Monday, July 25, 2011

 

Teen Angst, 90s Style

What do I think about The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky? Hm. The reason I gave my copy away without reading it was that I didn’t want to go to the place where The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace (books this one was being compared to) and, I suspected, Go Ask Alice and Ghost World (thanks, Tara) and all those other teen angsty novels live. It’s a place I never lived, but am repeatedly told is real and genuine. (In this particular novel, parts of it strongly resembled Say Anything.) Obviously, a lot of teens both now and when I was a teen take them to heart. For me, the problem is that they are written by adults who have since achieved some clarity. So the teens in them seem to me as real as teens in most Hollywood movies about teens (see previous comment RE: Say Anything): all the actors are actually in their twenties. (I think this is what made “Freaks and Geeks” different. The high school cafeteria was a room with chairs and tables in it. The little gang of three Grade 9s looked like overgrown children. The characters seemed to be stumbling around looking for something, while simultaneously trying to separate the wheat from the chaff in their lives.)

In different decades, the bus driving through this territory has different stops: this one was sexual molestation. It was interesting that one of the former stops—drinking and drugs—in this and other such books seems now just part of the ride. This is progress, in that the characters (read: today’s young people) understand that misuse of these substances (i.e., getting wasted for its own sake rather than in the context of friends and enjoyment) is a symptom and not the disease. Characters deal with their business and then get back on the wagon, relatively speaking. I think sexual molestation may become part of the ride in the novels of tomorrow: from all the talk I hear amongst the teens in my house about pervs and inappropriateness, and considering the ending of Wallflower, the culture may learn to deal and move on. Does this kind of progress make you feel sad?

One touching difference in Wallflower was the narrating character’s love for his family, and their love for him. That is definite progress, and I feel, writing this, a huge gratitude to Stephen C. for unlocking the handcuffs and setting us free from the Boomer mythology of generational divides. On a different plane, in a different vein, Edeet Ravel did the same in her Pauline books (which I recommend, BTW: first one is The Mysterious Adventures of Pauline Bovary). To these authors I am truly thankful.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

 

Top-Up on Tepper

A Sister informed me that Sheri S. Tepper had published a new novel so I hied me hence to the ebook store and loaded The Waters Rising onto my Kobo, as the library didn’t seem to have it yet. It was good for quite a while and then it fell apart, into ridiculousness. I had already reserved another SST at the library, though, my interest being rekindled: It was The Family Tree, and I soon beheld some of the pieces of Waters: a world from which humans had been removed (could have been either the plague or the Big Kill of Waters); outraged nature taking a stand; secret hidden repositories of tech and knowledge. A friend mentioned she had stopped reading SST because it was all getting too political and agenda-driven and I can see, in these books, why she thought so. Maybe I caught a whiff of that possibility myself after reading The Frescoes, and that was my semiconscious reason for not reading more....

Anyway, also read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I loved The Corrections in spite of my antipathy toward sweeping novels of social commentary: why? I tried to figure it out while I was enjoying Freedom, which I did, very much. I think it’s because both novels are so strongly character driven, and the rants/wanks are pretty well contained. And many times Franzen hits upon things I have been quietly wondering about myself: like the disappearance of the overpopulation problem, which I remember being taught when I was in elementary school (along with “ecology”, which simply became “the environment”). I think about this problem every time I pass another housing farm in my rapidly-developing suburb, each one chock full of people from countries far more populated and competitive than mine; and I think about all the fertile topsoil that was trucked away from the land beneath these hectares of houses; and about how this urban area has enough food within it to feed its population for only three days.... Time to go outside and listen to the birds for a while, I think. 

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