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Old 09-26-2012, 07:41 PM   #16
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I was surprised at how many of the slang words were in the Oxford English dictionary on my ereader.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:59 AM   #17
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I was surprised at how many of the slang words were in the Oxford English dictionary on my ereader.
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If you need any translations, please just ask .
I actually just checked out a paper book version from my local library. Not knowing all that slang only detracted from the novel for me to the extent that all that slang was, in my opinion, inserted to give the proper flavor of the narration from a 13 year old boy at that time and place. Something I might have missed even if it had been an American 13 year old speaking. In 1982 I was a 28 year old graduate student in university.

The same with all the references to music. I admit that I only actually recognized one or two of the songs mentioned, and less than half of the recording artists.
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:26 PM   #18
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I actually just checked out a paper book version from my local library. Not knowing all that slang only detracted from the novel for me to the extent that all that slang was, in my opinion, inserted to give the proper flavor of the narration from a 13 year old boy at that time and place. Something I might have missed even if it had been an American 13 year old speaking. In 1982 I was a 28 year old graduate student in university.

The same with all the references to music. I admit that I only actually recognized one or two of the songs mentioned, and less than half of the recording artists.
I had the same problem--especially with the music.
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:07 PM   #19
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The little cultural references to the 80s were part of what I liked best about the book. I couldn't help but start singing some of the songs in my head. Instant flashback!
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Old 09-28-2012, 06:56 AM   #20
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Being English, it all made perfect sense to me. Not only did I know all the music, I have seen many of the bands live .
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Old 09-28-2012, 11:54 AM   #21
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Not only did I know the music, I currently have much of it on my iPod! I like 80s music. What was funny was reading a reference to a random song that I'd just listened to on shuffle in the last week.

As for the slang, what I didn't know, as Bookworm_Girl mentioned, was oddly all on my Oxford dictionary. And then other pop culture references, such as brands, television series, etc., some of what I didn't know I googled. I was also inspired to youtube some old commercials which was actually pretty fun - definitely retro blasts from the past! Here's one for Tizer, one of the drinks mentioned in the book, from 1982, the year the book is set in.

So I thought the cultural references were fun. But I do think the author's goal must've been to chock it full of as many as he could cram in!
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:49 AM   #22
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WARNING - as we are coming to the end of the month, I won't use spoilers, but if you haven't read the book yet, be warned that I give bits of the plot away that you may not want to know.

I can't say I did not like it (or perhaps I should), but I can't say I liked it either! I never bought the kiddie's voice to begin with, so Jason's philosophising irritated me to various degrees - I mean take sentences like
Quote:
Often I think boys don’t become men. Boys just get papier-mâchéd inside a man’s mask. Sometimes you can tell the boy is still in there
Sure, it could be that a budding thirteen year old poet can express something like that, but as I know it is coming from a man in his mid-forties it just does not buy me.

I also think the novel was a missed opportunity when it comes to bullying - not that I ever witnessed bullying as a kid (perhaps because the UK/US culture in this respect is miles away from Italian culture, at least when I was a teenager - in the 80's, so yes, the music references I did get), but it would have been more interesting for me if Jason had been e.g. one of the perpetrators of the bullying, e.g. a Ross Wilcox sidekick rather than an (unlikely) victim. Jason does find strength in himself to react, and it did not go on that long, really, unlike those horrible stories of desperation and despair that lead to a blighted life or a tragic ending of it that I've come to learn about after twenty years in the UK.

Yes, sure, in the end Jason's parents divorce and it is going to be tough, but we knew this all along from the very first nuisance call, and divorce comes after Helena has found a fulfilling job and Michael has lost his job (that'll teach him!), so all lose ends are tied, in a way.

I also found many of the characters totally unconvincing (e.g. Dawn Madden going off with Grant Burch a few hours after rowing with Ross Wilcox) - but I'll end my rant here
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Old 09-29-2012, 09:25 AM   #23
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I actually also liked some of the details included about the Falklands War. I was not that interested in following international news at that time in my life, particularly that which did not involve the United States, but of course heard some thing about it. Argentina invading, the British having a ship sunk by an Exocet missile supplied to Argentina by France, the controversy over the British sinking of the Argentinian ship General Belgrano, and of course that the British won the war. I had no idea how many losses the British, in ships and men, suffered in the conflict. I also recall what a boost in popularity the war provided Margret Thatcher, even though it was such a lopsided conflict in British favor. Much like Ronald Reagan got such a boost from the United States victory over the formidable opponent Grenada.



