By David Brickman
Though it isn’t a picture book, Paul Castellani’s Sputnik Summer features a great photo by Adirondack photographer Carl Heilman II on the cover, and its author and his wife, Donna, are great modern art enthusiasts who attend a lot of openings, so it caught my attention.
Castellani is a professor by trade, but his academic roots stay pretty well hidden in this coming-of-age novel that takes place in the late ’50s in a fading Adirondack resort town where a somewhat typical 17-year-old boy tries to come to terms with the limits of his hick town, the crummy summer resort his abusive dad runs, his own college ambitions, and the need to get laid.
The story is punctuated by news bits and advertising slogans taken straight from the publications of the day, which provides a sort of parallel narrative that suggests political and social commentary without offering it directly. Castellani is an excellent storyteller, and he keeps you interested in the twists and turns of this intelligent but inexperienced young man’s rather fateful last summer at home. Put simply: I enjoyed the book and so, probably, will you or the person you decide to give it to.