Monday, May 3, 2010

Spreading the Awesome: Stay Gold, Ponyboy

Today Elana Johnson is hosting "Spreading the Awesome: National Hug an Author Day!" Please go to this post to see a list of the many published authors who are being celebrated today. Then check out Elana's pick, Kathleen Duey.

Today I celebrate a longtime favorite of mine: S. E. Hinton. I recently reread her classic, The Outsiders, with my fifth grade son. He and I have read and explored new books together like the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series. I was excited to share something that I read and enjoyed when I was 11 years old.

Coincidentally the movie, The Outsiders, came out around the time I would have naturally read the book. The movie was released in March 1983 when I was in sixth grade. I started buying the Teen Beat magazines around that time and due to the fact of so many handsome, young men (or babes as I would have called them back then) in this movie, The Outsiders had plenty of coverage in these mags. And on my walls. I may even have to say that this movie caused my boy craziness in junior high. I devoured any magazine about this movie. C. Thomas Howell and Matt Dillon were plastered all over my walls and bedroom door. I watched the movie many times. Two lines from the movie have been quoted by my mom, my sister, and I hundreds of times since then. "Do it for Johnny!" and "He couldn't take it - he's gonna blow!" are still peppered in our conversations today.

But back to the book. The movie may have intensified my interest in reading the book, but the book itself kept me reading it and rereading it all through my teens. I remember bringing the book to my grandparents' cabin and rereading it one summer for the third or fourth time. There I made up a song about the characters of the book, much to the annoyance of my older sister. The song wasn't annoying so much as the fact that I sang it all the time! I also memorized (and can still recite) the first line of the book.

What did I love about this book? It was honest, yet not totally graphic. The characters were likable even though they smoked, stole, rumbled, and cussed. Ponyboy Curtis and Two-Bit Mathews are two of my all time favorite characters from a book. Ponyboy was smart, handsome, but felt picked on like many youngest siblings do. He even loved to read and enjoyed poetry (just like me). Do you remember him reading "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost? Two-Bit was a riot. He was carefree and joked around even before a big rumble. I giggled as I read his flippant comments to others. And of course I cried at another point of the book for another character. My husband, son, and I also recently enjoyed watching the movie together. A totally random fact about the widespread influence of this book/movie is that the lead singer of rock band Buckcherry, Josh Todd, has "Stay Gold" tattooed on his knuckles!

I loved rereading this book so much that I am now rereading That was Then, This is Now by S. E. Hinton, her second book. I even forgot that Ponyboy was a minor character in this book! I plan to read or reread her other books when I'm done with this one.

Here are a few facts about Susan Eloise Hinton that I found on her website.

*S.E. Hinton's first novel, The Outsiders, was published in 1967.

*The pressure from the fame of her first book helped cause a three year writer's block. Her boyfriend (now husband) then encouraged her to write two pages a day. Her next novel, That Was Then, This Is Now came from these writings.

*She has a cameo as a nurse in a scene with Dally (Matt Dillon) in The Outsiders. I remember this from my teen magazines. I was the authority on Outsider fun facts back then.

*Hinton still lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

*Her other books include Tex, Rumblefish, and Taming the Star Runner. Big David, Little David and The Puppy Sister are her books for younger readers. Her latest book, Hawkes Harbor , was released last week!

So, today I hug you, S.E. Hinton, for your honest and inspirational books that stand the test of time. Thank you.