Monday, February 3, 2014

A Retro Read

You can't deny the similarities between Donleavy's cover and the poster art for the 70 hit film, The Graduate.  But, the similarities don't end there.  The Graduate, based on a 1963 novel by Charles Webb, and the "Beastly" book fall into the sub-genre of picaresque novels.  Neither strictly adheres to the pure definition or style which originated in 16th century Spain, but they're close enough.  In episodic bursts of bawdiness and sentimentality, both books follow the adventures of roguish youths in existential searches.  In both cases, the search mostly boils down to sex - but some ethos and pathos creep in between the lurid scenes..

In my college "History of the Novel" class, we read Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding.  I recall being the only person in class not appalled by the story.  I thought that odd at the time since my class was filled with students who were regular class skippers who preferred cussing over sheepshead in the lounge to discussing any piece of literature that wasn't jammed with pages of fast paced dialogue.  I figure they were pretending to be alarmed in order to garner much needed brownie points from the elderly, but brilliant literature scholar - who just happened to be a nun.  But, Sr. Salome was cool.  She enjoyed that I smirked and nodded my head in recognition of double meanings.  She and I enjoyed Joseph Andrews and then she suggested novels of similar ilk to me.  Don Quixote.  Catcher in the Rye.  Tom Jones.  I can't say I enjoyed all of them, but she did a great job of selling me on the style.

So....Balthazar made me a little uncomfortable at time, especially when the proper little 12 year-old boy dives head first into an affair with his 24 year-old nanny.  Thankfully the author didn't get too detailed, but Donleavy is a master of innuendo, so the intent is there for sure.  Hi unique narrative style, certainly experimental in 1968, proved to be tedious at times.  Fragments.  Weird punctuation.  Internal narration.   Voice mixing.  Too much.  Cormac McCarthy pulled off the fragmented narration in The Road with greater dexteruty and purpose.

The book made me laugh at times but mostly, I kept my fingers crossed that Balthazar and his sidekick, Beefy, would stay clear of the law.  These boys were living on the edge as they searched - B for love and, ironically, Beefy for spirituality.  I'm not sure if I would recommend this book.  Have to let it settle in for awhile.

In the meantime - I might grab a not yet published book for this week.  

Heart-A-Rama auditions this Thursday at 7:00 and Sunday at 1:00 at the Capitol Civic Centre.