Bert Higgens has issues with his girlfriend, Charlotte, because she thinks Bert’s band teacher is nuts. His band teacher is none other than Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional Lincoln High faculty member, George Helmholtz. This story is also found in Vonnegut’s collection Bagombo Snuff Box.
In “The Boy Who Hated Girls”, Helmholtz has a striking revelation that a number of his star pupils look to him as a father figure – especially the ones that don’t have fathers, like Bert. When Bert is promoted to another teacher, he begins to slack off, showing up drunk for practice, and generally doing whatever he can to get back under Mr. Helmholtz’s tutelage.
This Helmholtz story has a slightly more serious tone and I didn’t think it really worked as well as the other stories I’ve read with this character. I had grown to enjoy the light-heartedness of the misadventures of Vonnegut’s band leader. At one point, Helmholtz realizes that many of these students went on to become alcoholics and drug addicts. This struck me as funny but it took a couple of days of thinking about the story before the thought crossed my mind “Oh, that was funny.” The story also doesn’t seem to stand on it’s own as well. It seemed to be a part of something larger. When the story ended with Helmholtz making some confessions to the school nurse, Miss Peach, I wondered whether this story line would continue somewhere else. And I wondered whether Miss Peach would show up again somewhere – she could be just as interesting as Helmholtz.
For an interesting post about George Helmholtz, check out this one from Jay at Bibliophilopolis.