|Youth and Other Fiction|
by Jonathan M. Cook
by Jonathan M. Cook
This was a very difficult story to read. Difficult because so disturbing. And I'm no stranger to disturbing nor even shy of courting it. I've talked at length before of my fondness for Stephen King and how it once caused me to defy the edict of a Christian pastor from whom I was receiving free consultation regarding a severe depression in my mid twenties. When he demanded that I forswear any further contact with Stephen King stories and in fact insisted that his continuing to work with me depended on my willingness to run past him all of my encounters with media from books and magazines to movies and music and agree to stay clear of anything he did not approve, I did not return for another visit nor to another service at his church.
I believe instincts I was unable to articulate at the time were at work in that decision and a few months later I was enrolled in college and reading more challenging stories than Stephen Kings' and infinitely more disturbing--Tolstoy, Kafka, Poe, Dostoevsky, Camus, Mann, Goethe, Shakespeare... And it was during those 2.5 years that I began to be able to articulate that instinct that protected me from turning my mind over to the men in white coats with straight-jackets and a cell with walls padded with cotton balls.
What I could not articulate then has evolved into the meaning behind the subtitle of this blog: Story is my joy. I believe that story is how we encounter the world, each other and our selves. I believe that story is how we discover meaning in our lives and that it is through story that we explore the questions most relevant to making our lives about more than the biological requirements for staying physically alive. And though I respect all types of stories and the roles they play I believe that stories that disturb have a special role to play in showing us our true selves, holding a mirror up to our soul and making us look at the shadow we wish to deny. I believe it is necessary to look straight at and acknowledge that shadow before we can integrate it and live our lives with integrity.
That is all by way of preamble for my strong recommendation for reading John Cook's Youth and Other Fictions. It is hard to talk about this story meaningfully without giving away too much that needs to be left to unfold in the proper order. This is the kind of story that would lend itself well to being dissected in a college lit class. I'm sure Mr. Cook was striving for literary and in my estimation has hit that mark.
I will do my best to provide a synopsis that doesn't give too much away while still providing an answer to the question what is this story about and why should I care?
Youth and Other Fictions is divided into two parts approximately in half. The first part is confined to the point of view of high school senior Greg in the late 90s who is bullied and alienated from his peers and we are privy to his innermost thoughts as they become more and more disjointed and we are forced to watch helplessly as he encounters his own shadow but instead of integrating it is possessed by it and sets out to exact revenge on his tormentors--the students, the school, the town and life itself. He enacts a Columbine type shooting at the school leaving many dead and wounded before shooting himself in the head in the presence of the one boy he considered a friend, his last words a demand that Jason carry on and complete his mission.
The second part of the story is Jason's and begins ten years later as he returns to the same high school as a temp English teacher in the months before the tenth anniversary of the tragedy. He finds the town of Freedom has both staked its identity on that tragic event--welcoming the media interest, allowing the story to be told to the nation and world from many angles and in many formats even serving as extras in a made for TV film--while at the same time repressing the story among themselves, refusing to look at any shadow but the shadow that was Greg and acting as if Greg's actions had arisen in a vacuum and thus no cause that had originated outside of Greg's mind had played any role. Because of this refusal to look at the truth there can be no integrating and thus no integrity. Hypocrisy, arrogance, and ennui abound from boardrooms to class rooms. The shadows are festering and brewing another tragedy.
I'm authorized to giveaway one ebook copy and since it is ebook that means this is open internationally. The ebook is available in several of the most popular formats.
This drawing will be open until Dec 31 2001 As usual I will be using random.org to choose a winner.
Enter by leaving a comment expressing interest on this post. Extra entries can be had by:
Following Joystory on Twitter if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
Like Joystory's page on Facebook if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
Tweeting once per day (leave the tweet's url in a comment here)
Add Joystory feed to your reader. if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
Following Joystory on Networked Blogs if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
Google +1 this post
For each one you do leave a comment here with the identifying url and/or your username. Remember leave a separate comment for each task as the individual comments will be the entries that I assign numbers to in the order they are made.
Tour Host: Date of review: (GP)Guest Post, (I)Interview, or (G)Giveaway?
Butterfly-o-meter Books Dec.1 GP & G Dec. 2 (G will be separate post that week)
Frugal Experiments Dec. 2 G Dec.2
Mother of Insanity Dec. 5 I & G Dec. 6
Carabosse's Library Dec. 7 G Dec. 7
A Casual Reader's Blog Dec. 8 GP & G Dec. 9
From the TBR Pile Dec. 9 G Dec. 9
Book Zone Dec. 12 I Dec. 12
Reviews by Molly Dec. 13 I Dec. 13
Telly Says Dec. 13 G
Joy Story Dec. 14 G Dec. 14
The Phantom Paragrapher Dec. 15 GP& G Dec. 16
Sugarpeach Dec 16 None
Hopelessly Devoted Bibiophile Dec. 19 GP Dec. 20