Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: King of the Mild Frontier

When my young-at-heart book club offered up a memoir by YA novelist Chris Crutcher, I told them to brace themselves for foul language. Hmm. Where did that come from? I couldn't remember a single title I had read by him but seemed to remember reading him over a decade ago. I just had it in my mind that he used foul language in his books.

Imagine my surprise as I began reading King of the Mild Frontier only to realize that it was the very Crutcher book I had read (actually listened to, as I can remember the roads I was traversing while listening) all those years ago. It was delightfully funny and didn't contain near as much cursing as I had anticipated (although he does talk about his penchant for cursing and the essential battle over whether to include such language in his young adult novels). Plus, it had the added benefit of reflections on the act of writing. He talks about what led him to become a storyteller and gave several insights into incidents which made their way into his books.

Chris Crutcher grew up in Cascade, Idaho. His stories are certain to tickle your funny bone. I was so amused by his tale of attempting to eliminate a gigantic zit prior to a Christmas dance that I had to read it aloud to both my husband and my oldest son and his girlfriend. They chuckled along with me. He tells of growing up with a brother who could talk him into anything (like target practice with a BB gun and him as the moving target or peeing into the house's radiator). He draws the reader in with tales of unrequited love, school time pranks, and horrifying initiations. Laced among the stories are nuggets of wisdom.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this a second time around. I don't know if I'll ever seek out one of his young adult novels, but it was good to read about the process of writing them and attempting to ferret out truth to convey. If you're needing a good laugh, this is a great memoir to fit the bill. And if you're a writer needing a good laugh and some insights into the process of writing a good story, well it serves as an instruction manual, as well.

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