Thursday, May 01, 2014

My Reading Life: The Outsiders

After several reluctant-reader students, in years past, had read The Outsiders and pushed it on me, I thought it only fair to read it, particularly because I push books on so many others.

I had my doubts about becoming interested in the story, a '60s coming-of-age, gang-related short novel. Recently, I'd read for the first time two other coming-of-age stories (Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Joy in the Morning). Those two had a female protagonist; The Outsiders, a male named Ponyboy. Somewhat reluctantly, I began the book and was drawn into the story enough to finish. Had I been a teenager reading it instead of a fifty-something, I'm sure my take on it would be different.

I was impressed, though, that the author was female. I always read the back cover, then any postscripts first and discovered that early on. I had fallen for why S. E. Hinton used her initials; since she wrote the book in the '60s, she did not want reviewers to discount her work because she was female. Smart move. But a better impression was made on me -- along with another strike in the reluctance camp -- when I read that she wrote this book when she was sixteen. Impressive, but how could a sixteen year old's first book be a winner? I was nine years old. (Interestingly, I'd never heard of the book until the last decade.) Hinton did what successful authors do; she wrote about what she knew and where she lived.

Growing up in the sixties and visually familiar with the "Fonz" from Happy Days who loved his hair, I heard those terms "hood" and "greaser," too, referring to the boys from the blue-collar class. The "greasers" I knew did not use hair grease from which the name came. Those were the boys that "good" girls didn't go out with. Those were the boys in my school who left lunch early and went out behind the cafeteria to smoke, just like in the book. I guess I was a Soc.

What I found satisfyingly curious was that these recent three coming-of-age books had protagonists who were all readers and read a lot. Hmmm. I'm still intrigued by that one. In The Outsiders, the one book that was a connecting, maybe a healing, point was Gone with the Wind. I revel in connections and convergences, and the one for me, now, is that Gone with the Wind was one of Pat Conroy's favorite books. And Pat Conroy has become my 2014 author idol. (A Pat Conroy post is in the making.) Even though I typically do not re-read books, I do plan to re-read Gone with the Wind. I had read it in high school but now remember very little of it. And I have a brand new copy of it on my shelves. When I do read it again, it will be interesting how Ponyboy and Pat Conroy will figure into my mind's eye.

The best reading audience, in my opinion, for this book would be teenage boys.

1 comment:

JenifferLuback@cLocalToAction said...

i haven't yet gone through this book but your post has triggered my interest into it :D can't wait to get one now :) thank you for the information dear one :)