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Into The Great Wide Open (1997)

Into the Great Wide Open (1997)

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3.77 of 5 Votes: 3
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0679776524 (ISBN13: 9780679776529)

About book Into The Great Wide Open (1997)

Seriously, this book knocked my damn socks off. This is the best book I've read about teenage love and angst. Period. Author Kevin Canty has accomplished something quite amazing in his first novel, he managed to tap into those ignominious and shameful feelings we had when we first fell in love. Canty's narrative seriously transported me back to my first heartbreak... which is the toughest heartbreak of all, period. You are unprepared for the sadness and hell you experience, and more than that, Canty knows that this particular fissure will set the stage for the next few years of your life. A reviewer on goodreads amazingly rated this book one star while praising it for its visceral emotion and making her feel like a teenager again. However, she lambasted the novel because it doesn't have a clear structure or story. She also didn't think the teenage characters were extraordinary. Personally, I think she missed the point. Teenagers aren't extraordinary. They are simply vessels of emotion, trying to figure themselves and world at large out (hence the title of the book). Then there's the lack of story or structure. Think back on the first time you fell in love and broke up. The act of falling in love, the heartbreak when it's over, the shame, the degradation, the incredible sadness...was there a structure in this memory?? Did this experience with your first love have an A to B to C structure? Of course not! It was messy, and awful, and scary as fucking hell. Canty expresses this malaise in his erratic, but totally understandable narrative. It's a fine balance and he walks the line beautifully. Canty truly knows how it feels to spiritually die after losing someone who's not just your crutch, but your answer to everything! HOw can anyone give this book one star? This novel is truly literary. I don't care if that sounds pretentious. This novel is the definition of literary, meaning the narrative works from the senses and emotions; not a story. Read this novel for yourself. It broke my heart and answered a lot of questions that have been lingering in my head for over twenty years. Not many books can accomplish that feat.

I tried to read this several years ago and for some reason got bogged down in the first twenty or so pages and abandoned it. I'm not sure how that happened, to be honest, because this go-round I found the book completely engaging from page one. On its surface it's a story that's been told over and over, a kind of "first love" story combined with a kind of "troubled father/son relationship" story, but what makes the book unique and compelling is the depth of character and the close attention to details both physical and emotional. I remember lots of grad-school workshop talk about caring for your characters, and I can't imagine a better example. Canty loves his characters, in the deepest and most complicated sense of the word love, which results in a book that's deeply satisfying and emotionally resonant. The story's protagonist is a wonderful portrayal of late adolescence/early adulthood, a young man who's both intelligent and a bit ashamed/afraid of his intelligence, awkward, yearning, a little self-destructive and hard-headed, all that good stuff.Am recommending it to my fiction writing students, and reading out loud to them various loving and careful character descriptions.

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