Monday, August 2, 2010

School Chums

Sheesh, I know, it's been forever. I haven't had much to comment on or the time in which to do so. However, this week I read two very different books worth sharing.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoga
, by Tom Angleberger: This light-hearted "mystery" is recorded as a set of case files (with doodles) by multiple sixth graders regarding Dwight, the weirdest kid they know, and his origami Yoda, who is surprisingly adept at giving advice and/or predicting the future. I thought it perfectly captured the sensation of being a sixth grader--still innocent and imaginative as children, yet aware and befuddled by society and the opposite sex. Many of the kids are funny, but Dwight is one in a million. Ickie and I both read it in a day and laughed a great deal. The chapter about the Cheeto Hog completely slayed me.

A Clock without Hands, by Guy Burt: Jackamo insisted that I read this so that we could discuss our opinions about it, and it merits more detail than I'll go into here. Alex, an artist in his 50s, narrates episodes in his life out of chronological order. His flashbacks and his artwork help him to make sense of his poignant relationships with his two close childhood friends, Jamie and Anna. The story shifts among critical events from childhood summers together in Italy, teen years at a boarding school in England, and a reunion as young adults in Italy. You see the plot twists coming far in advance, so the tension really stems from the emotional heft of the relationships and Alex's mental struggle to piece things together in a significant way. Alex's naivete comes across never as annoying ignorance; his mental process is redolent of his childhood learning disability and of his role as a tormented artist, though I believe it is most influenced by his innocent, childlike, and unconditional love for Anna (who I don't like) and Jamie (who I really feel for). It's a unique and moving story that demonstrates how complicated relationships and unhappy endings can be stunningly beautiful.


Jackamo said...

Oh THANK YOU for liking A Clock Without Hands. It was so moving and utterly beautiful to me. It was tragic in all the right ways. I needed you to love it. I couldn't tolerate Anna, and Jamie broke my heart in a million ways. I lay awake thinking about this book for several hours when I finished it. So glad you read it.

Felix said...

Sounds good.

Also puts me immediately in mind of Sebastian Faulks' A fool's alphabet.