Beautiful. I woke up on the morning I started reading this book and went down to my first breakfast at the new resort
I was staying at for the last leg of my trip to Zanzibar. The girl I was with slept fourteen hours every night (hi, Miranda!), so I always had the mornings to myself at that resort. I went up to the waiters to find out how to order breakfast because it was never the same at any of the hotels.
The mustachioed waiter said, “This is where you write your order,” and showed me the sheet of paper.
“But what are my options?” I asked.
The non-mustachioed waiter said, “Optionsssssss! You have many options!” and then grinned at me conspiratorially because we were already kind of friends. I had a Spanish omelet, which they guarantied me was the best. I got to the table and pulled open my Kindle to take a look at the first couple of pages of Angry Young Man
. My plan was to move on to something else if it didn’t catch my interest. I was immediately hooked, though, and spent the rest of the day inside of this so beautiful story.
As a sibling story, this reminds me of J.D. Salinger’s and David James Duncan’s writings. It has that cadence of family lingo built from years of affection and harassment. One brother is the sensitive one in this story – the Seymour Glass, Holden Caulfield, Irwin Chance, or Bill Bob Orviston – the magic brother. The other is the more mainstream brother, who has ancestors in the Salinger and Duncan stories as well. The mainstream brother tells the story, but with so much love for the heartbreak of the sensitive brother that I fell for them both a little. It seems more similar to Brothers K than the Salinger books because it pokes fun at the drama of the sensitive brother, even while sympathizing with him. Salinger takes the anger and alienation more seriously.
I think that this book has the potential to be controversial like Catcher in the Rye is controversial, though. The other day, a friend of mine posted a quote on facebook that made me think of Angry Young Man
. “Ultimately . . . any text speaks through its reader. . . . Consequently the meaning of the text is often only as moral as its reader. If the reader is intolerant, hateful, or oppressive, so will be the interpretation of the text." It’s from Khaled Abou El Fadl in an article titled “The Place of Tolerance in Islam.” It’s easy to blame books for violence, and this feels like a book that will get blamed for violence. I don’t think it should be, though.
I just found out that my financial aid for this term of school is set to be about one-fourth of what it was last term, and the aid office is being very frustrating about it. And it makes me so angry! It is so infuriating to have people be cavalier with your livelihood. I don’t think we’re intended to endorse or condemn the boys in this book, but they seem so realistic to me, so like how you react when your family and home is threatened. I get who they are and why they do what they do, and I am them right now, shaking my fist at the financial aid office. And they’re realistic in this lovely way. Lynch tells you just the right things about who they are and what they do.
Also, there are some great women in here, even though it is not about them.
Despite the ultimate seriousness and social relevance of this story to American society, which contrasted weirdly when I was reading it with drinking soda and cider in a tiki hut down by the beach, it was sort of wonderfully lighthearted and entertaining. I guess it kind of reminds you that most of us are somehow displaced and imposed upon by the injustices of the world. It made me look at the waiters, both mustachioed and non-, who worked from 6:30 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., and wonder if they don’t feel something like the brothers in this book. Like you can’t just not do something about so much injustice.