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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rob Curley: Some things age well, like Chris Crutcher’s writing

There’s a certain point in your life – let’s call it sometime in your mid-40s – when you realize some of the things you loved when you were younger haven’t aged well.

The goofy long hair from back in college seems like a poor choice, as does much of the 1980s music that inspired my lovely Bon Jovi locks. Definitely some of the beloved TV shows from back in the day are pretty cringeworthy now.

I just never expected the actual television itself to become dated, yet my two sons have no idea how to change the channel on one and even less desire to learn.

As for food, there’s no reason to explain to the Curley offspring what a Jell-O Pudding Pop was or that the deliciousness of a sloppy Joe completely outweighed its sloppiness. Or why wiping out an entire 20-ounce box of Cap’n Crunch in a single sitting was completely acceptable in college.

It’s a relief that the literary choices from those years have more than stood the test of time.

Of course, I loved the classics of youth angst and confusion, like “Catcher in the Rye.” And I’m not so sure “To Kill a Mockingbird” isn’t more relevant now than when it was written … let alone when I was kid.

But my favorite author was Chris Crutcher. No one else was even close.

Yes, that Chris Crutcher. The one who lives here in Spokane.

The one who wrote that fantastically fun tale of an ill-fated road trip to the wrong Woodstock that ran this past Sunday in the latest installment of our newspaper’s annual Summer Stories short-fiction series.

Crutcher has long been one of the bestselling and most critically acclaimed young-adult lit writers in the nation. He’s won several lifetime awards from national library and educational organizations, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association.

He’s also one of this nation’s most banned authors.

The reason for that is simple: Crutcher’s topics and words are real. They’re the perfect mixture of humorous, hard and honest. Lots of people are uncomfortable with that kind of authenticity.

It’s a world Crutcher knows all too well from his time as a family therapist for the Spokane Community Mental Health Center. It’s why he was asked to be part of a special literary festival for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, shortly after 17 students died in a mass shooting there.

It’s why teachers reach out to him so often in times of need for their students.

Growing up in a small town in Kansas in the ’80s, my relatively idyllic teenage world couldn’t have been more different from that of the characters in his books. But I certainly had friends who could have been characters in a Chris Crutcher novel.

His words helped me understand. Plus, he was a bit of potty mouth and I totally loved that.

When I reread his debut novel, 1983’s “Running Loose,” earlier this year, I was worried I might cringe the same way I do when I try to re-watch movies like “Revenge of the Nerds” or “Sixteen Candles.”

Only I didn’t.

I kept turning pages just like I did when I was 15. And when I read it again at 20. And then I reread it at 26.

There was only one thing that bothered me about reading that book in my late 40s in Spokane that hadn’t bothered me when I was younger – there are a couple of references to high school students reading the local newspaper, the Idaho Statesman.

That’s totally dated … mostly because we all know today’s cool kids read The Spokesman-Review. This super-rad newspaper. And if that’s not the case, at least let me live my dream.

I’m reading “Running Loose” one more time, only this time as a summer read with my 13-year-old son, Zak.

The youngest Curley was way ahead of me when it came to Crutcher’s latest story, “Where Oh Where Is Tommy Parker?” … which Crutcher will read an excerpt of at our Summer Stories event on Wednesday at the Montvale Event Center.

He wanted to know if Crutcher was going to read the part with the cuss words or the part with the drug use.

We both laughed. Mine was a nervous laugh. Then I tried to explain it was about a different time in our country. And that it was a story written for adults.

But we both knew I was wrong.

Crutcher was just being real. Which is why I loved him in the first place and why my youngest son is well on his way.

Better yet, it’s one more thing from my youth that has aged well, so let’s agree to overlook that unfortunate ’80s perm and all of those earrings.