Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fiction Tuesday - That's not a Feeling

Honestly, Dan Josefson takes you on a wild ride with this book. It just goes to show how crazy people take care of crazy kids. It is quite an interesting tale. Except, sometimes, it was confusing to know who was exactly telling the story. Yet, I get the idea why the author did this. And naturally, you do feel bad for Benjamin who has been dropped off at this camp. There are time you think he must be in hell, but somehow makes the best of it.

It breaks my heart. It absolutely does, the trouble you all have. You simply can’t seem to come to terms with life’s ordinary happiness. Or even for that matter with life’s ordinary unhappiness. No, you all seem to be after a rather extraordinary unhappiness. It’s heroic really, if something pointless and infantile can be called heroic. But most things called heroic are pointless and infantile.
That’s Not a Feeling, Dan Josefson
Some how I picture Benjamin smarter and cooler than he even knows (Leo Howard)

Book Description: Benjamin arrives with his parents for a tour of Roaring Orchards, a therapeutic boarding school tucked away in upstate New York. Suddenly, his parents are gone and Benjamin learns that he is there to stay. Sixteen years old, a two-time failed suicide, Benjamin must navigate his way through a new world of morning meds, popped privileges, candor meetings and cartoon brunches--all run by adults who themselves have yet to really come of age.

The only person who comprehends the school's many rules and rituals is Aubrey, the founder and headmaster. Fragile, brilliant, and prone to rage, he is as likely to use his authority to reward students as to punish them. But when Aubrey falls ill, life at the school begins to unravel. Benjamin has no one to rely on but the other students, especially Tidbit, an intriguing but untrustworthy girl with a "self-afflicting personality." More and more, Benjamin thinks about running away from Roaring Orchards--but he feels an equal need to know just what it is he would be leaving behind.

I love this book more than I have loved any book in over two years. 
I spent countless nights staying up too late, turning page after page, laughing and saying, “Just one more chapter”. I want to yell and quote and evangelize its finer points from the rooftops. -workofgenius

The Roaring Orchards School for Troubled Teens in upstate New York is a troubled institution. Its founder and headmaster, Aubrey, resembles a cult leader, and while he insists that teens need structure and limits, interpreting his rules isn’t easy; the struggle to win privileges often pits the students against one another. Anchored by the slowly growing friendship between students Benjamin and Tidbit (aka Sarah), the story is told by Benjamin, in recollection, informed by what he says others told him, so it becomes both a first-person narrative and an ensemble piece (there are many scenes in which Benjamin is not present). This is not your usual coming-of-age tale. Aubrey’s arcane, arbitrary form of therapy (the book’s title comes from his list of seven approved feelings) and its attendant vocabulary evoke George Saunders’ eye for the absurdity of bureaucracy and his ear for jargon, too. There are also strong echoes of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But despite the dark humor, Josefson humanizes his characters beautifully. Their longing to connect, and their confusion at where they find themselves—students and faculty alike—is urgently palpable. The prose is matter-of-fact, even placid, and studded with perfectly phrased gems, a cool surface to a work that is rich in feeling. A wonderful and noteworthy debut. --Keir Graff  

Not only does Josefson's novel work on a psychological level, it works on a literary level. Our narrator, Benjamin, is the ultimate unreliable narrator. His story is ostensibly a first person narrative, but it shifts frequently to a third person omniscient point of view, including many events, conversations and even thoughts, feelings and dreams, which Benjamin could not possibly know. He tells us early on that everything came from what he later learned or was told, but it seems improbable, at best, that head master Aubrey would have told him his dreams, for instance.-Dienne

Chad says: “Dan Josefson’s debut (!!) novel is subtle, hilarious, heart-wrenching, cute, dark, and intelligent.  Let me try again: That’s Not a Feeling is like Ben Stiller and Co. in the film Heavyweights…if that film took place in a coed school for “troubled teens”…and had been directed by Wes Anderson…and was a novel, not a movie.”-wordbrooklyn



Cafe Fashionista said...

This looks like such a fun addition to the fiction world! :)

Sara Gerard said...

Another book to keep an eye out for.

MOSAMUSE said...

love the first quote u pulled from the book! its so true