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Two Smart Boys

This highly unusual book is a sequence of actual letters exchanged by two young men coming of age in the late 1950s and '60s. They are well-educated, intellectually eager, self-absorbed but also self-aware, and both go on to distinguished careers in the world of letters and scholarship. It is a candid and spirited relationship focused on their shared interest in reading, writing, ideas, and young women. In some ways, the creators of this joint memoir can be seen as members of a distinct cultural group, but their subjects transcend background and class, as does the honesty of their exchange through crisscrossing viewpoints and eras. Their letters trace two arcs of development--sometimes congruent, sometimes divergent--intersecting as each writer acts to intervene in and shape the other's life. Their exchanges are crammed with descriptions, wordplays, wisecracks, opinions, judgments, jokes, commiserations, exultations--whatever can be spewed forth from two loose and lively minds. And interspersed with the record of what they said "then" is the leavening of "now," as both writers look back in reflective comment on their half-forgotten selves--modern testimony to the lasting friendship of two people most unlike each other and yet similar in ways at their deepest core.
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