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WARNING - as we are coming to the end of the month, I won't use spoilers, but if you haven't read the book yet, be warned that I give bits of the plot away that you may not want to know.

I can't say I did not like it (or perhaps I should), but I can't say I liked it either! I never bought the kiddie's voice to begin with, so Jason's philosophising irritated me to various degrees - I mean take sentences like
Sure, it could be that a budding thirteen year old poet can express something like that, but as I know it is coming from a man in his mid-forties it just does not buy me.

I also think the novel was a missed opportunity when it comes to bullying - not that I ever witnessed bullying as a kid (perhaps because the UK/US culture in this respect is miles away from Italian culture, at least when I was a teenager - in the 80's, so yes, the music references I did get), but it would have been more interesting for me if Jason had been e.g. one of the perpetrators of the bullying, e.g. a Ross Wilcox sidekick rather than an (unlikely) victim. Jason does find strength in himself to react, and it did not go on that long, really, unlike those horrible stories of desperation and despair that lead to a blighted life or a tragic ending of it that I've come to learn about after twenty years in the UK.

Yes, sure, in the end Jason's parents divorce and it is going to be tough, but we knew this all along from the very first nuisance call, and divorce comes after Helena has found a fulfilling job and Michael has lost his job (that'll teach him!), so all lose ends are tied, in a way.

I also found many of the characters totally unconvincing (e.g. Dawn Madden going off with Grant Burch a few hours after rowing with Ross Wilcox) - but I'll end my rant here
Excellent comments. I will write a lot more about my thoughts sometime this weekend.
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Old 09-29-2012, 09:58 AM   #24
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Yes, sure, in the end Jason's parents divorce and it is going to be tough, but we knew this all along from the very first nuisance call, and divorce comes after Helena has found a fulfilling job and Michael has lost his job (that'll teach him!), so all lose ends are tied, in a way.
Hah! That aspect infuriated me and caused me to downgrade my mental rating. Especially that the mother went from being a woman obsessed with forcing sprouts on her kids at lunchtime to a well-connected powerhouse in marketing and management in nothing flat, which is a trope both tired and incredible. It served the purposes of showing that a life can be reinvented (see, Jason?) and having the practical effect that just as Jason achieves his victory he's going to be rudely transplanted and will have to do it all again. Something more open-ended and not as neat would have served the story far better. OTOH, I didn't mind that the father lost his job; it seemed fair enough for a man of his age in early-80s Thatcher England. I think that was the more interesting parallel--Jason's and his father's concurrent impotence and despair.

I said upthread that I didn't mind the jumble of voices; the shifting of memory and reportage worked for me. I very much liked the social interactions, adolescents really are animals, and also the Falklands backdrop.

Bits just broke my heart, as an example, Jason's loving recollection of having been a Spook for all of five minutes. Those moments of truth, in whosever voice, was the best aspect of the book or me.

I'm older than Jason and never was a boy, so I do have a question for the men: Were 13 year-old boys really so innocent in the early 80s? Were you at 13? (no one need reveal his age ) I know I was clueless when I was 13, but the kids now frankly scare me.
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:54 PM   #25
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Issybird wrote:
I said upthread that I didn't mind the jumble of voices; the shifting of memory and reportage worked for me. I very much liked the social interactions, adolescents really are animals, and also the Falklands backdrop

I would agree about the effectiveness of the style. I rather enjoyed that aspect of the book.

And yes, adolescents are most emphatically animals.

Bits just broke my heart, as an example, Jason's loving recollection of having been a Spook for all of five minutes. Those moments of truth, in whosever voice, was the best aspect of the book or me.

Same here. One part I found really sad was the end of the fight over the Rockery .I remember that at one point Jason notices the loving smile shared between Julia and Ewan and he wonders if his parents were once like that.

