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Read Boy's Life (1992)

Boy's Life (1992)

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4.31 of 5 Votes: 4
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0671743058 (ISBN13: 9780671743055)
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Boy's Life (1992) - Plot & Excerpts

this is going to be a bit long and rambling, because I really, really liked the book and had a lot to chew on before putting my thougths on paper:My third book by Robert McCammon took me a little by surprise by the change in style, but in a good way. I liked The Wolf's Hour for its Indiana Jones type of campy adventure and Swan Song for its disturbing depiction of the aftermath of a nuclear war. But Boy's Life is where I became a true fanboy, where he has shown what he can really do with a story when he puts his heart in it. Because Boy's Life has that feel of honesty and emotional intensity of direct involvement on the part of the writer. Cory Mackenson may be a fictional character, but I think know (from an introductory letter to a later edition than mine) that McCammon invested a lot of his personal memories about growing up in a small Alabama town into this novel. I was hooked right from the first lines of his hymn to youth and innocence.The novel starts in a whimsical, melancholic tone in the portrait of an idyllic little town in Alabama, 1964. Being a Robert McCammon novel, the horror elements will not be long in making an appearance – a car crashing into a nearby lake points to the presence of malefic forces in this sleepy town.The age of the protagonists (12) is important for the plot developments – it is the cusp between childhood and adolescence, between the carefree days of fairytales and reckless adventuring and the first direct contact with the adult world, with responsibility and with danger. In this, I was strongly reminded of the movie Stand by Me , with four friends going on a camping trip, coping with bullies, later realizing that Death is a part of life. To push the analogy even further – the narrator is a wannabe writer and a talented storyteller. The structure of the novel is a string of almost independent sketches about growing up in a small town in the 60’s held together by the investigation into the mysterious death from the opening chapter. McCammon did a fantastic job in bringing back to life the period, not only the simple pleasures of young friendship and warm hearted local people, but the darkness coming out of the woodwork: the racial segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, the local crime lords, the arrival of consumerism in the form of the first supermarket store, the intolerant pastors promising damnation to the listeners of the latest Beach Boys hit: This is the way the world spins: people want to believe the best, but they're always ready to fear the worst. I imagine you could take the most innocent song ever written and hear the devil speaking in it, if that's what your mind told you to listen for. Songs that say something about the world and about the people in it – people who are fraught with sins and complications just like the best of us – can be especially cursed, because to some folks truth is a hurtful thing. Cory Mackenson at the start of the book still lives in the magic realm of comic books, swashbuckling heroes, horror movie icons and dogs with flying wings. I subscribe here to McCammon theory that this is the best part of childhood, to be preserved and cherished in our later lives: See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they'd allowed to wither in themselves. At 12 years old, Cory is more interested in his dog and in his magic bicycle than in girls, but there are two memorable characters that give a glimpse into the man this boy will grow up to be : Chile Willow is a teenage mom living in a trailer park, a vision of incredible beauty tempered by sadness and hardship; The Monster is a gross redhead in Cory’s class who torments him with her nasal effluents, and likes to bring dead squirrel heads for Show And Tell at school. Beyond the humor of Cory’s first contact with the feminine mystery ( God has sense of humor that gets my goat sometimes ) there is his latent kindness and empathy that promise he will turn into a model Southern Gentleman where ladies are concerned.Cory is also a writer, a spinner of tall tales holding his friends – and later the whole town – spellbound with the magic that comes out of a typewriter and a blank piece of paper. He may be a tad unreliable, he may have arranged some events of this memoir too artistically around the message he tries to convey, but he sure knows how to keep me turning the page to find out what comes next. In a fantastic scene of reading a short story in public, the wall of separation between the author and his hero is as good as gone: This was to be my first experience with it, and like any first experience, the feeling stays with you forever. What this was exactly