The Long and Winding Post

Jeez, we just had the Weekend from Hell. Or, at least maybe the Weekend from Heck. Because some cool stuff somehow managed to happen alongside all the crap. Really terrible weather, severe lack of sleep due to a child who refused to stay in bed later than 5 a.m., severe-but-thankfully-temporary illness for the wife, and I lost out on a job opportunity that I would've been perfect for, that I would've been really good at, and that would've contributed greatly to the well-being of my family. But at the same time, we got to take Liam trick-or-treating at his Grandma's office, we got to introduce him to the wonders that are "The Muppet Movie" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," and we got to eat several good meals (and a pumpkin basket full of candy... hey, the kid's too young for that stuff; we were doing him a favor!).

So I'm not sure if the good and bad evened out or anything - the good stuff was fine and all, but the bad seemed particularly Not Good at the time, especially the sickness and the job thing - but there you go. Maybe not the Weekend from Hell or Heck. Probably just "Life As It Manages To Happen." But it happened to us, so therefore it seems larger and more important than that. So there.

I did manage to rediscover my "Go To Book" over the weekend, though. A Go To Book is a book that you might not consider to be your very favorite book ever for whatever reason (though it could be), but you can still pick it up to re-read on a fairly regular basis and enjoy it each time. For example, if you were to ask me what my very favorite book ever was, I'd either say Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, My Antonia by Willa Cather, or D'Aullaire's Book of Greek Mythology, depending on my mood at the particular time I was asked. Never let it be said I don't have wildly varying tastes. But my Go To Book is always The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which I have just started reading for what might be the 6th time.

If you've never read it, it's a coming of age novel about a 15 year old named Charlie and his experiences during the first year of high school in 1991. It's an epistolary novel, which is a high-fallutin' way of saying that the story is told via a series of letters, sort of like Dear Mr. Henshaw, but with references to masturbation and songs by the Smiths. Charlie describes the events of his life in rather intimate detail to an anonymous friend - anonymous to the reader, and possibly even somewhat anonymous to Charlie himself, as the letters are only ever addressed as "Dear friend." Charlie is gifted but awkward, overly sensitive, perplexed by some of the simpler aspects of daily life, and has a tendency to observe life rather than actually participate in it. It's never explicitly stated, but he may have some sort of mild autism, maybe Asperger's Syndrome or something. And there are a number of hints he may have some deeper form of mental and/or trauma-induced illness, too.

Anyway, it's incredibly well written, in a voice that definitely reads as very real to me, as opposed to the sort of usual fake "teenage" voice a lot of people who write this stuff tend to use. And there are portions of this book I definitely relate to... I've never had the problems Charlie seems to have, but the painfully shy, bookish kid who tends to watch life go by rather than actually take part? Yeah, that was me in 1991 (it's me in 2006, some days). Maybe that's what makes me feel such a strong connection with this book: the main character who, in some ways (though thankfully not all), reminds me of myself at that age, as well as the fact that I was that exact age the year the book takes place. The songs and events mentioned, the sorts of people encountered... this could have been my life. Sort of.

In any event, it certainly reads more real to me than that
other famous coming of age novel, the Elephant in the Room of coming of age novels, The Catcher in the Rye. Which, honestly? I didn't like it. Maybe it was all the hype. Maybe it was the fact that I read it at 23 instead of 13. But Catcher didn't set my world on fire the way it seemed to for practically everyone else ever. Remember Holden Caulfield's assertion that no matter where you go in life, someone got there before you and wrote "Fuck You" on all the walls? That was The Catcher in the Rye for me.

I'm digressing hugely here. But my point here - and I do have one - is that for me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the coming of age novel that speaks to my experience, to my point of view. And though I may not consider it my very favorite novel ever, I find that I have to come back to it every year or two. Definitely Go To Book material.

Maybe it wouldn't be the same experience for you. A lot of people find it to be unbearably emo, and I can totally see that, but when you're 15 and trying to make some sort of sense of both the world and your place in it, everything is an extreme. Anything that happens is either best thing ever or the worse. When you're 15,
life is emo. And a lot of days, I still feel 15.

Some links...

Wanna read something legitimately scary for Halloween?

Ten Quick Questions with Evan Dorkin.

The Ten Goofiest Plot Points for the first ten issues of The Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man.

New Juliana Hatfield live album due November 21st. I think that calls for a "woot." Woot!

Mike Wieringo's October 30th sketchblog entry (you may have to scroll down, if you're reading this after Monday). Daredevil. A gorilla. Two great tastes that go great together. Bless you, Mike. You're doing the Lord's work.

If there had been a contest for who had the best Beefcake/Cheesecake Appreciation Week post, Bully would've won hands down.

Hey, I remember this cartoon - Samson and Goliath! They used to show reruns in the early days of the USA Cartoon Express. Weird even by Hanna-Barbera superhero standards. I could never understand why a dog would transform into a lion, or why a cartoon that had nothing to do with religion would take its name from two different Bible characters (unlike Davey and Goliath, which made perfect sense in terms of nomenclature, but made no sense at all for any number of other reasons).

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