Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Policy of Truth

My heavens, sometimes I read them so you don’t have to. I finished Paper Covers Rock this week, a book about boarding school that wished it was A Separate Peace, but was not. It wasn’t The Catcher in the Rye, either, even though this book referenced it multiple times, pretending to disdain. Budding teen poet Alex is writing out his shame and guilt after a swimming accident killed his best friend. It’s not a spoiler to say that the boys were drinking before they went swimming and that Alex was goofing around and didn’t notice that Thomas was hurt. In fact, he tells you that pretty fast, but he doesn’t tell his headmaster. He flounders for the entire novel, crippled by guilt that he was drunk, too, and should have been expelled. I swear, I kept waiting for Alex’s real secret to come out, like he pushed Thomas off the rock or held him under, or something, but that was it. He just wanted absolution for being drunk and lying to the headmaster about it.

Rock Covers Paper is set in the mid- 1980’s, and I know I didn’t go to a boys’ boarding school, but the homophobia is insane in this thing. One boy takes the fall for something to avoid the threat of someone starting a rumor that he might be gay. Another boy might have committed a major crime to avoid people questioning his sexuality. I would really love to know whether the hint of gay was enough to ruin you at boys’ school or if the (female, former teacher at a boarding school) author might have had a skewed view of what boarding school was like for a gay male student.

And this guy calls himself Is Male. Like freaking Ishmael from Moby Dick. It was a literary pretention that made me grind my teeth every time I read it. And he referred to himself in the third person A LOT.

If you get bored with my literary efforts, with the plot or characters, if you find that good ol’ Is Male is putting you to sleep, read a real novel, a Great American one. Read Moby-Dick.

If that didn’t make you a little sick, then I don’t think we read the same books.


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