I can't say, but it drove into my soul and made a home there. Everyone was watching me; everyone was listening to me. The words coming out of my mouth – the words I'd conceived and given birth to – were making time null and void; they were bringing together a roomful of people into a journey of common sights, sounds and thoughts; they were leaving me and traveling into the minds and memories of people who had never been at Saxon's Lake that chill, early morning in March. I could tell when I looked at them that those people were following me. And the greatest thing – the very greatest thing – is that they wanted to go where I led them.All this, of course, I reasoned out much later. What struck me at the moment, beside getting to the end, was how quiet and still everybody had become. I had found the key to a time machine. I had discovered the current of power I'd never dreamed I possessed. I had found a magic box, and it was called a typewriter. In several places of Cory’s memoirs we can find the credo of McCammon as an author: Don't think of it as writing. Just think of it as telling your friends a story. Writer? Author? Storyteller, that's what I decided to be. And a bit more subtle, about his preference for the horror genre: In seven mystic words: he scared the crap out of me. There’s a second writer in the story, Vernon Thaxter, a man broken by the big city and the cruel outside world, who gives us a glimpse about how the publishing world works and how to open the eyes of a naïve country boy with a fresh manuscript in his hands: They said this is a business, like any other. We have charts and graphs, and we have numbers on the wall. We know that this year people want murder mysteries, and your town would make a wonderful setting for one. Murder mysteries, they said. Thrill people. We're having to compete with television now, they said. It's not like it used to be, when people had time to read. People want murder mysteries, and we have charts and graphs to prove it. They said if the boy would fit a murder mystery into the book – and it wouldn't be too difficult, they said, It wouldn't be too hard at all to do – they would publish it with the boy's name right there on the cover. But they said they didn't like the title Moon town. No, that wouldn't do. Can you write hard-boiled? They asked. They said they needed a hard-boiled writer this year. How is this relevant? I think this passage shows what McCammon had to put up with in his early days, and how he did what needed to be done in order to make a name for himself and earn enough money to be able to write the book he really wanted to do. And I suspect that book is Boy’s Life The theme of how the outside world is colder and merciless and nothing at all like the little town of Zephyr, is highlighted in one of my favorite passages from the novel – a night trip on an outbound train in the company of some real scary strangers. I hope this passage is an intentional tribute to the work of Ray Bradbury, this is how it resonated for me, even before the sad news of this beloved author demise.One of the hardest lessons Cory has to learn in this adventurous 1964 year is about death and betrayal on the part of adults. I’m not going to put in spoilers, but he will be forced to make grown-up decisions and to learn how to let go. He will also learn to look inside himself for answers, instead of accepting the easy way out of blind faith handed down from a pulpit: All life isn't hearts and flowers. I wish it was, God knows I do. But life is just as much pain and mess as it is joy and order. Probably more mess than order, too. I guess when you make yourself realize that, you start growin' up. And again: I couldn't picture heaven. How could a place be any good at all if it didn't have the things there you enjoyed doing? If there were no comic books, no monster movies, no bikes, and no country roads to ride them on? No swimming pools, no ice cream, no summer, or barbecue on the Fourth of July? No thunderstorms, and front porches on which to sit and watch them coming? Heaven sounded to me like a library that only held books about one certain subject, yet you had to spend eternity and eternity and eternity reading them. What was heaven without typewriter paper and a magic box? Or: But what if there's nothing to have faith in, Davy Ray? What if faith is just like talkin' on a telephone when there's nobody at the other end, but you don't know nobody's there until you ask 'em a question and they don't answer? Wouldn't it make you go kind of crazy, to think you spent all that time jawin' to thin air? I don’t want to end my review on this downbeat note. McCammon himself chooses to write a closing chapter about how you cannot go back to the magic of childhood, but you carry it with you in the outside world and are richer from the experience. This closing chapter is very similar for me to the final scenes in Nuovo Cinema Paradiso by Tornatore, and his message - don’t be sad it is over, be happy it happened.

