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  • Boy Minus Girl
  • Written by Richard Uhlig
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375891366
  • Our Price: $10.99
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Boy Minus Girl

Written by Richard UhligAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Richard Uhlig


List Price: $10.99


On Sale: December 09, 2008
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89136-6
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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LES WANTS the girl. He thinks she’s amazing, exotic, perfect. But he doesn’t know how to talk to her, kiss her, or make her realize that he’s the best and only guy for her in the whole wide world.

Once he masters these things, she’ll be his! Easy-peasy, right? The gulf between dreamgirl and realgirl is explored and made somewhat less vast in this bawdy yet romantic not-quite-coming-of-age. Teens will relate to 14-year-old Les’s hilarious and squirmy longings, and the fulsomely awkward efforts he puts forth to make his real life match his fantasies. The story also
portrays the perils of unexamined hero-worship, and the strength and humanity of people that may seem plain and boring, but who stand up for what is right when called upon to do so. It is a tale both hilarious and thoughtful, in which, to paraphrase the old Rolling Stones adage, one boy figures out that even if you indeed can’t always get what you want, if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.

From the Hardcover edition.


Seduction Tip Number 1:

Tongue Twister

The Seductive Man knows his tongue is an invaluable erotic instrument, which must be exercised daily. Stick it out as far as it will go, then pull it back deep into your mouth. Do this ten times rapidly. Next, flutter your tongue like the wings of a hummingbird for three minutes. Soon you'll be ready to pleasure her with the Velvet Buzz Saw.

Mom, Dad, and I sit at the oval kitchen table, trying to eat Mom's meat loaf. In the window above the sink, the yellow lace curtains frolic in the hot May wind, diluting the strange scent wafting off the meat. To my right, Mom, in her starched nurse's uniform and red-checkered apron, primly sips her iced tea. To my left, Dad, in his dress shirt and tie, squints at the Wichita Eagle-Beacon lying beside his plate.

"Uh, Dad," I say, "the talent show is a week from Friday."

"Uh-huh," he says to the newspaper.

"And, well, my magical vanishing box is nowhere near done."

"Not tonight, son, I'm bushed."

Beneath the table I'm fondling a red grape, massaging the soft skin with my fingertips. This is an exercise recommended in The Seductive Man by M.--a book my best friend, Howard, is loaning me--to condition my hands for a woman's nipples. Someday soon I will be performing this task expertly on Charity Conners, my dream girl.

Dad points to the newspaper but looks at Mom. "Says here this could be the worst tornado season in decades."

"Mmm," Mom says absently. (We are quite used to this sort of announcement from Dad.)

"After dinner I'll go down and make sure the shelter is stocked with enough provisions to last us a couple weeks," Dad says. "In case the house is blown away," he adds.

Dad fears for us all, all of the time--natural disasters, nuclear war, rabid skunks, Lyme disease-carrying ticks, mosquitoes whose bites will make our brains swell up and burst. To Dad the whole world is a virtual land mine of deadly diseases and impending disasters.

I pipe up with: "Maybe this would be a good time for us to go on a trip. Get out of the vicinity of the twisters. Y'know, in three weeks my summer vacation starts. What if we all went to Florida?"

"Florida?" Dad looks at me as if I had just suggested we pitch a tent on Mount Saint Helens.

"The Schneiders are driving to Epcot Center for their summer vacation," I offer.

"You don't say," Mom says. "The Schneiders still owe your father a hundred dollars for setting Tommy's broken arm last January. But I guess for some people a luxurious vacation is more important than paying their debts."

Dad shakes his head. "I can't leave town. I've got a hospital full of patients. Besides, Florida is boiling hot in the summer and your mother's prone to heatstroke."

"Speaking of hot, when can we turn on the air-conditioning?" I ask Mom, unbuttoning my shirt a notch to drive home the point.

"We can easily get by with fans for at least another month," Mom, the family accountant, announces. "I refuse to pay for any more electricity than I absolutely have to. The electricity rates this town charges, why, it's highway robbery!"

"But, Mom, I've heard your very own personal physician say that you're prone to heatstroke," I remind her.

"You know, Les," Mom continues, "you make it sound as if air-conditioning is your birthright. You kids today don't appreciate how spoiled you are with all your luxurious conveniences."

Luxuries? We are practically the only people in town without a dishwasher or cable TV or a garbage disposal. Dad won't allow a microwave in the house for fear of radiation leakage, and the only reason we have a new TV is because Mom won it at a raffle at the IGA. She drives a ten-year-old Buick she inherited from her great-aunt Irma, and we live in the same humble house Dad grew up in. And we aren't poor: Dad has a very busy medical practice, and Mom works, too.

As I stare at the meat loaf and massage the grape, I try to imagine Dad fondling Mom. How could they ever get past the rising cost of groceries and the constant threat of salmonella enough to get in the mood? Yet, here I am. How? Was I adopted? If I was, who are my real parents? Do they ever eat in restaurants? Do they like to travel and socialize and go shopping? Maybe they live in a high-rise in New York City, like the Jeffersons, and stay up late with their glamorous friends, trading witticisms over martinis and discussing the latest Broadway shows. I look at my mother and see we have the exact same light-blue eye color; I look at Dad and see my big brow.

