William Goldman is best known for his screenplays, like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and his thrillers like MARATHON MAN and MAGIC, many of which were made into movies for which Goldman wrote the scripts.
But he started his career with mainstream novels like this one, along with BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER, THE TEMPLE OF GOLD, and SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, which were very popular in the late Fifties and early Sixties but have sort of faded from view over the years.
YOUR TURN TO CURTSY MY TURN TO BOW is a summer camp novel, which almost automatically means that it’s a coming of age novel as well. Peter Bell, who is sort of the narrator (Goldman switches back and forth between first person and third person), has just graduated from high school and goes to Camp Blackpine to be a counselor for the summer. The camp is owned by acquaintances of Peter’s father, so he knows the young man in charge of the counselors, Granville “Granny” Kemper. Also working at the camp is Chad Kimberly, golden boy football hero on the surface but a troubled young man underneath. Then there’s Tillie Keck, the beautiful, redheaded, teenage niece of the camp’s secretary, who is also living there. See where this is going?
Goldman’s prose is a little self-consciously literary, but at heart this short novel is a soap opera complete with insanity, mutilation, angst, and a touch of sex. The cover copy makes it sound like the book is all about sex, but it really isn’t. It’s a pretty good story, although I think my favorite summer camp novel is still Herman Wouk’s THE CITY BOY. I’ve got to reread that one and post about it one of these days.
In the meantime, YOUR TURN TO CURTSY MY TURN TO BOW probably has to be considered one of Goldman’s minor works, but I enjoyed it anyway. The used bookstores used to be full of this and his other early novels, but I imagine they’re more difficult to find now. If you run across a copy, it’s worth reading.
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