Sandra Scoppettone Annie Gottlieb - Essay

Annie Gottlieb

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In "Trying Hard to Hear You"], Scoppettone has taken an inherently condescending form and pumped it full of "nature" content; the result is a little like reading "Double Date" in post-hippie costume and language (words like "masturbate" and "vomit" are bravely in place), with the obligatory moral punchline adjusted to 70's liberal pieties: not "save your virginity for marriage," but "as long as you don't hurt anyone else, you have a right to be whatever you want to be."…

The story tells what Camilla and her crowd go through when they discover that Camilla's best friend Jeff and her crush, Phil, love each other and are lovers. They react, predictably, with bewilderment, fear, disgust and, in some cases, violence; the confrontation between the gentle sincerity of the lovers and the tittering shock of the "straights" is, while a bit of a set piece, the most emotionally genuine and moving thing in the book….

[The] whole hygienic list is here: homosexuality, death, alcohol, women's liberation—all set rakishly askew in the old strawberry-soda format, and in the bright relentless voice of a grownup pretending to be a precocious kid. I am probably being too harsh, because this book could be educational, provided its young readers are naive enough about writing not to hear the screaming clash between the medium and the message.

Annie Gottlieb, in her review of "Trying Hard to Hear You," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 12, 1975, p. 8.