This is a Magical story of a boy Cory, he narrates to us about his life in the year 1964 in a small town of Zephyr Alabama where anything and everything happens. His experiences and friendships want to make you tearful and joyful he is on a journey of self discovery and of mysteries that haunt his father and the lake. A highly recommended read one to make my list of must reads, Robert McCammon is a underrated writer a master craftsman storyteller. 'Because Death cannot be known. It cannot be befriended. If death were a boy, he would be a lonely figure, standing at the playground's edge while the air rippled with other children's laughter. If death were a boy, he would walk alone. He would speak in a whisper and his eyes would be haunted by knowledge no human can bear. This is what tore at me in the quiet hours: We came from darkness, and to darkness we must return.'In a re-read,(May 2012) this time round I felt i discovered more in this wonderful Story. The dead, The Lake, the Dog, the bicycle and the girl in the water are maybe parts that I remember well and loved to revisit. There was also many things that I had forgotten and reliving it made it a joyful experience. It never tires to read those wonderful sentences that he puts together in this story.When an author writes a story of youth and coming of age they sometimes included their own experiences.In this novel we do see in parts a little peak into the writer Robert McCammon, for instance Golden apples of the Sun by Ray Brabury is mentioned in here as one of Cory's cherished reads and Robert McCammon has mentioned it as a book that he holds dear and recommends. There are other things I have picked up on and they add to just how much a respected and talented writer he is.This story hold a high place in my shelf in line withTo kill a mockingbird, The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, Something wicked this way comes by Ray Bradbury and Stand by Me by Stephen King.As Robert McCammon says in the final pages of this novel, in the acknowledgments, I too bid you farewell in his words...Your lake will always be deeper and sweeter than mine, your jar hold greater mysteries, your rockets travel truer to the heart.These excerpts below are ones that I felt echoed a thousand heart felt feelings. "In later years I would think that no woman's lips had ever been as red as that bike. No low-slung foreign sports car with wire wheels and purring engine would ever look as powerful or as capable as that bike. No chrome would ever gleam with such purity, like the silver moon on a summers night. I had a big round headlight and a horn with a rubber bulb, and its frame looked as strong and solid as the biceps of Hercules. But it looked fast, too; it's handlebars sloped forward like an invitation to taste the wind, it's black rubber pedals unscarred by any foot before mine. Dad ran his fingers along the headlight, and then picked the bike up with one hand."Boy, it hardly weighs anything!" he marvelled."Lightest metal I've ever felt!" He put it down again, and it settled on its kickstand like an obedient but barely tamed animal."(Boys toys)"I looked out, across my hometown. I looked at the green hills and the blue sky, and the distant roofs of Burton. Beside me, Rebel whimpered in a dogs dreams. I never knew what hate really was until I thought of somebody wrapping up a bomb and putting it in a church on a Sunday morning to kill little girls.""This was early summer in Zephyr: an awakening to hazy morning heat, the sun gradually burning the haze off and the air getting so humid your shirt stuck to your skin by the time you'd walked to the mailbox and back. At noon the world seemed to pause on its axis, and not a bird dared to wing through the steaming blue. As afternoon rambled on, a few clouds rimmed with rule might build up from the northwest. You could sit on the porch, a glass of lemonade at your side and the radio tuned to a baseball game, and watch the clouds slowly roll toward you. After a while you might hear a distant thunder, and a zigzag of lighting would make the radio crackle. It might shower for thirty minutes or so, but most times the clouds just marched past with a rumble and grunt and not a drop of rain. As evening cooled the earth, the cicadas droned in their hundreds from the woods and lighting bugs rose from the grass. They got up in the trees and blinked, and they lit up the branches like Christmas decorations here on the edge of July. The stars came out, and some phase of the moon. If I played my cards right, I could talk my folks into letting me stay up late, like until eleven or so, and I would sit in front yard watching the lights of Zephyr go out. When enough lights were extinguished, the stars became much brighter. You could look up into the heart of the universe, and see the swirls of glowing stars. A soft breeze blew, bringing with it the sweet perfume of earth, and the trees rustled quietly in its passage. It was very hard, at times like this, not to think that the world was as well-ordered and precise as the Cartwright ranch on "Bonanza," or that in every house lived a "My Three Sons" family. I wished it were so, but I had seen pictures of a spreading dark, a burning man, and a bomb-wrecked church, and I was beginning to know the truth."(Wish i/you was here?)"I had seen her naked. In all my life I had seen no female naked but my mother. I had been in the presence of Chile Willow only a short time, but what is time when a heart speaks? My heart was speaking to Chile Willow in that moment, as she bathed my cuts and gave me a smile. My heart was saying if you were my girlfriend I would give you a hundred lighting bugs in a green glass jar, so you could always see your way. I would give you a meadow full of wildflowers, where no two blooms would ever be alike. I would give you mu bicycle, with it's golden eye to protect you. I would write a story for you, and make you a princes who lived in a white marble castle. If you would only like me, I would give you magic. If you would only like me. If you would only-"(Love)"This was to be my first experiment with it, and like any first experience, the feeling stays with you forever. What this was exactly I can't say, but it drove into my soul and made a home there. Everyone was watching me; everyone was listening to me. The words coming out of my mouth-the words I'd conceived and give birth to- were making time null and void; they were bringing together a roomful of people into a journey of common sights, sounds, and thoughts; they were leaving me and travelling into the minds and memories of people who had never been at Saxons Lake that chill, early morning in March. I could tell when I looked at them that those people were following me. And the greatest thing- the very greatest thing-is that they wanted to go where I led them."(The joy of writing)"I sat beside him as the chill wind moved around us. Rebel made little whining noises deep in his throat. He let me pat him, but he was somewhere else. I remembered him as a puppy, full of boundless energy, enthralled by a yellow ball with a little bell in it. I remember the times we had raced each other, and like a true Southern gentleman he had always let me win. I remembered when he flew, over the hills of summer. Even if that had only been in my imagination, it was truer than true. I cried some.More than some."Visit my webpage to read the interview during March 2012 >>>>

