In light of our recent book podcast I thought I'd post my thoughts on one of my all-time favorite literary characters.
What a long strange trip it’s been. I began the journey with Youth In Revolt 15 years ago and earlier this year read Revolting Youth. As a girl part of me loved Nick Twisp. Not in a weird, psychotic, can’t-tell-the-difference-between-fiction-and-reality kind of way, but in a way that I think one should fall for literary characters. Perhaps in the way a young girl is “supposed” to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. My 17-year-old self found him intriguing. He was nerdy and well read. He was the only other teenager I knew who was as fascinated with Frank Sinatra as I was. The lengths he was willing to go to for the girl he loved could put modern day vampires of the sparkling variety to shame. I think what really attracted me to this character, as is the thing that continues to attract me to men in life, is the sarcastic wit that borders on obnoxiousness. He was told to “watch [his] smart mouth” more times than I ever was but that can be attributed to the fact that I was never brave enough (at that age) to say the things I thought.
Rereading Youth in Revolt almost proved a devastating turn for me. Seeing Nick through thirty-something eyes was a completely different experience that I hadn’t counted on. I probably should have seen it coming. Holden Caufield was a much different “person” to me when I was 21 than he had been when I was 14. It happens…but this time it nearly broke my heart. From an adult perspective Nick doesn’t just border obnoxious. He waves to those of us who sometimes occupy that land from a safe distance in asshole-ville. It’s true…or at least it seems true. I’m having trouble deciding whether or not my glasses are in fact rose-coloured.
By the end of Revolting Youth, a journey that took so many twists and turns I would sometimes end a chapter feeling rather dizzy, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Nick. I knew I didn’t love him the same way I had, but I wasn’t quite ready to let him go. This character was so much a part of my youth I actually think the sardonic defense mechanisms I’ve used throughout my early adulthood are 50% me and 50% Twispian.
Don’t get me wrong. I still appreciate Nick for who he is. I won’t forever think of him as an asshole. I’d rather think of him as a carnival ride…you know there’s a chance it’ll make you sick, you just can’t resist riding the ride.