Summer of '42, Herman Raucher
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Herman Raucher

Summer of '42

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“?SUMMER OF ‘42 is a charming and tender novel…The overall effect is one of high hilarity. Raucher is a comic-artist who is able to convey the fears and joys…of the boy and at the same time give older readers a wrench in the heart. ” —?PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
A classic coming-of-age story and international bestseller.
Captivating and evocative, Herman Raucher’s semi-autobiographical tale has been made into a record-breaking Academy Award nominated hit movie, adapted for the stage, and enchanted readers for generations.
In the summer of 1942, Hermie is fifteen. He is wildly obsessed with sex, and passionately in love with an “older woman” of twenty-two, whose husband is overseas and at war. Ambling through Nantucket Island with his friends, Hermie’s indelible narration chronicles his frantic efforts to become a man, especially one worthy of the lovely Dorothy, as well as his glorious and heartbreaking initiation into sex.
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2015

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He had always intended to come back, to see the island again. But the opportunity had never quite presented itself. This time, however, with a break in his schedule and with events moving remarkably in his favor, he had driven far up the New England coast to see if the magic still prevailed. Aboard the old ferry his Mercedes convertible earned the icy nonchalance of a half dozen craggy islanders, for very few new cars ever make that crossing. Cars that come to Packett Island are usually well into the varicose stage of their lives, and as such, they are by time and temperament unconcerned with a return trip to the mainland. “Cars come to this fuckin’ island to die.” Oscy had said that. Oscy, the big deal philosopher. And it was as true in 1970 as it had been in 1942.

He studied the faces around him, each turned to the wind, taking the breeze full face. It was apparent that none aboard remembered him. But then, he was barely fifteen the last time he forked over the twenty-five-cent fare. And in the intervening years much had changed, including the twenty-five cents, which was now a dollar, and himself, which was now forty-two. How, then, could anyone remember him? The nerve.

The Mercedes moved with disinterest along what purported to be the Packett Island Coastway, for the speed limit was thirty, hardly a challenge for an exhumed LaSalle, let alone a hot Mercedes-Benz. To his left were the familiar dunes, sulking in the grass, incongruously scattered with the uncatalogued refuse and bleached timber that the sea could toss so casually across the road whenever it felt so disposed. And to his right, the sea itself, choppy and gray-green. And large. Very large indeed. One of the largest in the world.

The luxurious car turned the bumps into cotton as he looked through the broad windshield at the odd glaze ahead. It was midmorning, but the sun hadn’t been informed, and the fickle mist could be counted on to fritter about for a time or two before giving way to what, in those parts, was referred to as day. Visibility was confined to a struggling halo of brightness that extended no more than fifty yards in every direction. Yet the sea winds were already pushing in, and the mist was grudgingly giving ground, retreating inland in spiteful little gushes. He could see the fog move, herding its lumpy shadow before it, and the heavy-hanging gray curtain showed small signs of perhaps lifting to blue. A silhouette appeared, crouched on a high dune a short distance up the sea side of the road. A house, cedar-shingled and indomitable. A house far off, yet so well-remembered that he could recreate it in his mind nail by nail. Dorothy. I love you, Dorothy.

He stopped the car and stepped out, listening to the affluent sound of a Mercedes slamming its door. He looked down at his Gucci loafers, forty-five dollars. He had come a long way, none of it easy, but all of it worth it. He headed toward the beach-side dunes, leaving the road to walk along the high-rising crests. When his Guccis filled with sand, he removed them, plus the corresponding socks, which he then stuffed into their respective shoes. He had done that before around there, a long time ago. He sank his feet into the good sand, and his toes flexed like cat’s paws. He took off his navy blazer and slung it over his shoulder, and in this manner did he walk ahead toward the house on the horizon—and back toward the last painful days of his once-glorious innocence.

The air proceeded to take upon itself a momentary snap of autumn, disregarding all that was August, and the ocean rolled around in oil-painted chunks like seascapes in Boston museums. He had come down to beach level, walking on the hard mud where the surf came up as far as the sandpipers that blithered ahead of it, announcing it. And only a gull or two dared venture the optimism that the sun, still probing for an opening, would soon shove its way through the grim overcast.

The house on the dune was now up and to his left, sitting atop the same twelve pilings, guarded by the same fourteen wooden steps he had once descended in such absurd confusion. And the low and sagging lattice fence still stood benignly impotent, a balsa barrier against the tolerant sea, a magnificent example of man-made self-delusion. And whether the music was actually there or whether it was simply tumbling from his memory drum—it didn’t matter. Because he could hear it. Soft and sad and reminiscent and torchy and sentimental and sacred.

I saw you last night

And got that old feeling…

And then the voices, calling from almost thirty years away, rising on the wind and cutting through the fog. Boys’ voices, imperative, anxious, buzzing the sand, then ending in the squawk of a seabird.

Hey, Hermie…

Come on, Hermie, for Chrissakes…

Up ahead on the beach three young boys dashed out of the fog and furtively clambered up the dune to the overhanging house. They advanced as though carrying out a complicated military maneuver, the first man giving a hand signal, the other two following in crisp sequence, plopping alongside their leader, prone bellies to the sand. And whatever they were looking at beyond the boweled rim of the dune, it was not visible to the man who watched from the beach.

The man stood still, looking again at the weatherbeaten house, only the roof of which could he see from his vantage point. And he didn’t hear the sandpipers squeaking their preamble to the sneaky tide, nor did he really become aware that the sea was up over his ankles, splashing his trousers to the knees. He just stood there, wanting so badly to be a part of the three boys, as he once had been, how many sweet songs ago…

Boy, oh, boy, Hermie…

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