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Eugene Weekly : Books : 10.21.10

 

Risky Business

Guy Maynard’s first novel looks back

by Ted Taylor

Eugene journalist and Oregon Quarterly editor Guy Maynard has turned his considerable skills to novel writing, and his first book takes us back to a not-so-distant time when America was at war with itself. The revolution of the late 1960s was fed by war, injustice, bigotry and radical politics and infused with rock music, long hair, drugs, sex and love. It’s all mixed together in The Risk of Being Ridiculous: A Historical Novel of Love and Revolution (Hellgate Press, $19.95).

 The scene is Boston in the winter of 1969-70, and 19-year-old Boston University student Ben Tucker is infatuated with Sarah Stein, but like the times, his relationship is complicated. He’s broke and sharing an apartment with a wild bunch of friends, and he’s in trouble for protesting on campus. He’s outraged about the injustices he sees everywhere, from the streets of Boston to U.S. foreign policy. What can he do about it? Is violence the answer when peaceful politics are not working? Sarah is also in love with him but skeptical of Ben’s radical ideas and attitudes. Can they reconcile their differences?

Maynard draws on his years in the Boston area to paint the scene for us in great detail, and we suspect this book is his personal exploration to better understand his youthful experiences and emotions. He injects fascinating historical facts in the book, his characters are memorable and sympathetic and the dialogue flows easily. His account of being in a protest mob facing angry cops is gripping, and his description of an LSD trip is the most transporting we’ve read anywhere. The tale builds to an unpredictable ending.

The quandaries Maynard’s characters face still haunt us today. And as with Eugene’s more recent history of eco-sabotage, protests and abusive police crackdowns, the underlying issues remain unresolved.

Guy Maynard reads from The Risk of Being Ridiculous at 7 pm Monday, Oct. 25, at Gerlinger Alumni Lounge, UO.