Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I love me a good coming-of-age novel. Whether it’s Catcher in the Rye, Black Swan Green, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or the first of the genre I fell for James Collier’s children’s classic, The Teddy Bear Habit, I’m a total sucker for a story about a youngster learning about himself and the world through a series of adventures and/or misadventures and in the process passing over the brutal edge of adolescence into something approaching adulthood.

Maybe it’s because that time in my own life was so profound, or perhaps it’s a result of, at some level, consistently finding myself moving through something similar on my own path to a fuller understanding of things, or maybe it’s just a kind of simple-minded nostalgia, but whatever, I’m drawn again and again to books with this theme, the latest of which has been Colson Whitehead’s poignant, funny, wise, and beautifully-written Sag Harbor, which I just finished last week. While the story itself isn’t really anything we haven’t heard before (except maybe the particular setting among an middle and upper-middle class Black community in a summer resort on Long Island , the narrative voice is unique and delightful. Nothing like a teenage kid whose wise beyond his years to win me over.

It made me think that 15 year-old boys tend to get a bad rap these days; they’re represented in popular culture as clueless and heartless; Benjy, the protagonist of Whitehead’s novel, however, reminded me what it felt like to be that age and care so much about so little while simultaneously always be second-guessing oneself about things you can’t stop thinking about.

It also became apparent to me that I ought to write my own bildungsroman; all I’d have to do is recall those heady days in the early 1970s when my gang had the run of the city of Pittsburgh; in the time before computers and cellphones, when 10 speed bikes were king and so were we.


Blogger Deb's Lunch said...

You should write that Bildungsroman (tho I like your spelling Bildungs - o - man; gotta have that "r" in there to make it a book!) of kids on 10-speed bikes in the 'burgh. I was thinking about the gutter snipes yesterday watching some trash blow around the street in Madison - you guys woulda picked it up and stuffed it the mailbox. So far I think we're both suckers for Michael Cunningham's "Home at the End of the World" because it's so like our teenage-hood, but there's still plenty of room for another account.

8:45 AM  

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