Guns and Boyhood in America: A Memoir of Growing Up in the 50s

Guns and Boyhood in America: A Memoir of Growing Up in the 50s

by Jonathan Holden

America the beautiful: baseball, summer camp, and homophobia.
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America the beautiful: baseball, summer camp, and homophobia.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Holden's contribution to the series Poets on Poetry is an examination of the aesthetics and culture of a childhood spent in the aftermath of WWII and the uneasy peace of the Cold War. In loosely linked essays, Holden probes a boyhood informed by a fascination with explosives, military might, baseball and sex and in doing so delves into the national fascination with these things. As the son of a well-known Bell Labs scientist, Holden spent his childhood in the shadow of imposing intellect and vanity. In the essay "American Male Honor," he explores the male fascination with fighting and the honorable traditions of karate. "Boyhood Aesthetics" reveals the harsh beauty in the things that boys often find alluring, "the devious, unlikely ways that a boy, growing up in Americaa country in which military hardware is so much a part of the landscape that we no longer notice itmay have to take to satisfy the human hunger for beauty, scrounging for it in even the grimmest facts that we have come to live with, in the perfection of our weapons." "Peyton Place" looks at the sexual and political repression of the '50s and McCarthyism. As Holden summarizes, "The organic numbness of adolescence is the numbness of a lynch-mob. You don't know anything. You don't feel anything. You don't fear anything. You've been anaesthetized. But it was who we were then." Guns and Violence is an keen study of the nature of American boyhood during this era, glossed by illuminating poetry. (June)
Library Journal
In this memoir of a Fifties childhood, Holden (poet-in-residence, Kansas State Univ.) contends that society forces individuals to pretend to be what they cannot be. "It was only much later, in middle age, after my miserable twenty-seven-year marriage came apart," he states, "that with the help of psychotherapy, I began to see how desperately and extremely I had twisted myself in order to play a role that I thought was safe and acceptable." Holden writes eloquently about his homosexual twin brother, whose "emotional honesty" he claims he himself lacks. He also levels criticism against the military, crass high schools, and an aggressive, oversexed society, though he often fails to do justice to these complex issues. In tone reminiscent of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, this work is on the whole disappointingand not merely because it is a reworking of a theme that one begins to suspect must obsess the author. For larger collections only.Susan Dearstyne, Hudson Valley Community Coll., Troy, N.Y.

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Product Details

University of Michigan Press
Publication date:
Poets on Poetry Series
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.44(d)

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