The Summer of '42, a book I picked up on accident for a quarter at a garage sale. It is beautiful and tragic and real. I've never seen the movie and I'm not sure I want to, since I love the book so much...that isn't exactly how I feel about this other Raucher book Watermelon Man. Written in 1970 a year before The Summer of '42, it chronicles the life of this incredible bigot named Jeffrey Gerber and his inability to find any substance in his life...that is until he wakes up one morning and he's 'black as night' and getting blacker by the minute.
In the beginning I found the premise of this book to be quite clever and enjoyed some of the old racial slang being made fun of in a way that must have been totally unexpected and fresh in 1970. By the end of the book, however, I was tired of the jokes and looking forward to watching the movie. Frankly, everything about the book is probably predictable to a modern audience there's jokes about class and race stereotypes including a black mans' prowess in bed, his ability to run a good race and his ability to make light out of just about anything (you know the old Sambo complex). There's a lady at the office who's only interested in him after he's black and while he feels used, he likes the attention. His kids, who are young, don't understand what the big deal is and his wife, who watched the race riots religiously and wanted to help everybody get along is actually, you guessed it, so racist she really can't be seen with or married to him anymore. What I found interesting, however, were all the ways Mr. Gerber tries to get rid of his skin tone there are long steamy showers, creams and powders and lotions...this has to play out quite humorously on film.
I gotta tell you though, I really wish the book had been stereotypical until the very end, and since it isn't I'm not sure what lessons I'm supposed to have learned. It seems that the only characters who come off as having grown are the kids, and even then I'm not sure if that's true as Jeff, rich and divorced, only talks to them on the phone.
This book is funny when I think it should be serious and just when I started laughing for real...it pulled the rug right from underneath me.