Boys & Their Baby

Larry Wolff, Author Alfred A. Knopf $17.95 (259p) ISBN 978-0-394-56091-5
The evocation of San Francisco's ambience is the best thing about this sometimes perceptive, sometimes irritating first novel. Wolff blatantly tags his characters with symbolic names: Adam (the innocent first man) comes to California to teach English in a private school and moves in with his erstwhile Yale roommate Huck (as in Finn) and Huck's adorable baby boy, Christopher, whose presence will indeed redeem all the characters as they move from guilt to penance and redemption. The mother-dominated Adam, so unwordly he is almost a wimp, is overwhelmed by San Francisco's sophistication, its joie de vivre that coexists with an earthquake mentality. He is introduced to Huck's friends: the chanteuse Lucille, who becomes his lover; a gay duo, Timmy and Tommy, who live upstairs; the five students in his class at the Stringfellow School, all of whom are less naive than he; and another former Yale classmate and fellow teacher, Amy Armstrong, with whom he also begins an affair. Questions about fidelity and responsibility, musings about the validity of structuralist criticism (Adam's mother is a noted professor in the field) and the violation of taboos mingle with genuinely appealing scenes of domesticity. But the story is fuzzy and unfocused, and the central eventthe arrival of Christopher's mentally unbalanced motheris foreshadowed with so heavy a hand that suspense is nil. While intelligently written, in the end this novel about ""boys who are somehow not quite men and men who are still somehow little boys'' offers more promise than satisfaction. (March)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
Paperback - 259 pages - 978-0-312-02878-7
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-312-30470-6
Open Ebook - 132 pages - 978-0-307-81899-7
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