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Prepped by prep school - Gay author delves into his

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Prepped by prep school Gay

Gay author delves into his educational experiences to write second novel


Friday, January 18, 2008

Alleged hotbeds of teen-age hormones, rules and elitism, the prep school setting is hard for authors to resist. The iconic location was certainly mined for literary gold midway through the 20th century, with novels like ?A Separate Peace? and ?Catcher in the Rye? providing perfect examples of coming-of-age stories.

Gay author Tom Dolby didn?t miss that when author Tom Wolfe came to his Connecticut prep school, Hotchkiss, during his senior year, the ?sixth form? in prep school lingo.

?He said, ?Since ?A Separate Peace? or ?Catcher in the Rye?, nobody has written a great boarding school novel,?? Dolby says. The comment ignited in Dolby the desire to do so, although life quickly taught him about the futility of trying to achieve iconic literary status.

?You realize as you grow up, [as] you learn more about writing, you?re never going to write the great ?blank? novel about anything,? Dolby says. ?It?s just another voice. You just hope that your experience speaks to people.?

Dolby dove into his experiences at Hotchkiss to create a fictional work in ?The Sixth Form,? which he essentially started working on at age 18.

?I think it took a while to figure out what the story was and to really have a little distance from the actual experience,? says Dolby, now 32. ?I actually started working on not this book exactly, but a boarding school book and the ideas for it pretty much as soon as I graduated. I had it as a computer file when I was in college and I would add to it [occasionally].?

?THE SIXTH FORM,? like his previous novel ?The Trouble Boy,? which was about the life of young gay men in New York City, drew especially from Dolby?s own life when it came to the characters.

?I think that the core of the two main characters ? the two boys ? there were little parts of me that made their way into them. In terms of the actual experiences, I didn?t have those experiences,? he says, going on to clarify how he and the characters reflect one another. ?For Todd, being a closeted gay teen. For Ethan, being a very confused, semi-intellectual young man from California. Certainly my own experience played into that.?

Ethan leaves Northern California and his familial drama there for Berkley Academy in Massachusetts. He quickly becomes friends with a wealthy boy named Todd and English teacher Hannah McClellan. Her relationship with Ethan becomes sexual and, even more predictably, problematic.

Todd?s gay sexual orientation is treated as more of a subplot to Ethan?s drama, which was an intentional choice by Dolby.

?I didn?t want to write a coming-out novel ? I felt that?s sort of been done,? Dolby says. Instead he allows Todd?s orientation to flesh out bit by bit instead of becoming a crescendo of the overall plot arc.

The slow pacing of Todd?s discoveries is more in tune with this book, which Dolby says moves at a different pace than his previous novel.

?In ?The Trouble Boy?, the character did not have a minute to rest. Something was always happening to him and that kind of telling would not be appropriate for prep school, which is kind of this insular world,? he says. ?The students don?t have much agency over what happens to them. I think I gave them a lot more agency than what happens with real prep school students.?

Dolby, who writes full-time from his West Village home in New York, says he?s working on his third novel, which is set in California and centers on a family.

Original Article HERE

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  • 4 weeks later...
What bullshit. Tome Wolfe knows nothing. There *has* been at least one great boarding school novel written since 'A Separate Peace'.

It's called 'Debating Love' and I wrote it! And it's right here at Awesomedude.

Waitasec, did I say that out loud?

If you don't want to say it out loud then I will, you wrote an excellent story and I definitely enjoyed reading it.

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  • 5 months later...

I read The Sixth Form, and it's a very well-told story, though sections of it don't pay off for me.

The gist of it is that a middle-class 17-year-old kid from Northern Calfornia, Ethan, gets a scholarship to an exclusive private college prep school on the East coast, made up of the children of very well-to-do families. He has to contend with the affections of a good-looking, early-30s female teacher, as well as those of his best friend, a wealthy boy whose mother is a best-selling author.

There's an undercurrent of tragedy throughout the story, both in the troubled history of the school (founded almost 100 years ago by a rich woman who had an affair with a student, then killed herself when he abandoned her), and with the spoiled-rich students who waste their lives in endless days of drugs and partying. Ethan has his hands full, particularly since his own mother is dying of cancer back home in California, while he struggles with the temptations that surround him at the upscale school.

I expected more out of the two boys' relationship, but I have to confess the novel was well-told, and it definitely ventured into unexpected areas. One of the major plot threads kind of evaporates at the end (no spoilers), which left me disappointed since I expected a major explosion only to just get a little cloud of dust in its place. But the author's use of language in drawing out the evocative surroundings, the along with the decadence of the students' lives, as seen through Ethan's eyes, are compelling.

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