Saturday, May 05, 2007

Total consciousness

Read my Daily Page report from yesterday's talk at the UW-Madison by the Dalai Lama.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The kids are all right

I don't think I properly mourned Paul Zindel, the novelist and Pulitzer-winning dramatist who died in 2003 at age 66. But I'm a fan, and in the last few days I've been delighted anew by his 1976 young-adult novel Pardon Me, You're Stepping On My Eyeball!, which was a favorite of mine when I was 12 or so. (I bought it at Waldenbooks in a Nashville shopping mall, if memory serves.) This book is so funny, and far smarter than I was equipped to appreciate in 1983. It's about high school students in the mid-1970s, when the youth culture had lost the political preoccupations of just a few years earlier but retained the obsessions with sex and drugs.

It was a chaotic time, at least in Zindel's telling. I love this vivid passage about a trip the young hero, Marsh Mellow, takes to Los Angeles:
The day they got off the Greyhound bus in downtown L.A., he and Paranoid Pete rented a Dollar-a-Day Rent-a-Pinto and went crusing down Hollywood Boulevard looking at all the belly-dancing emporiums near Vine Street. That was the great thing about Hollywood. From the moment they got there they could tell it was a weird place. There'd be things like a kid standing on a street corner yelling out "Remember that today and yesterday are the good old days someone will talk about tomorrow." Everybody seemed to be spaced out on drugs or religion. There was a terrific hypnosis institute near Hollywood and Vine. And Marsh always read the billboards. There was a terrific cigarette ad for Tramps all over the place that exploited a shot of Charlie Chaplin, and they had Yul Brynner on another sign saying how he drinks a special kind of Scotch. And there were a lot of weirdo stores. They even had a store that thought it was so special because it had huge signs saying that they sold living plants and trees. What a triumphant drive it was down Hollywood Boulevard! Past the Great American Food and Beverage Company, which looked like a plain old hamburger place, all hyped-up. There was a bar called Filthy McNasty's where Pete stopped and threw down a couple of boilermakers. Some woman was standing in front of a restaurant called the Lost-On-Larrabee Burger Palace, and she was yelling "Cancer cures smoking! Cancer cures smoking!" That's what kind of a nifty place Hollywood was.
I also enjoyed Zindel's novel The Pigman, back in the day. Then I grew up and ceased reading young-adult fiction until I turned 36.