It's wonderful to see a friend succeed in a difficult business, especially if that friend is as talented and hardworking as Robert Clark Young.
Bob has just published his first novel, "One of the Guys" (Harper Collins, $24, 1999), and he is convinced that it will be a best seller. Modesty is not one of Bob's attributes, but if you've got the talent, who cares? The problem is, if you have too much talent, you might just launch yourself right over the heads of your readers. This could be the case for Bob.
For instance, if you were to sit down and read "One of the Guys" (in one sitting, as so many have done) you might think the book is about a young man named Miles Derry who comes across the body of a Navy chaplain one night while Miles is on the job, a porno house janitor.
The chaplain had a heart attack while engaging in a little solitary romance on his leave. Miles gives it some thought, but not very much, and decides to steal the chaplain's identity along with his orders and ship out in the chaplain's place. This is, I have to admit, one of the most riveting first chapters to come along in quite a while.
However, if you were to think that the rest of the story was the tale of Mile's adventure in the Navy you would be very much mistaken. It is much much more than that, as Bob is quick to point out.
"The novel is a satire designed to expose the utter stupidity of human beings, thus it is a highly moral work," he says. "It's not a novel about guys, the U.S. Navy (the Navy will be relieved to hear that) and sex in the Far East (although there is plenty of that, too).
""It's a novel of existential self-actualization...it is about how you need to stand up tall on both legs and live like a self-actualizing superior human being because most of the other specimens - and organizations - around you will tend toward the mediocre."
So, there you have it. You can either read Young's book as a highly moral work of literature or you can read it as a disgusting adventure on the high seas. I appreciate having the choice.
And no matter which way you choose to read it, you will be pleased by the way he writes. Even when he's writing about debauched sailors he's writing in a way that's hard to resist.
Bob credits his solid background in literature and time spent learning the nuts and bolts of his craft directly to the creative writing program at UC Davis. Bob graduated from that program in 1988 and then embarked on several long sea voyages as a civilian English teacher in the U.S. Navy.
But after all those travel and travails, which included several years teaching English at a two-year college in Ohio, Bob is now home, back in Davis.
"Davis is my spiritual home," he says, even though he grew up in Los Angeles and San Diego.
He will be giving a reading at The Avid Reader in Davis on Friday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. and he deserves a crowd. Without too much effort, you can probably get him to tell you what his big break was. After all, he's written eight novels. How did this one get published and how did he land a name New York agent? He'll be happy to tell you about it.
Most of all, he'll tell you, he didn't give up.
"I must have known 200 people who wanted to write books but who ended up doing something else," he said.
His next book will be set in Alexandria, Egypt, where Bob also spent some time.
So, welcome home, Bob, and good luck with "One of the Guys" and all your books yet to come.
To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books [ Click Here ]
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