Acclaimed Novelist Republishes First Book

Awl contributor and author of The Metropolis Case (Crown, 2010), Matthew Gallaway certainly pulls no punches in reassessing What Shall Be I Be When I Grow Up?…, a book he wrote in 1979, when he was 11 years old, and recently republished in its entirety, on the Internet. “Initially heralded as a ‘model of gender equality and optimism,'” Gallaway writes today, “the book was later dismissed as ‘derivative, unoriginal, and convoluted’ and subsequently banned in most schools when an investigative reporter uncovered evidence of subliminal messaging through the use of product placement—a practice then in its infancy—and politically subversive content.” Having read the book myself, I think such criticism is too harsh. In focussing his review solely on the most controversial aspects of the work, Gallaway is too quick to dismiss the courage his younger self displayed in challenging conventional wisdom (a six-legged octopus!) and wrestling with what is perhaps the single most profound question inherent to the human condition. What Shall I Be When I Grow Up? Indeed, what shall any of us?