Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Joyce Carol Oates: Snygg [Sexy]

From: A sale in Akateeminen Kirjakauppa
When: Two or three years ago
Verdict: Extremely good approach to complex topic, beautiful economy in the telling.
Fate: To be given to someone who will appreciate it.
Read: In one sitting on 19 Aug 2008.

This book is in English. I read it in Swedish.

I was reading this book just after Michael Phelps had pulled off his Olympic miracle and was interested to find him appearing in the book. Not in person, but the main character is a high school swimmer whose life was once changed by the 18-year-old Phelps bursting onto the scene.

There are other things going on in this kid's life too, problems relating to the fact that he is a little bit too hot for his own good. A male teacher takes an interest, and although nothing untoward happens (not even groping of the History Boys kind) there is still the fact that it could have. There is also the fact of the leniency of US educational institutions when it comes to the academic performance of top-performing athletes.* And the fact that this teacher disapproves of that practice.
And finally there are some pictures of boys and swimming trunks and even naked, an a quite possibly homosexual man in a small-minded middle-class environment of the kind homosexual men tend to leave as fast as they can, and with an inspiring economy of words Oates brews of these ingredients a local disaster. The topic is heavy and complicated, but she doesn't chicken out or simplify, even at the end.

I remember reading Joyce Carol Oates' YA novel Foxfire as a teenager and not liking it at ALL, but I always felt I should give her a real shot. She is, after all, a heavy Nobel contender whose chances are hampered by her prolific interest in stuff that I myself find fascinating – boxing, Marilyn Monroe, Young Adult readers. This novel ended up in my shopping hamper because it was on sale and looked like a quick read, and proved very good indeed. I almost wrote just now that I'm now ready to graduate to her real novels. What I meant, obviously, was her long novels.

*read more about this phenomenon in Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons

Snygg seems to be out of print. You can buy Sexy in English on Amazon.

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