Saturday, December 15, 2007

A.E. Hotchner's favorite coming-of-age tales

A.E. Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway (1966), The Boyhood Memoirs of A.E. Hotchner (2007), and the forthcoming The Good Life According to Hemingway, named a five best list of books about "coming of age" for Opinion Journal.

One title from the list:
Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (Random House, 1959).

This acidulous and funny novella begins with the 23-year-old narrator, Neil Klugman, holding Brenda Patimkin's glasses while she dives into a country-club swimming pool -- and then he watches, entranced, as she walks away: "She caught the bottom of her suit between thumb and index finger and flicked what flesh had been showing back where it belonged. My blood jumped." With that, Philip Roth is off, spinning an unsparing yet tender tale about a summer affair between poor-boy Neil, from Newark, N.J., and Brenda, a Radcliffe student who is staying with her upper-middle-class family in Short Hills. "Goodbye, Columbus" -- originally published with an additional five short stories -- is primarily concerned with Neil and Brenda's tense romance and the challenges of Jewish assimilation, but it is also a brilliant lampoon of the American way of life.
Read about the book that topped Hotchner's list.

--Marshal Zeringue