Paul Zindel Zindel, Paul (Vol. 26)

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Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Paul Zindel 1936–

American novelist, dramatist, and screenwriter.

Zindel's informal narrative style and his candid approach to subjects of interest to young people have made him one of the most popular writers of contemporary young adult literature. His teenage characters often feel betrayed by the adult world and cynical towards life in general; but, though they lose their innocence, these protagonists learn to be more self-reliant while maintaining hope for a better future.

Zindel is especially adept at depicting amoral, free-spirited teenagers who learn that carefree living has risks and that people must account for their actions. According to critics, this message comes through most effectively in The Pigman, Zindel's first young adult novel. In this story the young protagonists, John and Lorraine, take advantage of the one sympathetic adult in their lives; only upon his death (which they have caused inadvertently) do they realize the responsibilities they owe to themselves and others. Zindel's subsequent novels, including My Darling, My Hamburger and Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball!, offer various perspectives on male-female relationships among adolescents.

Zindel's play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, which centers on a domineering mother and her two daughters, appeals to both teenagers and adults. The play earned for Zindel the 1971 Pulitzer Prize in drama.

(See also CLC, Vol. 6; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 3; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76; Something about the Author, Vol. 16; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 7.)

Diane Farrell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Pigman is] a "now" book, a thoroughly contemporary, sensitive—and shocking—first novel. Lorraine and John are high-school sophomores: Are they villains or victims? Wild, wise kids whose selfish, irresponsible actions cause an old man's death? Or frightened children, clinging to the never-never land of their Staten Island childhood, prolonging innocence with foolish clowning and silly games? At the edge of adulthood, escaping from the example set by neurosis-ridden, anxiety-laden parents, they stumble into a relationship, tender and complex, humorous and heartbreaking, with an ugly, lonely old man. Few books that have been written for young people are as cruelly truthful about the human condition. Fewer still accord the elderly such serious consideration or perceive that what we term senility may be a symbolic return to youthful honesty and idealism.

Diane Farrell, in her review of "The Pigman," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1969 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XLV, No. 1, February, 1969, p. 61.

Zena Sutherland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The protagonists of The Pigman, John and Lorraine,] have two great bonds: they are both in conflict with their parents and they both have capricious and inventive minds. Out of this comes their friendship with an elderly man they call the Pigman (his name is Pignati and he collects china pigs) whom they met when pretending to be collecting for a charity. They are not criminal, but John and Lorraine have the pliant amorality of the young. Mr. Pignati comes home from the hospital to find a wild party going on; shocked by his young friends' behavior, the trusting and loving Pigman succumbs to a stroke. For John and Lorraine, "there was no one to blame anymore … And there was no place to hide … Our life would be what we made of it—nothing more, nothing less." Although the writing (by John and Lorraine, alternately) has the casual flavor of adolescence, the plot has an elemental quality. Sophisticated in treatment, the story is effective because of its candor, its humor, and its skilful construction.

Zena Sutherland, in her review of "The Pigman," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1969 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 22, No. 8, April, 1969, p. 136.

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

John and Lorraine in The Pigman are not immediately attractive figures with whom to identify. They are out of sympathy with home and school,...

(The entire section is 12,925 words.)