Rich's Reviews > Angry Management

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher
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's review
Aug 13, 09

bookshelves: young-adult
Read in August, 2009

This book is the perfect example of the love/hate relationship I have with Chris Crutcher, particularly his work over the last few years. Stotan, Running Loose, and The Crazy Horse Electric Game (I know that isn't the order they were published in, but it is the order I read them) excited me, moved me, made me laugh, made me cry and truly elevated me. Because of those books, for years I eagerly awaited each new book of his.

Unfortunately, he's gone from a talented writer who could move me and make me think to a talented writer who has become a shrill scold, refusing to give any credence or credit to people on the other side of his idealogical fence.

When it comes to pure raw emotion, they really don't better than Crutcher. He pulls it out of you, and in the case of this book, he practically yanks it out of you like a dentist pulling a tooth, with no novocaine. But once started, I couldn't put the book down.

I liked the book because it did get to me on an emotional level, and that's important for any book. And there were evidences of the humor that I loved in his early books--especially in the story "Kyle Maynard and the Craggy Face of the Moon.

I disliked the book because it seems that Crutcher is still living forty-five years ago in the mid-1960s going by the Who's motto--"Never trust anyone over 35." He treats racism as if it is still rampant in the country. (Is our country perfect? Of course not, and I'll never say it is, but things have gotten so much better. Because of human nature, racism will never completely vanish. The problem is that people like Crutcher look at a Utopian world and when our world doesn't yet match up to that Utopian vision, they throw fits.)

In the world Crutcher has created everyone in a school setting--with the exception of the one or two gutsy teachers who befriend the main characters--are fools and politicians thinking more of their own careers and hind ends than the good of the students. And that goes for most everyone else in a position of power as well. I can understand Crutcher maybe wanting to show it from the kid's point of view, but he doesn't. This is how he has constructed his view of the world.

In the final story, Meet Me at the Gates, Marcus James, he tries to create a sympathetic Christian character--Matt Miller. The dust jacket describes him as a straight-laced Christian. However Matt soon falls into dropping f-bombs every other sentence after the tragedy of the story. The transition doesn't feel right, it's too sudden, too quick--it feels like Crutcher created his perfect Christian, one who reads the Bible, but cusses every bit as good as a sailor. And in creating that Christian character Crutcher cherry picks his Christian doctrines and ignoring others.

While the stories here are moving and powerful, they also show Crutcher's inability to really show both sides of an issue.

I really wish I could find the writer I once loved, but I think it is a lost cause now.
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Reading Progress

08/10/2009 page 40
16.26% "I've liked Crutcher in the past, and I keep hoping something will remind me of why I fell in love with him years ago."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Clara Dearmore Strom I agree with you Rich. I never expected this kind of intolerance from one of my favorite authors. The writing is good, but I just couldn't swallow the criticism.

message 2: by Irisjade (new)

Irisjade Um, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. The whole "racism has gotten so much better" line, is not true. I get that in other places it's probably not an issue but I can honestly see the WHOLE Marcus James story happening where I live. It's a small town in the south and people here are small minded and cruel. They have gotten over the black issue a little bit, but people here pretty much hate homosexuals. It's wrong, yeah, but it still happens. And the cussing Christian that you found so hard to believe? I had to admire him. The point Crutcher was trying to get across was that Miller believed some things were and weren't a priority when it comes to his faith. He doesn't believe in hating eveyone who isn't Christian and he doesn't think he's going to go to hell because he says the word shit. And I honestly don't recall him saying the f word anywhere. Shit and damnit, yes I remember, but that was it. I'm sorry but I loved this book and totally got Crutcher's point.

Rich Please re-read the book. Matt does use "fuck" quite liberally, near the end of the story. More so than a kid who has been a straight-laced Christian, the way Crutcher describes him, would in such a short period, it's just not a believable tranistion in that brief a time span. I know cussing Christians, and am one myself, but to go from only saying "hell" and "damn" to "fuck" in that short a period of time is just not realistic.

As for the racisim, it will always be there because there are idiot human beings. But it is no longer institutionalized. As for hating homosexuals, I don't live where you do, so I can't speak to that specifically, but I do know what I see in general, and what I do see is homosexuals claiming any disagreement with what they want to do as hate. Which it is not. Please note that as I have touched on Crutcher's previous work I haven't mentioned the recurring homosexual character in his work--Lionel Sebrowski (I have probably misspelt the last name) who first appeared as a straight high school kid in Stotan.

Crutcher's problem over the last 10 years or so, has been his inability to created a sympathetic character from an opposing point of view. Which would actually make a much more interesing and deeper story.

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