I recently finished reading a great new novel set in Boulder CO. I feel this novel deserves wider readership, so I am posting a review I wrote for this book here.
Plastic Man: A Novel of the Sixties by Dan Culberson is the perfect novel for Baby Boomers...and for anyone who has ever experienced the angst of burgeoning adulthood. It is a witty, engaging, and insightful account of college life in Boulder Colorado in the 1960’s, an era in which tumultuous societal change mirrored the vicissitudes and emotional upheavals that have always characterized human adolescence.
Much like the protagonist in his quest to find redemption in the “huge vastness” and “spilling wonderment” of the sea, activists of the Sixties, appalled at perceived social injustices, sought a “sea change” in social policy and popular culture. Readers of Plastic Man will follow Hud’s long journey (both emotionally and geographically) to the sea, and share in his disappointment/enlightenment when he finally glimpses his personal holy grail. Hud’s experience serves as a reminder that, while the hopes and dreams of the Baby Boomer generation eventually fell short of reality, there were invaluable lessons learned in the pursuit of those idealistic goals.
The story of Plastic Man is told with humor and empathy. Those of us who came of age in the Sixties cannot fail to identify with the events and youthful emotions portrayed in the novel. Younger readers should note that, despite the many contrasts between the popular culture of the Sixties and that of later eras, it is the similarities that are more profound. If ever a novel illuminated the paradoxical truism that “the more things change, the more they stay the same," this is it. Human adolescents will always push the limits of authoritarian rules, agonize at the vicissitudes of young love, worry about grades, seek to “fit in” while standing out, and be traumatized by tragedies befalling their peers.
Many facets of this novel distinguish it from other fictionalized “coming-of-age in the Sixties” accounts. The author’s numerous glimpses forward illustrate clearly the specific ways in which popular culture has changed since the decade of the Sixties. The novel is peppered with amusing puns and word play, along with lingo and musical references that those of us who lived through the era will instantly recognize, perhaps with nostalgia for “the old days.” Moreover, there is an underlying mystery that keeps the reader keenly interested until the final pages of the novel.
If you read this book, one thing is for sure: The sentence “It’s Saturday, by God!” will take on new and hilarious meaning. You’ll have to read the book to find out why.