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A Princeton University professor and Marine Corps veteran recounts his Great Depression-era boyhood, during which he accompanied his father to numerous cities and farms in search of work, lost his mother and gained a stepmother, and experienced the temptations of pre-war adolescence. Reprint. 35,000 first printing.
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Samuel Hynes is Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature Emeritus at Princeton University and the author of several major works of literary criticism, including The Auden Generation, Edwardian Occasions, and The Edwardian Turn of Mind. Hynes's wartime experiences as a Marine Corps pilot were the basis for his highly praised memoir, Flights of Passage. The Soldiers' Tale, his book about soldiers' narratives of the two world wars and Vietnam, won a Robert F. Kennedy Award. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.From Publishers Weekly:
Hynes's literary style is best defined by Mr. Mulligan, one of his former writing teachers, who said good writing is "plain as a pine board, clear as well water." This honest, scrupulously organized study of Hynes's Depression-era boyhood has the simple effectiveness of a family photograph. Son of a widower and "sort-of" son of an undemonstrative stepmother, Hynes (Flights of Passage) learned farming and describes chores and his experiences in the outdoors matter-of-factly. He captures the smell of a skunk as "a pungent cloud that soaked me like a sudden shower of rain." Violent details of a teamster's strike don't quite spring to life, but his admiration for gangsters of the era conveys a youngster's awe. The book is particularly touching when Hynes lays out his father's steel-strong work ethic and belief in meeting his obligations while standing on his own feet. There's a piercing sweetness in the portrait of Hynes's first sexual experience, when his guilty girlfriend is told to say hundreds of Hail Marys and never see him again. His assessments of "how it feels to be really drunk" and first seeing a girl "in the perfection of her nakedness" are starkly realistic. Like a stunningly precise diary, Hynes dwells on nothing, nor does he artificially heighten events, not even stories about two local murders. What Hynes achieves with journalistic eloquence is showing a way of life and presenting an affectionate portrait of people who rarely verbalize their feelings but show love in subtle, unexpected ways.
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