Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Being immunized against Oprah's book club picks (in fact, every time she chooses a book, it's practically a guarantee I won't be able to read it until it reappears on the shelf 2 years later), I've never read Wally Lamb. That is, until my best intentions went out the window and I checked out Wally Lamb's recently released Wishin' and Hopin' a couple days ago.

Wishin' and Hopin' reminds me of a teenaged-boy, 1960s version of the movie A Christmas Story (or the book it was based on, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd). Felix Funicello attends 5th grade at a parochial school, where he inadvertently pushes Sister Dymphna over the edge into the loony bin. Their new substitute teacher, Madame Frechette, has big plans for his class' Christmas pageant. Since the Funicellos are distantly related to former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, they have several posters of Annette at the lunch counter they run at the bus station, and her hit "Pineapple Princess" playing in the jukebox. Felix spends his time worrying about things like being eavesdropped on by kids in the confession line, and what people mean by "the birds and the bees."

This is one of my favorite lines from the book, taken from the passage when Felix, as a Junior Midshipman, gets to be in the audience of a local TV show, Ranger Andy:
"Anyone else have a joke?" And I was the only one who raised my hand, so he picked me. "How is a lady like a stove?" I asked . . . When I said the answer, nobody laughed and one of the kids in the Hebrew school row went, "Whoa!"

Wally Lamb has posted several YouTube videos from the 60s to give you a taste for the book on his web site.

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