Friday, November 27, 2009

Coming of Age

""Any fable I've told about who I was then dissolves when I read that loose-jointed script I wrote. We tend to overlay grown-up wisdoms across the blanker selves that the young actually proffer." Mary Karr, Cherry

While I was home, I picked up a book called Dork Whore by Iris Bahr. A combination of the title and the blurb on the back, which explained that the book was about a twenty-year old just out of the Israeli army travelling around Asia trying to lose her virginity, along with the fact that it was discounted, convinced me to pick it up. I assumed that the author would learn something from her trip, and certainly the blurb implies that she learns to trust others and herself, but in all actuality there was little to learn from Bahr's account and not much to enjoy. She wandered around Asia getting hurt and hurting others, with little real awareness of either. The only enjoyable parts were about her travels.

On the same day, I also picked up My Side of the Story by Will Davis, this time because of a quote from Elle on the cover: "Combines the coolness of Queer as Folk with the tenderness of Adrian Mole." The story of a gay sixteen-year-old boy trying to navigate his way through high school and family and relationshops was really good - possibly the best coming of age story I've read in some time. The main character's, Jaz's, search for connection through sex reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, though having taught that recently, I have to say that as characters go, I far prefer Jaz to Holden.

Not too long ago, I read Cherry by Mary Karr. A coming-of-age that involves Karr examining her outsider-status and her exploration of her sexuality, it's perhaps notable that having sex seems a common thread in female coming-of-age stories, whereas it's the lack of it that tends more often to be outlined in male ones though I've read few on this list, so perhaps I just need to branch out more.

It is interesting, though, how many male coming of age stories I've read in an educational setting. Not one of the books that I'd say were the female equivalent were things assigned to me to read.

"You and Meredith forge a friendship based almost entirely on indolence, a monastic passion for doing virtually nothing. A camera trailing you would fid niether plot nor action - two girls laze around on sofas in various stages of torpor reading or talking about what they will read or have read or plan to write or make or do in some vaporous future... Meredith will pat you on the head a few times before she actually undertakes explaining whatever book has stumped you. The charade somehow dilutes the fact that the most meritory opinions invariably stem from Meredith. Without this oblique shoring up, the friendship would consist of her lecturing while you take notes." Mary Karr, Cherry

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