Wednesday, May 16, 2007

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher

Chris Crutcher's autobiography will alter the way you read his books. It is enjoyable, even when he shares some of his more humiliating moments. Know all those things you did when you were young and stupid and you hope they never come up as conversation when you bring your significant other to meet the family because you don't want him/her to know just how stupid you've been, even as a kid? Crutcher confesses to many of those things. Many of these incidents, for Crutcher, seem to have been instigated by his brother (on the premise that the result would be "neat"), and you will wonder, when you've finished, what other stories were cut or left out.

You will also see many of his characters floating through the pages--athletic or otherwise--and you will probably never read his books the same way again, because the characters will become a little more real for you. For me, this is distracting--I would far prefer to be reading this book after I've read all his others, and saying, "Oh, this happened to [this character] in [this book]," instead of reading his fiction and thinking, "I remember--this happened to [so-and-so] when he was in high school," or whatever. Knowing the real background pulls me out of the fiction a little too much. Even when you know that the stories must be based on real experiences Crutcher has had or known, it's very different to know the real stories when you're reading fiction.

So, by all means, read this book. It's funny, sad, and I wish there was more of it. But if you suspect you're like me, wait till you've read all his other books before cracking this one.

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