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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

October 01, 1995|DICK RORABACK

COMING OF AGE: The True Adventures of Two American Teens by G. Wayne Miller (Random House: $20; 272 pp.) You hate to knock a writer from Rhode Island--how many can there be?--and in truth there'd be nothing wrong with G. Wayne Miller's "Coming of Age," if only it were a novel. With fiction, you can make up an ending, precipitate a crisis, inject a little drama when the narrative flags. With fiction, you get egg roll. Instead, Miller spends a year observing a couple of high school kids, Dave and Beth, from adjacent Rhode Island towns "midway between David Lynch and Norman Rockwell." The good news: They're both nice, normal, healthy teen-agers. The bad news: They're both nice, normal, healthy teen-agers; nothing happens that didn't happen to you and your friends when you were teen-agers. The news, if there is any, is that times have changed. It's an age of "stress, anxiety, depression," trumpeted Time magazine on its cover a few weeks ago. People are "more dissolute and mean-spirited," said a survivor of the Grateful Dead at Jerry Garcia's funeral. Every generation, of course, is going straight to hell: My grandmother insisted that Harry James was playing "the devil's music." Her grandparents swooned at the sight of an ankle. . . . My high school generation didn't drink, dip or diddle, mainly because nobody did. Now everybody does. Except Dave and Beth and most of their contemporaries. Closest Dave comes to dissolution is helping to publish an underground newspaper with a lot of dirty words. Beth? Sneaks into a prom without paying. Nice kids. Creative. Good-hearted. God bless them. Moving right along. . . .

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