Diane Gersoni Stavn

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1016

[Frank Bonham is guilty of] misleading use of words and minimal objectivity [in his treatment of women]. In Bonham's 1956 title, The Loud, Resounding Sea , the most admirable female character is Delphine the Dolphin, with whom the young hero, Skip Turner, enjoys a marvelous rapport based on mutual trust,...

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[Frank Bonham is guilty of] misleading use of words and minimal objectivity [in his treatment of women]. In Bonham's 1956 title, The Loud, Resounding Sea, the most admirable female character is Delphine the Dolphin, with whom the young hero, Skip Turner, enjoys a marvelous rapport based on mutual trust, affection and respect. Skip's attitude toward pretty, blonde Leslie, with whom he works in a lab during the summer, is a lot less flattering: "Like most girls, she was about as practical as a chicken-wire fishbowl." Bonham does a fair enough job with Skip's mother; she's a hard-working schoolteacher, and the mainstay of her family because her husband, a skilled cook and restaurateur, has advanced wanderlust and is rarely at home. Mr. Turner himself is a basically amiable character, yet Skip does express resentment at the burden he puts on Mrs. Turner. In the end, it's stated that the itinerant chef will undertake a steady business right near home. He tells Skip: "'I need a woman to tell my plans and troubles to. What man doesn't? An understanding wife to help him into his cardboard armor in the morning, and put back together at night.'" Very true. How about a woman's right to the same kind of support? Bonham doesn't negate it here, but silence is not always affirmative.

In the didactic The Vagabundos, his sympathy for roving dads becomes an adulatory obsession, and mom becomes a drag, on both husband and son. Eric Hansen pursues his father to Baja when the retired, wealthy, middle-aged—and bored—Southern Californian, who is believed to have a heart condition, leaves his family behind and sets out to do his thing—whatever that may be…. [Later] "Eric … suddenly perceived that the whole Ranch Sereno game—parties, clubs, feuds, hobbies—was a sort of complex machine designed and manufactured by women—but very inexpertly—so that it took all the time of every man on the Ranch to keep it from flying apart … He fantasied the reunion with his father on the beach … No drying stockings, hair curlers, and other woman-stuff for a while. Just camping, skindiving, living in the sun." It is never acknowledged that a major part of the Ranch Sereno game was invented by men; that since success in business leads to power, men seeking such power will organize parties, clubs, etc. to make business contacts. As for the beach-side activities, women have been known to indulge happily in camping and such.

Dr. Nestor, [a] "wise" character whom Eric encounters while tracking down Dad, says: "'Just because a man's always been a house-cat type doesn't mean there isn't a little wildcat blood left in him. And if that kind of blood is kept bottled up forever, it curdles in the brain … Do you want to know what's the matter? Women in the States, especially in areas like yours, have forgotten how to be women; but they haven't yet learned how to be men. They've turned into harpies, and their men into zombies. God, it's pitiful!'" It's pitiful indeed that all women be held responsible for the lack of integrity and purpose in some men. Eric himself really doesn't need much encouragement in male chauvinist ideas: "He knew that in Mexico a husband was a king; his behavior was not to be questioned by his family. In the abstract, the idea had appeal."

For a short time, Eric takes Dr. Nestor's daughter Polly, a big, beautiful blonde, along on his quest. Her father comments about her: "'Remember—she's a female, and full of tricks.'" Thinks Eric: "Men … liked to talk about women as though they had some sort of special malignant power, a witchlike ability to control men. But Polly was honest and open, a real sweet kid. Joanie [a girlfriend of sorts back home] had some of the witch in her, and would do mean things just to make you burn." However, though Polly is supposedly an unusually fine specimen of female, she later pulls all kinds of teasing tricks and says "'I'm a witch … I was being nasty … Girls just do those things, I guess. We're really not aware of doing them …'" Using girls to damn girls to boys is a remarkably low trick, and Mr. Bonham is at subterranean level here. He has Eric agree with Polly: "'Even old girls like my mother. If she hadn't torpedoed my father's idea to buy a garage, he might not have taken off.'"

Later, a "wise" Mexican contributes his version of what the score is: "'The women should run some things. But not all … American women … They wear pants and shout like boys. Are they men or women? They don't seem to know, and the men don't know enough to tell them to shut up.'" Eric: "'That's it right there. [Polly] … began to think she should run the show. That's where I had to straighten her out. And after I got her straightened out she seemed happier.'"

Given all this, it is not unreasonable to wonder at Mr. Bonham's problems with American women. But it is certainly most reasonable to doubt the fairness of propagandizing young boys in this way. The jacket copy says about this book: "… it has some wise things to say about the role of men and women in each other's lives …" I think it has some revealing things to say about the antediluvian concepts and personal conflicts reeling around in Mr. Bonham's head…. (pp. 68-9)

Diane Gersoni Stavn, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the January, 1971 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co. A Xerox Corporation: copyright © 1971), January, 1971.

Dogtown has been Bonham's regular beat for a while now but [in Cool Cat] he strikes out: the story is shapeless, an agglomerate just like the West Coast ghetto, and it zigzags from one to another touchstone…. A self-conscious scenario wrought with a paucity of inspiration and a barrage of theatrical incidents … not to mention the toplofty verbiage whereby "Buddy saw everything through an opalescent haze of hope." (p. 179)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1971 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), February 15, 1971.

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