Not too long ago, I was lucky enough to see Chris Crutcher give a reading from his autobiography King of the Mild Frontier. Having never heard of him before that night, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. But from the moment he opened his mouth, I knew I was in the presence of someone totally awesome.
He started by sharing an excerpt from "Something Neat This Way Comes," the third chapter in King, which relates the story of the time his older brother convinced him to urinate into the radiator in their home. Foul-smelling chaos ensues, of course, and what made the story cool was the way Crutcher related it. Things took a turn for the downright hilarious when Crutcher told the story of his Sunday school years. I won't go into detail. What I will say is this: the whole of King is worth reading just for that chapter ("Conversations with Gawd").
Crutcher does not tell tales only of himself, though. He's also a rather prolific author of young adult novels, many of them focusing on high school athletes. I recently read Chinese Handcuffs, which I highly recommend, and I know others who greatly enjoyed Whale Talk. Moreover, Crutcher's work is frequently challenged, which, in my book, means he must be doing something right.
What puts Crutcher in a higher echelon, for me, is that he is willing to acknowledge that teenagers have real, legitimate feelings and that they sometimes have to deal with some very adult situations. He never talks down to his audience. Plus he's been publishing novels since 1983, so he's had a long time to perfect his technique. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that his works appeal to boys and girls alike--his female characters are every bit as lifelike as the males--making him someone whose work you might want to keep around for your kids or students.
Visit Chris Crutcher's official website here. And if you ever hear of him giving a reading in your area, seriously consider going to see him. It's totally worth it.