God, how we get our fingers in each other’s clay. That’s friendship, each playing the potter to see what shapes we can make of the other.
-Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
My friend Doug, I should say Douglas Cowie, has written a novel and I have read it. It’s called Owen Noone and The Marauder and I enjoyed it thoroughly. As the link would suggest, I recommend that you buy it and read it for yourself.
This is the first novel that has been written by a friend of mine and I find the experience slightly unsettling. I’ll probably have to read the book again so that I can concentrate on it a little more. I mean, what if someone asks me for an analysis because I have a degree in English literature and all I can come up with is, “I enjoyed it thoroughly.” I should be able to talk about the main character’s lack of a past and his resemblance to the narrator of The Great Gatsby. I should be able to talk about the significance of the wordplay in choosing the other character's name and whether or not that makes the story an allegory and use the word Dickensian while I do. I should be able to talk about the book as the new Great American Novel because the characters travel the country playing rock and roll and in the process figure out the meaning of it all, which is the quintessential genre with which to write the aforementioned GAN of our generation.
But, I can’t. Because I found myself searching for clues of the Doug I grew up with. He’ll hate me for that. He was the one our sophomore year who complained that we were taking simple coincidences from The Grapes of Wrath and imbuing them with all sorts of meaning that they couldn’t actually have. But, I couldn’t help myself. He mentions Danville, IL, where my dad was raised and the First National Bank building in Chicago, where my dad worked and I think we looked at on a Humanities field trip and one of the letters that was quoted in the text was dated on my birthday. Coincidences, but I wanted them to mean something. He’ll hate me for it. :-)
You see, when I think about my childhood, Doug was one of those rare kids that I always wanted to be around. More importantly, I always cared what Doug thought of me. If he thought a band was cool, I thought that band was cool. If he hated some other kid passionately for being a poser, I hated that kid, too. I met Doug in the third grade when he moved to Glen Ellyn from, I think, Canada. We were in Sunday School together and he was as smart as I was. Later, he proved himself to be smarter, even though I still won at Bible Hangman. Although we weren’t friends in the we-call-each-other-at-night-to-talk-and-hang-out-on-the-weekend kind of way, we were involved in many of the same clubs at school, stayed on at church functions through junior year and had lots of the same classes together. I think that during three out of the four years of high school, I found myself eating lunch with his group. One year, we were in Mr. Hendee’s room and another we were with Mr. Haake. I am fairly positive that I had a crush on him at some point, and I went to the turnabout dance with him at another, and goodness knows, his mother probably would have liked something romantic to happen between us, but it never did. We were just friends in that comfortable way that true friends have. Anne Shirley would call us kindred spirits and Doug would make a choking noise at that and then probably make fun of me for quoting Anne of Green Gables. It’s just that if he was in the room, I wanted to be in his group. Sitting on a bench with him, making fun of the world as it went by, was some of the best time I have ever spent in my life, or so it seems. It was a beautiful experience of youth when someone who seemed to see the world through the same lens that I did was just a part of my life. Our friendship didn’t take any effort. We didn’t have to call long distance or set up lunch dates or send little presents or apologize at the beginning of emails that it has been so long since we last wrote: the modern, adult friendship. We just enjoyed each other when the other was around.
So, read his book. It’s a good book, even if you don’t know him.