And one of the things that struck me about FOREVER… (which, remarkably, I had not read since a boyfriend introduced me to it in high school) is how so very 1970s it is. I mean, check this out, you guys; this is a scene between the 17-year-old narrator Kath and her 13-year-old sister Jamie:
More generally, FOREVER totally inhabits this upper-middle-class liberal world that I feel like really existed in the early 1970s, when there was a women’s movement and the recession hadn’t really hit yet. And Judy Blume, who’s long been a lefty and who was already a big publishing star by this time, would have certainly been inhabiting this world herself.
“What were you two doing in your bedroom? [...] I know all about sex.”
“Were you fucking?”
“That’s not a bad word… hate and war are bad words but fuck isn’t.”
And it’s funny to be reading it today, because on the one hand, I kept being struck by how much more political the characters were than in almost any books today. I feel this over and over again when I read YA books from the ’70s; the sense of social transition and the normalcy of political debate are just palpable. It’s a lot more fun than the blandly liberalized world of most YA publishing today, I think. (And, I mean… he names his penis Ralph. Does anyone not love this book — I mean, besides the people perpetually trying to censor it?)
But I have to say, I am sick to death of reading books where everyone’s parents have glamorous middle-class or upper-class jobs. (Renowned film critic! Philanthropist!) It’s a long-standing complaint of mine against people who’ve produced some of the literature and TV that rings emotionally truest to me in the small scale (Sarah Dessen; Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick); they only seem to write about their own world, in which everyone is some form of small-business owner, and near everyone is white, and after a while I just don’t believe in it anymore.
It’s hard to level that complaint against any individual book, but in a whole oevre it grates on me.* None of this changes that FOREVER… is a damn good story. Despite the artificiality I feel in the world being created by the publishing industry as a whole, I believe in Michael and Kath.
Although, not necessarily in how quickly they develop a sex life that many adults might be envious of. Just sayin’.
* I might also be particularly sensitive to this today because of how annoyed I was by one of today’s “Most Popular” articles in the New York Times, the latest in their never-ending series of uncritical lifestyle features on the thoughtlessly privileged, which features sentiments like, “Like most new parents, we just assumed our child would attend a private elementary school in Manhattan!”
UPDATE: Can you see this post? This seems to be the incredible disappearing post. I do not know why.