Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Raw Youth - A reader's thoughts...

Recently I posted concerning the publication of my friend Tim's novel, Raw Youth. This past weekend I finished reading it, and I feel a need to talk about it a bit.

First of all, I must say that I respect the hell out of Tim for writing and publishing this novel. When we were in high school, idealistic and confused youths that we were, we voiced some pretty big plans for our futures. I dreamed of being a rock journalist or a guerilla artist or a socialist revolutionary - something provocative. Tim was pretty damned set on being an author, on writing "the great American novel." Nine years later, I'm teaching high school - valuable work, certainly, but it doesn't have quite the glory I'd envisioned myself to be destined for. In the meantime, Tim has lead a crazy and unexpectedly dramatic life, but he hasn't lost sight of that initial goal. Every step of the way from high school graduation to this very moment, he has been, according to my observations at least, focused on his literary aspirations. While I'm fairly happy with my life, the artist and dreamer in me envies Tim's clarity of vision and the cojones he has demonstrated in his commitment to his goals.

Now I'm not quite sure how to respond to Raw Youth. I don't know why Tim decided to push this manuscript through, as opposed to any of the others he has worked on. And to be completely honest, I was skeptical of the novel when he initially serialized the first several chapters on his blog - in that stunted and truncated form, I had a really tough time figuring out where the hell he was going.

And where was Tim going with Raw Youth? The novel consists of the recollections of a narrator who seems to be subject to paranoid delusions and hallucinations (in comments concerning the novel Tim has described the character as a paranoid schizophrenic) who is obsessed with the national traumas to which the American public has been subjected over the past 15 years (Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, etc). Weird premise, eh? After reading the novel, I'm still not really sure what the hell Tim was saying about all this.

Ultimately, I feel somewhat unqualified to evaluate the literary merits of the novel. I'm not an objective audience. Reading the novel proved to be a rather odd experience for me simply because I am so familiar with many of the personal experiences and events Tim mined to flesh out the novel... Tony Roma's in Salt Lake? That's where we ate on our way back from seeing the Chemical Brothers at Red Rocks. I got food poisioning from that meal. But beyond that, I feel like I have too many preconcieved notions of Tim's psyche and intentions, and I'm not sure what I do think I understand about his novel is based on his writing, and not more than that.

That said, I need to describe what happened when I turned the last page and returned the novel to my bookshelf. I felt a longing. I wanted more. I didn't want to be done with the novel. I wanted the experience I'd had reading it to continue. Then I realized that Tim had done something very successful. He'd written a kick-ass, riveting narrative. Raw Youth was, for me, a page-turner. I enjoyed it greatly, and I eagerly await Tim's future writings.


Post a Comment

<< Home