Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade by Kevin Brockmeier

Do you ever accidentally end up reading just the right book at just the right time? Isn't that a wonderful moment, even if the right time isn't a happy one?

I had put this book on my library reserve list because I want to get further along with my 50 states reading challenge, and it was short and a memoir, so I figured I could knock it out in no time. I've never read any of Mr. Brockmeier's fiction, although I might now. I didn't have huge expectations, just wanted to read a book set in Arkansas.

This is a memoir of one year of childhood, much like I Will Not Leave You Comfortless: A Memoir by Jeremy Jackson, with Kevin focusing on seventh grade when he was twelve. Seventh grade is hard for a lot of us, and more so for Kevin. Mr. Brockmeier gives us glimpses of his life as an adult, showing that is continued to be hard for him to fit in and have successful relationships. But in seventh grade, the worst thing happened. His long-time best friend, Thad, suddenly because not just not his friend any more, but an enemy. Someone who know he weak spots, his foibles, and his eccentricities like no one else, and knew how to break him. It was a very tough year for Kevin. As it would be for most of us. (This happened to me too, although not the part where my friend turned on me. And many nights of crying on the phone did manage to turn the situation around.) And Kevin gets through it. Occasionally with flying colors, such as when the school performed a play he'd written, a mystery about their kidnapped English teacher. Other times it was tough, and that same English teacher ended up calling the principal to talk with Kevin about the treatment from the abovementioned former best friend and other boys. But, again, he got through it, and while it wasn't fun, he learned a lot and made new friends.

I was having an especially bad day when I finished this book, and reading about Kevin's bad year made me feel better. It made me remember my bad year and how I got through it, with the usual analogy that I would get through this. No matter what goes wrong, at least I'm not in seventh grade anymore. It would be awesome to still be at an age and time where drinking Capri Sun and playing Pitfall on Atari made for the very best afternoon with friends. But the trade-offs aren't worth it. I'm glad I made it through, I'm glad Kevin made it through, and no amount of Pop Rocks or Saturday morning cartoons would ever make it a reasonable idea to want to be twelve years old again.

One odd thing: the book was written in third person. I'm guessing it's a combination of not wanting to immerse himself in that mindset again (although you do totally feel like you're in Kevin's mind, and that you understand how he thinks), and of just not being able, from a distance, to be able to imagine yourself into a scrawny 90 lb. body anymore. It was an unusual choice, I wasn't thrilled with it, but I quickly forgot about it. After the first ten pages, it didn't bother me at all. Mr. Brockmeier has some perfect turns of phrase that really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in eerie recognition of exactly what he meant or felt. I adored this book. I hope he'll write more memoirs.

I checked this book out of the library.

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