God, I have nothing to look forward to this summer. God, I'm in a slump. God, I need something. Something more. Big-time.

"Got it!" I grab the wall-mounted phone by the fridge. "Eckhardt residence."

"Who's this?" a deep, male smoker's voice asks, from what sounds like a pay phone on the side of a busy highway.

"It's Les."

"Lester the Mo-llester! Hell, this is your uncle Ray! Remember me?!"
Remember him? The last time I saw him, he was passed out, face-down drunk, on our lawn!

"Hi, Uncle Ray!"

Dad smiles while Mom puts her hand to her mouth. My uncle Ray is Dad's only sibling. He was here last for Grandpa Eckhardt's funeral, at which he sported a black leather jacket, torn blue jeans, and no tie. His girlfriend wore purple eye shadow and a low-cut dress that barely contained her gigantic bazookas. I was in the fifth grade and had never seen anyone drunk before (or since).

"Your old man around?!" he shouts over a passing truck horn.

"Uh, sure, Uncle Ray, one sec." I hand the phone to Dad.

"How the hell are you, little brother?!"

I see Mom wince at Dad's coarse language.

"Uh-huh . . . right . . ." Dad nods and smiles, wrapping the phone cord around his index finger. "Well, that would be just fine, Ray. Look forward to it. We'll leave the light on for ya, as they say."

Uncle Ray is coming! Will he bring his generously endowed girlfriend with him? Please please please please please.

From the Hardcover edition.
Richard Uhlig

About Richard Uhlig

Richard Uhlig - Boy Minus Girl
I’d love to say that I grew up reading Cervantes and Tolstoy, but I didn’t. I grew up watching The Munsters and Hogan's Heroes. God, I hate to think how many hours I spent in front of the TV as a kid. I didn’t become a serious reader until after college. Now when I meet people who don't read books, I want to say to them, “You're missing out!” I really think it’s their loss. I don’t mean that in a snobby way either, or because I'm a writer. It’s too bad they’re not taking part in perhaps the most satisfying form of entertainment, enlightenment, and adventure.
I started out writing screenplays because I grew up on film and television, and it was just the mode of storytelling with which I was most familiar. It wasn’t until after I attended film school, and had a couple screenplays produced, that I discovered I actually enjoyed books more than movies. Part of what took me to books was my frustration with the Hollywood system. At the time, production companies were interested in movies that were more like a one-note joke, and had almost nothing to do with the human experience. In fact, my agent pleaded with me not to write “character studies.” I remember one afternoon I was trying to write a “marketable” screenplay in the Beverly Hills Public Library. Stuck trying to stretch a concept into a screenplay, I happened to look over at the bookshelf and saw a novel entitled Mrs. Bridge. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. It was a wonderful portrait of an upper-class housewife in the 1940s–a character study. I think that was the beginning of my love affair with books.
Reading and writing books is wonderful because it’s so personal–it’s you, alone, taking in what the author has written. There's no laugh track to tell you something is funny, no composer writing songs to tell you when to cry. It’s you and the written word. The author provides you images, dialogue, and plot, but it’s up to you, the reader, to fill in the details based on your own experiences.
I wrote my first young adult novel without knowing there was such a genre as young adult. I just wanted to write about experiences that paralleled my own. The teenage years are high drama, fraught with pressures and conflicts: you're trying to find out who you are, you're discovering romantic love for the first time, you're trying to deal with what your body is craving against what society is telling you is not acceptable. What’s more, you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do with your life.
I tend to write about my native state of Kansas. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I live in New York City, which is certainly more polyglot, more dynamic, more everything. But a very small town in Kansas is where I came of age, where my adolescence took place. But there’s another reason, I think. When you live in a small town, you know virtually everyone, and you know their life's story. That intimate knowledge of your neighbor can be comforting and also stifling. A person can be too easily labeled and dismissed. But, on the flip side, everyone knows you, and that makes you a celebrity in a way. It’s like that adage: it’s better to be talked about than not talked about. I think it’s ironic that, while growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas, and now I write about it. I guess, on a very simple level, I’m trying to make sense of where I came from.
When I started writing my first novel, I found it incredibly difficult. I didn’t know what I was doing and I spent days tweaking each paragraph. I thought I had to sound literary and highly intelligent. After about a month, I realized it was going to take my years to finish this thing. Struggling with a way to speed the writing up, I came to the conclusion I had to get out of my own way. So, I dropped all literary pretension–I was going to write the way I spoke, and just let it fly. I also decided not to use the computer for the first draft. I found that blinking cursor made me nervous. I retired my laptop computer to the bottom desk drawer, took out a legal pad and pen, and just kept the pen moving. I filled dozens of those yellow tablets with my scribbling–and the writing came to life. Soon my characters were telling the story, not me.
I still write first drafts by longhand. Later, I enter it into the computer and then I edit and edit and edit. Computers are great for that. But I found them too cold, too removed, too impersonal for writing a first draft. That first draft should come from the heart, through the hand, and onto the page. It should be intimate, like, well, reading.

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