Frank Bonham
New York: Dell Publishing, Co, 1971
151 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
June 2009

Given my mode of choosing books to read it is inevitable that I win some and lose some. This book and I just weren’t for each other. By and large I don’t choose books because of reviews I’ve read or heard about. I just browse in book stores and at book fairs and pick things that sound interesting from what I see on the jacket cover or so on. I’m normally looking for a challenge and some times to stimulate my mind.

This is the second “Dogtown” novel which attracted me this year. I live in an old neighborhood of St. Louis called Dogtown. I was born here and my father before me. I lived away a number of years and when I moved back here in 1993 I decided to write a history of the neighborhood as a way of getting fully re-acquainted with it. See:

Bob Corbett's Dogtown Webpage

The other book was actually about a neighborhood called Dogtown in the 17th century on Cape Ann in Massachusetts. I commented on this novel a couple months ago:

The Last Days of Dogtown

I am interested in seeing if other neighborhoods in the U.S. which were called Dogtown, have any similar roots as to the origin of the name in my neighborhood. While the boy who tells the story of The Nitty Gritty does live in a California neighborhood of Dogtown, the origin of the name is never mentioned. Instead this is a short moral tale of the relationship between an uncle and the boy narrator. His Uncle Barron, a bachelor loner, wheeler-dealer, talks a great game of his life and so appears exciting and a model to follow, but he’s really a fake, and a quite irresponsible fake at that. The boy Charlie has grown up poor with relatively non-supportive parents, particular his father, and he dreams great dreams, not unlike his uncle, who is his hero. He has a supportive teacher who tries to convince Charlie that he has serious intellectual potential, but Charlie wants it all now and turns to Uncle Barron as his savior from his life of poverty.

Of course it all goes badly and Uncle Barron behaves terribly, but seemingly Charlie learns from it.

The story’s quick, predictable, quite unrealistic, but at least it was a fast read and tolerably interesting, though in no way challenging. I don’t say this to attack the author. It wasn’t a book for someone looking for what I was looking for, either something on Dogtown, or a novel which would challenge me intellectually. Neither of those were his aim. I just chose poorly.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett