Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Summer Of 42

The Summer Of 42

Adult Novel
I arrived at this review by a truly circuitous route. In
preparation to writing a poem about condoms, specifically how good it
is young people are talking about them, I wanted to contrast this with
the not so good old days when they were considered dirty if not
downright pornographic. I remembered a movie and book in which a
young man had a very memorable conversation with a druggist on the
topic. The only problem was I couldn't recall the name...until I woke
up at 2:00 in the morning with this data. I googled it to make sure
it was right (yes, at 2:00 a.m.) and learned two fascinating bits of
information. The book was written after the movie by the same
author. It was his real life coming of age story. Needless to say I
immediately borrowed both book and DVD by inter library loan.
The story opens at a time America was fully immersed in World
War II. Most males of fighting age were over there. Many windows
bore blue or gold stars. On the home front civilians saved
commodities needed in the war effort, knit socks for soldiers, and
tried in every way they could think of to help.
Hermie and his family are summering on an Maine island, joined
from time to time by the working husband/father. His best friend,
Oscy, and close but not best friend, Benjie, are also there with their
families. Oscy is the extrovert of the Terrible Trio. "Oscy carried
with him an air of mischief, an unassailable warmth, and a private
kind of boyish manliness that presaged a confident and rugged man."
Benjie is Oscy's polar opposite, very much a child and respecter of
adult authority. Hermie is on the fence between them, painfully
unsure what side he would fall on, cognizant of a litany of worries
from diseases of old age to shaving and driving and "how in the world
would he be able to screw and when and with whom, and would the police
break in."
With the possible exception of Benjie, the boys are obsessed
with carnal thoughts. Oscy is determined to get laid. He studies a
book and breaks the process from conversation to coitus into twelve
steps which he insists Hermie join him in memorizing. (He has no hope
for Benjie).
For Hermie the matter isn't quite as simple. A man's first
time, he feels, should be with someone special. He has a deepening
crush on a seemingly unapproachable older woman, one awaiting the
return of her soldier husband. "...nothing, from the first moment
Hermie saw her, and no one who had happened to him since had ever been
as frightening and as confusing or could have done more to make him
feel more sure, more insecure, more important, and less significant."
I think this would be a wonderful book club book--not so much
for the plot but the richly detailed ambiance. Some possible
questions to address:
Women fall into two categories: moms who are eternally cleaning,
cooking, and other women who seem to exist for the male gaze and as
potential lays. Males also are dichotomized as real men capable of
fighting and fucking and losers. How much of this rather limited
perspective is due to Hermie's youth and how much due to the times he
lived in?
Both narrator and nation seem on board with the rightness of America's
war involvement. How does this contrast with Vietnan and Afghanistan/
The same person directed both The Summer Of 42 and another coming of
age movie, To Kill A Mockingbird. Can you see similarities,
Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, said she was glad her
book was published when it was because it would have published as YA
and denied adult readership. If The Summer Of 42 were published this
year would it have been marketed as adult or YA?
On a personal note, we are still cycling through snow storms and
amassing some pretty impressive drifts.
A great big shout out goes out to my Eugene and the other knights in
less than shining loaders and dump trucks who keep streets and parking
lots navigable.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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