What do You think about Boy's Life (1992)?

Ordered a copy through PBSwap because I was tired having no luck finding it on any of my adventures. This was my first McCammon book, but it totally won't be my last one. I'd heard a ton of good things about this book, so I was excited to get around to the buddy read of it over in the Bookworm Buddies group. I'm a bit of a sucker for these coming of age in the '50s-'60s type stories for some reason. I was born in '85, so too late to experience it for myself, but there's something about that 'golden era' that calls to me. How I long sometimes to have been a kid back then! I mean, sure I still had a bike, and rode the neighborhood and trekked through the woods and all that, but it just doesn't feel the same somehow. I like the magic in these type of stories. It makes me wish I was a kid again something fierce, even though I remember being a kid pretty much sucked usually, and I couldn't wait to grow up. I think I still am waiting to grow up, maybe that's why these kinds of stories are so intriguing.I was pulled into Cory's life from the start. It sort of meandered to a start until all of a sudden boom. The car coming out of the woods, Tom's dive into the lake, the revelation that the guy was dead, and not just dead but murdered! It went from a quaint Pleasantville sort of feel to wow, I can't wait to see what this is all about. I loved getting to know the town, the characters. McCammon did a great job with the characterization. I almost felt like I was reading a King book at times, and I mean that in the best sort of way. I was impressed. I liked the river monster, the events of the flood had me tearing through the pages. I laughed at the church mishaps, the wasps (though I hate the bastards, and wouldn't wish that on anyone), and then the monkey and his wild escape! Oh man, that scene there had me cracking up. I could picture it so well, it'd make a great movie scene. The mysterious Lady and Moon Man, the bully Branlin boys, the kid Nemo with the perfect arm, all added to the tale. The dangerous Blaylocks and the chase in the woods, and the shoot-out at the gas station... man that had me going. Running through it all though was the curiosity about the dead man in the lake. When the answers to that question came, it was worth the wait though I was a little sad too, because the person had been a character I rather liked. There were also parts where I got all teary-eyed. Sad things for sure. There were plenty of good things in here though, the pure enchantment of hearing an amazing song for the first time was one that made me grin. Cory's insta-love for Chile Willow was another, that first noticing of someone else in that way. The boys 'flying' to celebrate the freedom of the last day of school, I almost believed it :)I was hugely pleased with this story. I'm for sure going to hang onto it, give it another read one day. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of my enjoyment of McCammon's work. Swan Song and The Night Boat are already waiting for me on the TBR, hoping they prove good as well! I think this story is going to stick with me for awhile, I'll be imagining being a kid for at least a day or two I'm sure.

«We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires and comets inside us...»No es algo de todos los días encontrar un libro que exprese tan bien la dulzura de la niñez. No es común que una historia pueda hacerte sentir la vida como algo más de lo que se ve. Este relato es brillante. Una travesía por la infancia, la tristeza, la verdad, los sueños, la esperanza, el amor, la muerte y la amistad. McCammon nos sube a su bote y nos hace navegar por las letras de una historia infinita. El autor nos enseña que la magia existe, solo tenemos que recordar. No está mal creer que un verano pueda ser eterno; no está mal creer que un monstruo viva en el lago de tu pueblo; no está mal creer que una pelota pueda ser arrojada tan alto hacia el cielo que nunca caerá; no está mal creer que al final todo estará bien; no está mal creer que si lo intentás lo suficiente, te saldrán alas y alzarás el vuelo; no está mal creer que un bosque esconda más de lo que muestra. No está mal creer. Cory Mackenson es el protagonista de esta novela. Un chico de 12 años que le verá la cara al horror de la realidad. Que a su corta edad tendrá que enfrentarse a su padre siendo consumido por dentro por los tormentos de un cadáver, a la segregación racial entre dos comunidades, a una banda de criminales sin control y a los primeros esbozos de una vida que no siempre es justa. Boy's life no es perfecto, tiene sus errores. No nos deja un relato verosímil, que nos haga creer que lo que sucede es real y plausible. Porque Boy's life no está para eso. Está para hacernos creer en la magia.«The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us.»
—Franco Santos

If someone was to ask me, if I was only allowed to keep/read one book in my life; the answer would be, "Boy's Life" by: Robert R. McCammon. Having re-read this book now for a second time I was able to sit back and enjoy the moments I loved and forgot the first time. I saw similarities in the storytelling of stories such as, Big Fish, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the film Stand By Me. Even though the stories listed above were similar ones in Boy's Life; the book takes it to a whole new level. It's a story about an eleven year old boy named Cory and the beauty of childhood; narrated by Cory as an adult. The writing is so gorgeous it leaves you breathless at times, the characters are magnificent because of the fact that they are flawed but at the same time unique, the setting is an idyllic town where children can stay young forever in their hearts.This book will always hold a special place in my heart, the characters, the lyrical writing style, the adventures, the storyteller, and the seasons of Cory's life has changed mine forever. It's an amazing thing isn't it?Do me a favor and read this book and then pass it on. It's a story that needs to be read and read again; so that we are reminded of that time when we were once children. Curious dreamers who could fly.

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