Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Robert Clark Young
Robert Clark Young, American novelist, born 1960. Young's first novel, One of the Guys, is a satire about a man impersonating a U.S. Navy chaplain on a ship that suffers a series of comic misadventures in the Far East. This modern example of the picaresque novel was used by the American Family Association in 2000 in an attempt to lobby the U.S. Congress to dismantle the National Endowment for the Arts, which had partially funded the writing of the book.
Recurring themes in Young's work include the relation between alcoholism, the abuse of power, and institutional dysfunction in American life, within contemporary and historical contexts.
Young was raised in Los Angeles and San Diego and won fellowships to study writing at the University of San Diego; the University of California, Davis, where he studied with Beat Generation author Gary Snyder; and the University of Houston, in the doctoral Creative Writing Program founded by postmodern satirist Donald Barthelme.
Young's first teaching job, when he was 25, was as a civilian working on U.S. Navy ships deployed throughout the Far East. This experience would form the basis for his first novel, One of the Guys, published by HarperCollins in 1999.
One of the Guys gained notoriety the following year when the American Family Association objected to Young's portrayal of a man impersonating a Christian U.S. Navy chaplain during a deployment to ports where the alcoholic crew exploited child prostitution. The AFA, which had previously used the work of artists to attack the funding practices of the National Endowment for the Arts, used its lobbying force in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to have the agency defunded.
Young responded, in the Washington Post and elsewhere, that the controversial sections of his book were not pornographic, but had been written to expose what he saw as the U.S. Navy's complicity in child prostitution overseas. He perceived an inconsistency in the AFA objecting to taxpayer funding of a book that exposed and criticized sexual exploitation, when the AFA should have been objecting to taxpayer funding of the exploitation itself.
Young continued to write and publish in the wake of the One of the Guys controversy, furthering his exploration of the links between alcoholism, abuse of power, and social dysfunction in American life. He began work on a multi-volume historical novel based on the half-century of conflict between the alcoholic pro-German newspaper publisher Cissy Patterson and her daughter, the Countess Felicia Gizycka, who was one of the founding female members of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first volume, The Richest Girl in the World, dramatizes, with much of the same humor and pathos Young brought to bear in One of the Guys, the ways in which alcohol, money, and institutional power combined to destroy a wealthy and influential American family.
Collier, Gene, "NEA Foes Miss Boat on Satire" , Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 25, 2000
Garvin, Cosmo, "Moral Minority," , Sacramento News and Review, March 1, 2001
Hansen, Suzy, "Our Wolves in Uniform"  Salon.com, March 22, 2001
McInerney, Tom, "NEA Funding Up Despite Criticism"  Poets and Writers Magazine, January 2001
Quinn, Brad, "In the Navy"  Cincinnati CityBeat, November 16, 2000
Sherwin, Elisabeth, "First Amendment Sweethearts, Bob and Isabel" , Davis (CA) Enterprise, October 15, 2000
Young, Robert Clark, "A Strange 'Family Values' Attack on the NEA,"  Washington Post, December 15, 2000
Young, Robert Clark, "The Richest Girl in the World" (excerpt), Southern Humanities Review, Spring 2005, published at Auburn University by the Southern Humanities Council
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