Evan's Reviews > Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
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's review
Aug 12, 10

bookshelves: _lfpl-library, humor, yearning, age-gap, 2010-reads, 1960s, philosophy
Read from August 10 to 12, 2010

If the irrepressible Maude came speeding by in her stolen car and ran me off the road while I was biking, I'm fairly sure I would not give two shits about her heedless bliss and would want her ass locked up.

That scene, like many in the book, seems calculated for cinematic slapstick easy laughs, and it was. Higgins wrote this book in college as a precursor to a screenplay that became a long-beloved cult film.

But here we have a zeitgeist book -- a typically '60s follow-your-bliss wisp about nonconformity, genteel in its rebelliousness rather than attitudinal, as it wants to pretend to be. It's amusing, but its self-conscious morbidities and tastelesness now seem precious rather than edgy. Having old ladies be oh so outre (because, of course, they are supposed to be so prim and proper and half-dead) -- smoking pot, stealing stuff and driving fast and wrecklessly -- is a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel comic trope, a bit obvious.

There are many ponderings of fields of daisies and speeches about building bridges rather than walls. And in case you're not sufficiently moved, the Holocaust is trotted out. Surprisingly there is no cameo by Rod McKuen.

There's a girl named Sunshine and a caricature General who loves Amurika and hates commies. The deck is highly stacked. The sledgehammer stands in for subtlety.

This is one case where, if you've seen the film you probably don't need to read the book, so vividly is it brought to life onscreen and arguably superior in that medium thanks to the inspired casting of the magnificent Ruth Gordon as Maude. The differences in narrative detail are negligible.

This reminds me of other novels where normal people and society are shown to be buffoons, eg., Jerzy Kozinski's Being There, Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt (the eccentric, cafefree old lady), A Confederacy of Dunces (the hapless cop), Zazie in the Metro (eccentric free spirits), etc.

It's a fun, cute, clever and well structured little novella, and does contain a good deal of indisputable Zen-like wisdom that I agree with, and politically/philosophically I'm all there with it -- and there's age-gap sex, which is always welcome. But the book is geared to an adolescent level, and that's the age at which I probably would have found it most edifying and enjoyable.
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Reading Progress

08/10/2010 page 30
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Tracey (new)

Tracey I started to watch the movie last week. Never finished, but something to be said about an older women younger man…yes indeed!

Evan Didn't finish? What the hell's wrong with you? ha. But yeah, older/younger, either way.

message 3: by Tracey (new)

Tracey oh i plan to finish it

Mawgojzeta My favorite movie. I re-watch at least once a year. Just started the book and expect to be done this evening after work. Nice review.

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