Monday, April 17, 2006

Hair-raising literature

Before I have to return it to the library tomorrow, I was watching a bit of The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, Francis Ford Coppola's recently re-released re-editing of the 1983 film which now includes a number of scenes that were originally in the novel, but cut out of the film. Among other things, what appears to be Rob Lowe's entire performance as Sodapop (everyone's favorite middle brother) is back in the film. The picture is neither better nor worse, in my opinion, though the new soundtrack and the added introduction make the pacing a bit more leisurely. Given the book, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I was going to write something along the lines of "what ever happened to Michelle Meyrink?" Featured in what amounts to a cameo as Cherry Valance's friend Marcia in this film, Meyrink is better known for her manic performance in Real Genius which made all of us geeks in the 80s fall in love with her. In any case, a google search quickly answered that question. Her current life is fascinating entirely because it wouldn't play well on those VH1 specials.

As I kept watching the film, I thought to myself, "Man, they have great hair." And it's true: all the Greasers have really cool, long hair, sculpted back with tons of hair grease. Of note, they all also have dark hair, blond and red being reserved for the Socs.

In the book, much is made of Ponyboy's "tuff hair," particularly when it gets bleached at the abandoned church. My relationship with The Outsiders goes way back and actually more involves the novel than the movie, which I'm sure we didn't see when it came out because I didn't go to the movies that much back then. (My, how times have changed, heh.) I don't remember if I read the book for class or on my own -- even then, I was a regular at the Baldwin Public Library. I eventually owned a dog-earred copy of the book, purchased without its cover for a quarter on the streets of Manhattan when I went with my mom to work one day. (Years later, I discovered this was illegal, that someone was selling remaindered books. To be honest, we couldn't really afford to pay regular prices for books, so I thank my lucky stars for the Book Man who set up shop next to Gimbel's a couple blocks away from Penn Station, because I wouldn't be the reader I am today without him.) For me, The Outsiders was my Harry Potter, the book that really got me consciously into reading and I bought into all the crazily obvious and evocative symbolism of sunsets and cars and hair and what-not. The book also does high-school literary analysis with two interpretations of the Robert Frost poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay"; naturally, I immediately memorized this poem. Jenny and Ben can confirm that, not only did I quote the whole poem in my senior yearbook entry, but I also wrote a graduation speech based around the poem and implored my classmates -- just like Johnny implores Ponyboy! sob!! -- to "stay gold." Damn, was I hokey.

I was reminded of all this as I was watching this movie not just because I sheepishly adore this book and have some sort of connection to the movie, but because currently I am letting my hair grow out. Originally, this was because Xan just really enjoyed grabbing it, but the truth is I have always loved the idea of having longer hair. (Jenny and Ben and others can also confirm my high school pompadour.) I was never really allowed to have long hair, however, if not because my parents wouldn't let me, then because I would have to go through the horribly embarassing in-between phase where my wavy thick hair goes up and out instead of down. Indeed, the only way that my hair will even remotely behave is if I gel it down with copious amounts of product.

Only tonight does it dawn on me that my desire for longer, wavy hair may actually go back only as far as Ponyboy Curtis. Because really, I was a Ponyboy wannabe in a very big way: smart, passionate kid with a thing for sunsets; orphan; wrong side of the tracks; tuff hair. OK, so I fit in the first category, but you know what I mean -- and is it so wrong to also want that last decriptor as ewll? The scary thing is that if this is for real (and it might not be -- but it just might be after all), then is this the legacy of literature twenty-some-odd years later? College professor, father of one, homeowner: do I also still want to be Ponyboy, so much so I don't even know it? And if so, what will happen to all those kids growing up on Hogwarts in another 15 years?

(By the way, I am very curious to hear if there are other Ponyboy Curtis inspired stories out there. Come out of the closet, you S.E. Hinton fans!)


Anonymous said...

(By the way, I am very curious to hear if there are other Ponyboy Curtis inspired stories out there. Come out of the closet, you S.E. Hinton fans!)

I think most girls' Ponyboy-inspired stories aren't fit for a family blog. :-) (Although his brothers were way hotter in that film, IMO.)


J.J. said...

The novel was an internal part of my grade school literature class experience. I still use the word "rumble" frequently. Item: I am also letting my hair grow out. We'll see how freaky this gets. Right now, it's less Rob Lowe in "Outsiders" and more Rob Lowe in "St. Elmo's Fire."

J.J. said...

Did I say "internal"? I meant integral.

Rumour said...

I think the wayans brothers should remake the outsiders, they could put in lots of funny scenes of sodapop and ponyboy, going to the bathroom.

Tina said...

I remember reading the book for school and that is when the film was released.I loved Dallas...and when I saw the film I fell in love with Matt Dillon who played the character.One of my all-time favourite books and films :)