Then there is that moment when the Heron flies away with one of the Mother's fish. I suppose there is a bitter sort of ironic humour in that but what is most noticeable is Jason's utterly sick helpless frustrated fury as he notices that his father is looking on at the whole scene:

"Me, I want to bloody kick this moronic bloody world in the bloody teeth over and over till it bloody understands that not hurting people is ten bloody thousand times more bloody important than being right."

I'm older than Jason and never was a boy, so I do have a question for the men: Were 13 year-old boys really so innocent in the early 80s? Were you at 13? (no one need reveal his age ) I know I was clueless when I was 13, but the kids now frankly scare me.

The adolescents I taught in that decade certainly struck me as being innocent. They seemed more open to the simple pleasure of listening to or sharing a story or experience. Certainly much more so than students I was teaching in later years. Of course, this doesn't mean they can't be very cruel to one another. Adolescence is a dreadful phase and I think that in the eighties {and certainly in earlier decades} adolescent boys didn't fully comprehend the biological energies that were exploding in their bodies. So they frequently turned to peer groups and created their own social myths.

I was, however, appalled by the teachers as presented in the book. Some displayed and evidently enjoyed a kind of sarcastic, supercilious, conscious cruelty towards pupils. That kind of cruelty was far worse than the rather bestial violence of the "hard" boys.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 09-29-2012 at 01:23 PM.
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Old 09-29-2012, 02:57 PM   #26
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I agree with others that have stated that the voice of Jason did not sound like that of a 13 year old boy, not just the manner of speaking including vocabulary, but the point of view on things as well as adult knowledge. It struck me as more the voice of an adult looking back at his recollection of being 13 and attempting to sound like a 13-year old doing so.

That said I felt the author did a really good job of describing what it was like to be a boy of that age who is bullied verbally, mentally, and physically. Describing well not only the near constant state of fear that exceeds in most cases the actually reality, but also the psychological difficulty at a time when an adolescent boy is just coming to grips with his attraction to girls and insecurity about how girls view him. Jason is not just humiliated by the actual bullying, but perhaps worse by the girls laughing at him for it. Even though just a few years later what girls will consider important will change substantially, and yet more as they become adults, a 13 year old boy experiences life as it is at that time. That will have dramatic impact on his self image and confidence that is very difficult to grow out of. I did think that the author sometimes tended to give Jason a long view of things that is unrealistic for a 13 year old.

I also thought that the author suggested an unrealistic solution to the problem relative to real life. Jason manages to stand up to the bullies, and immediately finds unquestioning support from adults, both at the school and from his father. The bullies are expelled from the school, he has his first romantic and physical relationship with a girl, and any long term consequences of his standing up the bullies are eliminated by his immediately relocating to a new town where his past will be erased. Really just too much of a tidy and happy ending. Not when even today adults are likely to treat bullying as a case of “boys will be boys” and a normal right of passage benign game, instead of the unrepentant predator unwilling prey experience it is.

I am also curious about how male readers will view this book versus female readers. Not just because the story is told from the point of view of a 13-year old boy, but because it really describes the experiences of a male of that age. I am sure that age can be just as difficult for girls, but likely different woes and uncertainties to work through?

I liked the story of that watch, and how much Jason feared to tell his father about how he damaged it. I do recall those days well, though probably I would place them at an earlier age than 13. I once lost a relatively expensive book that was given to me and spent months worrying about how my parents would react. When I finally told my mother about it I think that her anger at the time was as much motivated by how big a deal I thought it was telling her than the actual fact that I lost the book.

I also thought that events at times were contrived to make moral points that the author wished to make. As an example Jason attends a meeting with his father on how the community can prevent a group of gypsies locating there. All sorts of prejudices are offered as a reason why the community must prevent that. The very next day Jason has a mishap that leads him to finding himself receiving assistance from a camp of gypsies where he learns that they are really just ordinary people trying to get by and not the ogres that they were made out to be.



