Book Thoughts : hole in my life

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Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos came to ‘Great Books Celebration 2007’ in Baltimore this year.  He spoke to us about his life and his writing career.  He’s written everything from children’s picture books (the “Rotten Ralph” series) to young adult novels.  ‘hole in my life’ is his autobiography.  But it’s not a tale of his childhood, or the struggles he had becoming an author — it’s about a huge mistake he made as a teenager and the way it changed him forever. 

Gantos was young and trying to raise money to go to a college with a decent writing program.  He hadn’t been the best student in school and he hadn’t done any writing on his own yet, so there was not portfolio to send to the universities.  So he started doing odd jobs, working with his father building crates for shipping.  Then one day a man asks him if he would sail a boat from Florida (where he lived) up to New York City.  He would be transporting hash and then selling it in NYC to get his money.  Thinking it would just be the one trip and he’d be set for college, Gantos agreed.  He finds himself on a small yacht with a crazy bearded British man who seems to have a distaste for being fully clothed, neither of them very good at sailing. 

It’s a good book, and as you can tell by the picture, it’s won a few awards.  Gantos’ writing is conversational; the words on the page feel likeyou’ve just found his diary and are reading along.  He doesn’t getpreachy about any of the tough subjects he covers (drugs, drug selling,prison etc.) he just tells you about this experience.   It’s a quick read and one of the best coming of age tales I’ve read where I feel the writer has really learned a life lesson that isn’t some cliche, but something true that still effects him to this day. 

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