It’s hard to underestimate the damage Joyce did to the novel. So many difficult books, for so many years. The list of victims is long – from John Dos Passos to Malcolm Lowry, John Barth and Gilbert Sorrentino, and that’s just in English. I came to the cult late but it still took me a decade after college to free myself – my (unpublished, unpublishable) first novel has an entire chapter written in stream-of-consciousness interspersed with the lingo of short-order cooks (really). The writing isn’t terrible, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth.
Ferrante understands that friendship is an interplay between alliance and competition. This dance of friends emulating and then pulling away from each other continues through their adolescence. Lila is the rebel, her courage unrelenting. She can even stand up to the roughneck boys of the neighborhood who try to bully her. Pity the boys.
I saw Homes as working through all this dense material, fighting to get out from under it. When Ashley and Nate, George’s privileged, abandoned kids, urge the adoption of Ricardo, the plump, dysfunctional survivor of George’s violence, Homes remarks that it’s the way with kids to think that everything can be made all right, that the damage that adults think is irreparable can be mended.
Watch children of famous authors—Stanley Elkin, John Gardner, Terry Southern, and William Styron—discuss special memories of their dads. Funny, quirky, inspirational, and sometimes revelatory, these memories connect us with the men behind some of the most famous American literature of the past century: