James Baker Hall's blackly comic coming-of-age novel has been denied, by unfortunate circumstances surrounding its original 1964 publication, its rightful place alongside classics such as Catcher in the Rye and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in the canon of essential late-twentieth-century American fiction.
Set in Lexington, Kentucky, the story unfolds through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Yates Paul. He becomes consumed with revelations about his inattentive father's loneliness, his grandmother's stormy relationship with his boisterous alcoholic uncle, and the frustration of being the best photography assistant in town when no one else knows it. In pursuing his career and falling in love with women twice his age, the precocious Yates falls back on Walter Mittyesque daydreams to cope with a frequently humorous, sometimes dark, world. Long respected among literary insiders, sought after but nearly impossible to obtain, this "lost" classic will finally reach the wider audience it deserves.
Prize-winning author James Baker Hall, former Poet Laureate of Kentucky, teaches creative writing at the University of Kentucky. He has published many volumes of poetry, collections of photography and other works, including The Total Light Process and Tobacco Harvest.
A rare kind of good book.... Only after one has loved, dodged, and to a degree survived the experience of Yates Paul can one gradually, again, regard it as a book.
~Larry McMurtry, Houston Post
Readers who missed the novel the first time will indeed be challenged, saddened and ultimately heartened by this strange boy's struggle.
At times funny and endearing, at other times dark, Hall writes a heart wrenching story that again reminds us of the complexity behind every human façade.