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I'm older than Jason and never was a boy, so I do have a question for the men: Were 13 year-old boys really so innocent in the early 80s? Were you at 13? (no one need reveal his age ) I know I was clueless when I was 13, but the kids now frankly scare me.
Let's see 1967 was the year that I lived through being a 13-year old (I don't mind being specific as my birth year has always been in my board name here). I can recall when one of the boys in my circle obtained a Playboy magazine and what a big deal we thought that was and how we had to keep our secret hidden. Those not old enough to know must be informed that in 1967 the nudes in Playboy did not even reveal the pubic area of the women. So yes I was probably as innocent as Jason at that age, and just as ignorant about the realities of sex. I do have to wonder, at least in the United States, whether that was true in the early 1980s. It seems to me that the equivalent to my Playboy would have been actual pornography then, perhaps even an explicit sex video.

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The adolescents I taught in that decade certainly struck me as being innocent. They seemed more open to the simple pleasure of listening to or sharing a story or experience. Certainly much more so than students I was teaching in later years. Of course, this doesn't mean they can't be very cruel to one another. Adolescence is a dreadful phase and I think that in the eighties {and certainly in earlier decades} adolescent boys didn't fully comprehend the biological energies that were exploding in their bodies. So they frequently turned to peer groups and created their own social myths.

I was, however, appalled by the teachers as presented in the book. Some displayed and evidently enjoyed a kind of sarcastic, supercilious, conscious cruelty towards pupils. That kind of cruelty was far worse than the rather bestial violence of the "hard" boys.
That is interesting fantasyfan. My mother actually taught in public schools as a substitute teacher in the years 1966 through 1973, that in grades 1-3. I recall her expressing dismay in the latter years at what seemed like decreasing innocence of her students over time. Where once a student would raise his hand and ask to be excused “to go to the toilet,” in later years this turned into “I have to pee” or “I have to sh**.”
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:36 PM   #27
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I don't want to quote fantasyfan's and Hamlet's long and cogent posts, but I appreciate the input on the minds of boys.

I'm still considering the devices used by Mitchell to tell the story. I continue to like the inconsistent voice (it occurs to me I don't want to hear unadulterated 13-year old) and I'm going back and forth on the amount of incident and contrivance and I can make a better case for it even if it irked at times. I think it contributes to a surreal quality that actually does work for me and ties in to the adult voice. Memory is imperfect and creative and the events described might result from that or at least be enhanced. A severed leg flying through the air, being trapped in a cottage with a witchy woman who's had a stroke, literally falling into a gypsy camp.... Less and less am I likely to take everything that happened as actual reportage and that's fine. I'll also note my directly opposite take to Hamlet's on the move at the end of the book; I saw it as meaning he was going to have it all to do again and he saw it as the deus ex machina that would save Jason from the consequences. I think both can be true.
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Old 10-02-2012, 05:46 PM   #28
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I'll add my thanks to the boys for their insights into their teenage mind - for me it was definitely a quite affair, possibly as my childhood spilled well into my teens

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(it occurs to me I don't want to hear unadulterated 13-year old)
very fair point!
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Old 10-02-2012, 09:14 PM   #29
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Old 10-04-2012, 04:56 PM   #30
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Join Date: Jun 2007
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The re-read proved to be a real disappointment! Even alternating books I found myself lengthening segments to postpone returning to Jason's world.

I say only that I now agree in differing degrees with all of the criticisms. Excluding the Crommelyncks, Dean Moran and Julia, I found most characters unsympathetic to cardboardish. Don't know the music so didn't get much from those references. The cringe-inducing family dinner was one of the best portrayals I've read of the Uncle Brian type. And, of course, Solarium...I'm making an effort to substitute "go to the hell" for some of my own less pleasant expletives!

The puzzle is why I've so reversed my opinion. I started the re-read before reading this month's comments to forestall being influenced by folks' insightful (as always*) comments. Seems I have to upgrade my Oxford Eng. Dictionary because it had very few of the slang words.

I started Mitchell's Cloud Atlas a couple days after abandoning Black Swan Green and while there is very little slang, his vocabulary is incredible—makes me wonder if he writes w/a Thesaurus to hand. Hesitate to opine prematurely again, but it is totally different than Black Swan Green; in fact so different from anything I've ever read that I keep wondering what David Mitchell would be like as a dinner companion.
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*I always scan the nominated books and monthly comments and want to thank you all for your in depth, articulate comments.
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