Friday, March 11, 2011

Adrian Mole: An Update

Mr. Mole deserves our time and reverence for his undending supply of hilarious self-pity and keen observation of other people's flaws (occasionally he does turn the lens on himself), but, as one friend suggested, it's no fun to open up a blog and see reviews of the same series or author over and over.  He used the example of Harry Potter.  Having not read these masterworks, I skated past that reference and took his point to heart.  Therefore I will deliver to you a short entry summarizing two slim novels that have led me to Adrian's mid-twenties.  It struck me as funny that the installment I just finished, The Wilderness Years, made no reference to growing pains; I feel all of us who have hit and (for me, recently exited) our mid-twenties know that some serious growing pains occur right around then, not late adolescence, when many of our families still provide a steady, though perhaps flawed, place to live.

The book preceding Wildnerness, which combines the "true confessions" of three narrators, is not worth reading.  Adrian's parts of the book read like filler, and don't have the consistency and context of his diary entries.  The True Confessions of Adrian Mole contains a confusing dialogue between the author herself and Adrian, trying to cast the diaries as something Ms. Townsend found and exploited.  I've mentioned that self-referential literature doesn't do it for me (although I do love 30 Rock, for some reason), and this instance of breaking the fourth wall adds nothing to the story or the fantastic character Townsend has created.  As for the diary entries written from the perspective of a young Margaret Thatcher, I skipped them.  The gap in cultural understanding is too great; without Adrian to guide me, this obscure reference to the young prime minister remained inaccessible.

Adrian came back in style with The Wilderness Years, in which he follows his childhood love to Oxford and lives in a series of hilariously eclectic and melancholy rooms in town.  He's also busy with anger and bitterness over the success of another childhood figure - Barry Kent, who bullied him throughout the early diaries until Adrian's grandmother put a stop to it off-camera (I always wondered what she said to the little jerk).  Barry's all over the airwaves with the publication of his novel, and Adrian lambasts him in his diary and drafts his own literary effort, which I confess to skimming because of its obviousness.  It's an attempt to create a hero and return him to Leicester, the home where Adrian, whether or not he realized it, really did belong.  In Oxford, he seems lost, in that wilderness of early adulthood where the sudden onslaught of independence and choices confounds us all.

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