The Boy In The Book – Tomááá Nussbaum

THITBMany of us pass by beggars feeling a little guilt. We tell ourselves that if we gave them some ‘spare change’ they’d only spend it on drink or drugs and be worse off than before. But we also suspect there is a backstory and that it could easily be us, however financially secure we presume ourselves to be. So how might we react to an unusual request? The ‘boy’ in this book wants to buy a book, not food.

Acting on rare impulse, millionaire, early-retired Rick not only takes the boy to a bookshop, he takes him home for a shower and does his laundry. Who would risk that? The boy might have a knife. Many readers will expect an ulterior motive: to use this boy as he has been used by so many others. So it’s refreshing that this isn’t so, that there is genuine altruism in the world. There is, however, a confused sexuality going on in this father/son relationship and confusion in the boy who is, on the surface, manipulative and opportunistic but is also, deep down, tragic, helpless and vulnerable.

A description of sex without love rings true to the experience of many – he was mentally somewhere else.

There is some bad editing (if any editing at all): Who is Ray? p. 62 – Rick?

The coincidences are a bit far-fetched despite the claim that ‘some things are meant to be’ or, in the pious, yucky term, ‘part of God’s plan.’ So is the sense of a ghost hovering over someone throughout the various twists and turns of the story. So is the overlong letter written by a father to his son.

There are hints of something almost supernatural early on – a note with address nearly blows away despite there being no breeze, pencil keeps rolling way, bill blows away, musky smell. Does an urn, containing cremated remains, rattle if someone shouts at it?

There is the occasional silly phrase, like comparing ‘déjà vu’ with ‘deja new’ or ‘the sound of blood rushing through their veins filled the room.’

The book abounds with bad similes: his posture collapsed as if hit by a wrecking ball; dinner plates came like spaceships, his complexion was like a clear Microsoft page.

There are also some loose ends – what was in the father’s will and how could he leave stuff to his son without it being in a will? The father wrote a letter, to be received by his son upon his death. But how did he know which address to send it to?

And why the obsession of some gay men with tank tops long after they have gone out of fashion?

The chief character is as dull as ditchwater. Like the author?

The father’s character is redeemed in one chapter. That’s not how people change their view of others.

Despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed this book. Others in our group didn’t, or enjoyed the first half but were annoyed when it suddenly became farcical. He ‘lost the plot half way through.’ In the second half, it is as if he wanted to bring lots of new characters in and experiment with different writing styles. ‘There’s some intriguing ideas but the man can’t write.’ One member of the group said he liked it ‘enough to get through’ rather than dump it. Another: ‘at least it went at a relaxed pace.’

To see another book by the same author, see here. 

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1 Comment »

  1. […] In October 2013, our group (apart from me hated the author’s ‘The Boy in the Book’ […]

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