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What's Up Fellow Teens Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

A Generation of Vipers:

It has been fairly fancy of me, I know, to write so long and noisy a book just to say that if we want a better world, we will have to be better people.

I can't tell if A Generation of Vipers is too sloppy to be dangerous or if I've just developed the illusion that it is as a defense mechanism against having my conventional worldview shaken to the core. I'm leaning toward the former, but you never know. It's essentially a screed against American hypocrisy, self-mythologizing, and carefully cultivated obliviousness that was on point in 1943 and would probably still be on point today, at least in sufficiently abstracted list form. The infamous chapter on "mom" is really (partly) just a standard second-wave feminist critique of the culturally enforced idleness and infantalization of middle-class American women, only gussied up in a lot of gleefully misogynist imagery because Wylie can't seem to help himself.

It's an interesting book, but every paragraph and every chapter is such a clogged drain of clauses that it's difficult to parse. I'm not sure yet if I want to try to parse it a little more, or if I should just let it go. Certainly there are better-written screeds against American hypocrisy to be found. Here, have a sample paragraph (or rather, sentence-paragraph):

Since society is founded upon lies, and since all men are, in countless ways, exponents of the most groveling forms of intellectual and moral crookedness, the psychoanalytical method is slow, mentally painful to the deluded patient, at least at first, and likely, instead of rendering him whole, to spring upon his startled fellows in the overweaning and enlightened possession of some corner or giblet of eternal truth which, isolated in a still unclear mind and hatched autonomous in a still prejudiced company of persons, makes his behavior seem so bizarre that his friends avoid him, and he is liable to become disappointed not only with psychiatry but with himself all over again and develop a new set of stigmata.

From this distance, its pungency can feel a little forced, even when it hasn't aged as badly as, e.g., Wylie's many drive-by references to the deleterious influence of "nances" and "sissies." But I'm a classic American prig with a low pungency threshold, so who knows for sure? It probably read a little better in 1943, when the vernacular portion of the vernacular-prophetic hybrid was closer to fresh. I haven't decided whether I should keep this around on the off chance that I need a reference book for gritty suburban realism and/or "opinions it was possible to have in 1940s America."

On the one hand, it's pretty small! On the other, it was a little more of a slog, on a sentence level, than I like my books to be, and as a former Explosive Best-Seller it shouldn't be too hard to come by again.

I do like the Wyliean epithet "prickamouse," though I probably wouldn't use it myself.

What I'm Reading Now

Another Mount TBR selection, Between You, Me, and the Gatepost by Pat Boone (1959). If Philip Wylie's prose style is cluttered, Pat Boone's is downright excruciating. His Heart-to-Heart Message for Teen-Agers is just the sort of thing Wylie would set on fire for the sake of men's souls, and can you blame him? "Verily I say unto thee, . . . woweeWOOwow!" Boone exclaims, after listing the questions that inspired the book.

You think my work's not cut out for me? And these weren't adults asking the questions; no sir . . . these were bonafide, picked-at-random TWEEN-AGERS!

Now here's what we'll do. First, we'll talk about YOU; Second, about you and your friends (including parents!): and Third, about the ways you, Egbert Z. Twixt, can meet the challenge of changing the world!

Gag me, as the ancients said, with a spoon. But despite the heavy awfulness of the youth-group-leaderese, I find myself kind of liking Pat Boone here. He hasn't taken any really awful positions yet and he seems to genuinely like and sympathize with the young people he's blasting with the full force of his superpowered cringe ray. At the very least, he's fond of his memory of himself as a teenager.

(If I were a Real Teen in 1959, I'm sure I'd feel differently, and would probably be handing Wylie the gas can and matches).

This book is lavishly illustrated, but instead of having anything to do with the putative subject of teenagers sorting out their lives, the photos are all generic promotional images of Boone - posing with his cute daughters and slightly freakish small dog, posing in the studio, posing at European landmarks on a world tour.

I could complain about the prose style of Hidden Figures, but it's a masterpiece compared to Pat Boone, so I'll let it go until next week.

What I Plan to Read Next

Am I going to post about A Single Man? Maybe! Am I going to get back on track with the 99 Novels? Probably! Will I spend a lot of time getting distracted by other things first? Almost definitely!

(Mount TBR is a yearly challenge to read and relinquish books I've owned for a while but haven't read yet; current count is 49 toward my goal of 60).


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2017 05:25 pm (UTC)
You don't half read some stuff, my mind had checked out before the end of Wylie's sentence!

Pat Boone why der 1950s kidz slashed cinema seats? I know I would;p
Jul. 29th, 2017 03:49 am (UTC)
Oh good grief, I can't read Wylie's prose at this hour. Waugh whyy

He hasn't taken any really awful positions yet and he seems to genuinely like and sympathize with the young people he's blasting with the full force of his superpowered cringe ray.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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