years ago. (Rainbow Party would have been more fun and became an éclat du scandale but … our dues had been paid.) Now for readers who want to harken back to the jeers and tears of yesteryears without the rigors of Musil's Young Törless (as too few here have), I can enthusiastically recommend Daryl Hine's own memoir of his fourteenth year encompassing the year and summer of Seventh Grade. Hine's experience outwardly could not have been more different from my own but I was at times almost overwhelmed with the remembered sensations of that first season of full-onset puberty. Academic Festival Overtures besides being evocative and witty is a quick read. Good prose like a strong current carries one through a novel. Good verse positively propels one. There's no figuring out how or where the emphasis should go. The meter virtually dictates it. You will not have had so much trouble putting a book of poetry down since … well, since The Golden Gate, which we read six years ago.

On the first day of school and the first page of the book we are introduced to the classmate who instantly becomes our narrator's crush (and who will continue so strikingly all the way to the end). The crush of course is everything Hine is not: poised, athletic, and popular. And the spark of attraction is oddly mutual, though certainly differing in intensity and kind. That afternoon as Daryl is walking home from school, the crush on his bicycle delivering papers offers him a ride.

Squeezed in front of him uncomfortably astraddle
   Between his pedalling legs and the handlebars,
I saw flash past the blocks that I had trudged that morning
   As he cut corners and careened about parked cars.
He had to reach around me to get each newspaper
   He threw, without stopping, onto somebody's lawn.
When I admired his aim, which was not quite unerring,
   He laughed: "You ought to see me do it before dawn."
I wondered then how many disgruntled subscribers
   Have any idea how fortunate they are,
As they retrieve their daily papers from the bushes,
   To have The Evening Sun brought by the morning star?

(Of course I quote this partly for its similarity and contrast to "Editio Princeps*" which we discussed at our last meeting.)

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