As The Writer Writes

I watched the movie, “The Outsiders” a few days ago, from the comfort of my uncomfortable old couch.   If memory serves and it really hasn’t been lately, I the book was assigned reading in High School.    At the time the book has already been on your friendly neighborhood bookstore shelves for about 12- years.   I remember finding it rather dated even then.     Move ahead many years and I saw the movie when it premiered,

So no, I really didn’t like the book or the movie and watching it recently only made the whole premise seem even more ludicrous.

I kept the book which I had to buy whilein HS.   I kept it for years.   I remember reading SE Hinton’s name on the paperback’s spine.

I had no idea who she was, whether this  was a person with a nether region that included  either a PROtrustion or INtrusion, but whatever the gender was, I thought he or she had a weak grasp of how a 60’s era Greaser would think, talk and act.  Not that I would know myself.   I was  six years old in 1965 when this schmalz was to have occurred and I was also living in South Texas about seven hundred miles or so south of Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Enid or where ever the hell this story took place.

To me, the word “Greaser” was someone covered in Crisco or at least, a fry cook.


The dialog drove me crazy.   Unfunny.

 I hear they stamp your face to make gorilla cookies-– Keith “Two Bit” Matthews

And speaking of names, I always thought the names Hinton chose were so silly.  Her Wikipedia entry says she based most of them on real people; namely her boyfriend at the time and her brother-in-law.  Names like  Ponyboy Curtis and his brother, Sodapop and elder brother, Darry which I think is short for Darrel.    Then, add Dallas (Dally) Winston to the mix, along with Two Bit and you have a juvenile salad with a toss of effeminate dressing.

I fell on my knees and  thanked obscure gods I don’t believe in when I read the wonderfully normal character name of “Tim Shepherd” mentioned in the book.  Johnny Cade was an acceptable name as well.   Call me foolish,  but shortly after I began reading the book, I started thinking–even as a young, concave titted sapling auteur– that this was a book written by a chick who thinks she writes as a dude would think while writing.     Based on guys I knew at the time this book was published, which included cousins and neighbors–hell, even my own father–I found it nearly impossible to believe that these rough and tumble male children from the wrong side of the tracks could be that caring, that loving and that compassionate while styling their hair with 30-weight Pennzoil.

I give props to Hinton (which in Laurie-ese means I “forgive” her) for the areas where I think her book lacked.   She was just 15 when she started writing the book. Very admirable.  It was published during her Freshman year in college, several years later.  Even more admirable.    My Freshman year in college the most I dared to attempt from a literary standpoint was to write my name, the date and my college ID number on my tests–which at times were the only things I knew for sure on the whole damn exam.

But here’s where I have an issue…

As an aspiring writer myself, I’ve  been told time and time again that one must write what one knows.   This book was based on two rival gangs at  Barry Switzer High School (not sure of the exact name of the institution OTHER than it was in Oklahoma)  where she attended.   The were the Greasers–named as such because they slicked back their hair with enough grease to make an axle jealous) and Socs (which until the movie came out, I thought was pronounced like ‘socks’, which I NEVER understood I realized later that term was created for the kids from higher socio-economic classes)  The Greasers  lived on the north side, next to (one would assume) a sea of loan sharks, pawn shops, bars, pool halls and every train track known to man while the Socs (pronounced Soash-long ‘o’) lived in the well-to-do part of town…the Southside  in palatial homes with manicured lawns; where residents were well healed and well wheeled.

And the jargon!!!!

Man, that was one tough car.  Mustangs, they’re tough.-Johnny Cade

I know times change.  The bee’s knees was a phrase that was all the rage in the 20’s, Hubba-Hubba served its purpose in the late 40’s and early 50’d.      Hollywood and Ralph Malph revived ‘ sit on it’ from the late 50.     Cool, groovy, far out, solid and right on, took us through about 1975.

Of course there are more, but my point is I get it—hip phrases change with the times, but something about terms Hinton used unnerved me.  Annoyed me.   Like fingernails on a chalkboard.   The torturous sound of cats mating.    Like any music made, sung, produced or hummed by Justin Bieber.

As for  SE Hinton the girl/woman, as best I can tell, she was neither a Soc or a Greaser.   She was probably somewhere in between; a good girl who dreamed of being bad; who had perfectly normal impure thoughts of Paul Peterson on “The Donna Reed Show” and Bandstand appearances by  Gary Puckkett   and Mark Lindsay–especially when he wore his very tight, religious-revealing Paul Revere and The Raiders pants.

Maybe even Donovan,too.

An additional  “Outsider” condemnation, the lovely Cherry Valance was actually named Sherry but in keeping up with Hinton’s penchant for crazy ass nicknames, Ponyboy et. al., readers would come to know her  as “Cherry” because of her red hair.   In later years, I envisioned her looking a lot like Diane Lane.

And wouldn’t you know it,  Frances Ford Coppola thought so too.

Johnny Cade is a little runt of a guy with abusive, alcoholic parents who don’t  ‘give a gosh darn”about him.   Dallas “Dally” Winston ( played by that Dillon  guy) is a hood, also shaped by parental neglect and glorified (by other Greasers as an  enviable rap sheet that reads like a scroll.  His character is hackneyed– a rebellious, angry young man with a huge chip on his shoulder–portrayed  in similar roles by tough guys actors such as Marlon Brando, Robert Blake, Judd Nelson, Johnny Depp and last but not least, Jodie Foster.

I’ve read several of Ms. Hinton’s other works, and dare I say  “The Outsiders” is by far her magnum opus.  One other book  she wrote is entitled, “That Was Then; This Is Now” and personally, I think it pales in comparison.  This book focuses on the late Sixties drug culture and acid-dropping with a long-haired, soft spoken, gray-eyed  character named M&M or Hershey or Zagnut–I can’t remember, it had something to to do with candy.  But based on this and other literary efforts, I think “Outsiders” is the best.   It was/is a very successful  manuscript which over the years, won a plethora of awards.   It was critically acclaimed at a time when young women weren’t writing books.   Hinton, Anne Frank and Laura Ingalls Wilder pretty much summed up the short list.   With Hinton being more contemporary,  I can say she broke an acrylic ceiling and for that, I admire her.    Someday, I hope to join her on the successful author dais.   So, with all sincerity, I say mozel to her for her gumption, her success.   She’s probably a lovely woman.

I just didn’t like this particular book.

However, because I respect and admire Hinton’s tenacity at such a young age, I’m thinking about naming my next  dog, “Bronco Bottle Cap Scranton Two Rubles”  as an homage to the book and movie.

And now, you may opine your ass off...

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