When I flip through the books on my shelves, the measure of how much I initially identified with the work equals the number of underlines on the pages, the brackets alongside paragraphs, the "YES!"s in the margins. TWYWH is the exception.
I have nothing underlined in this work, just post-its marking pages for teaching purposes (postmodern, gender, contemporary, experimental). I have taught this novel twice, and both times, I have walked into a classroom brimming with the fervor of a, dare-I-compare, Kerouac kind of infatuation, as the young men adopt Hunter Flanagan (the protagonist) as a cultural, intellectual, moral, technological, left-handed, ineffable hero. Here's a character who gives contemporary males the sigh of relief moment, the kind one gets from realizing there are others out there, too. But it's not just men who admire the work--the stream of consciousness, the humor, the interior monologue, all of it captivating each reader into the kind of frenzy that ends up with the use of the verb form of Google in classroom conversations. If you can get your students to Google an author, you know that author has hit a nerve.
As for this reader, I think about a phrase from one of the epigraphs of this novel which speaks to the lack of ink on the pages of my copy: "the mind is quick the feelings quicker" [Ron Sukenick]. This prose is quick, Hunter's instincts quicker--you have to keep up. Thus, the exception.
I have now read this novel at least five times, and each time, I just want to follow Hunter wherever he (or his mind) is going, and each time, I discover a nuance I missed before. Whether we stand with Hunter in the Writing Lab or at the bottom of the stairs in a painful moment with a fellow co-ed (like we all haven't been there)--I never want to stop to trace my pen under a particularly astute observation or witty aside. I just want to move at the pace of Hunter's mind, which is how this prose moves. You'll want to move with it.
And as you move through similar phases of the life you're living now or the life you lived years ago, you'll find a new angle, a new way from which to observe it--and through Hunter's lens, you'll see that there's so much you missed. Don't miss this one.