Amidst the pleasure, I remember feeling a twinge of resentment toward the teacher who’d turned me on to this story—as though she’d somehow usurped a piece of my individuality before I’d gotten the chance to discover it for myself.
In the early 1960s, my parents had what I suppose was a typical-for-the-time collection on the shelves in our post-war suburban living room. A row of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, for which they had a subscription. James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. Leon Uris’s Exodus, of course. Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (partially hidden). From Here to Eternity by James Jones. The much loved How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewelyn.
Our swain, Charlie, lives decidedly upscale. His older brother goes to West Point. His father is an architect. Charlie is slated for Rensselaer. My gosh, Rensselaer, the Cambridge of engineering schools! When I was in high school, I knew a kid who was going to Rensselaer. He intimidated the shit out of me.
The title of this great first story comes from a hack Hollywood filmmaker who has convinced a beautiful girl from Manila to star in his horror picture. It’s not really a horror movie, more like an Ed Wood production, and this guy, a Hollywood wanna-be named Gaz, has just spirited the beautiful Reva Gogo away from a life of dirt cheap movies and a no future director boyfriend named Checkers.
An author can write like this? It’s possible not only to write about a neurotic smart ass teenager, but you can use his actual language to do it? Maybe I can write something like that someday—hell, I already talk like that. When I closed The Catcher in the Rye my own stories and novels were years ahead of me, but I was on my way.
I’m a bit of a star fucker when it comes to writing colonies, and I have to say that this place, the Iowa Writers Workshop, is the wet dream of any wanna-be writer. I have a few dozen things on my plate right now which have prevented me from getting a few words out about this great book.