Monday, January 14, 2008

One For Sorrow - Christopher Barzak

Biography : "Christopher was born and raised in rural Ohio, has lived in a southern California beach town, the capital of Michigan and the suburbs of Tokyo, Japan, where he taught English in rural junior high and elementary schools. His stories have appeared in many venues, including Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Trampoline, Interfictions, Nerve, Salon Fantastique and the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Currently he lives in Youngstown, Ohio, where he teaches writing at Youngstown State University. One for Sorrow is his first novel."

Bibliography :
Novel : One for Sorrow (2007)

Short stories :

* 1999 : A Mad Tea Party
* 2001 : Plenty; Caryatids
* 2002 : Born on the Edge of an Adjective; The Blus Egg; The Cure; Lips
* 2003 : Dead Boy Found; The Drowned Mermaid; Vanishing Point
* 2004 : The Trail of my Father's Blood; A Resurrection Artist; The Other Angelas
* 2005 : The language of Moths; The Boy who Was Born Wrapped in Barbed Wire
* 2006 : Dead Letters; Learning to Leave; The Creation Birds; The Guardian of the Egg
* 2007 : 23 Small Disasters; What We Know About the Lost Families of - House; Realer Than You; Little Miss Apocalypse; The Flood; Isis in Darkness
* Forthcoming : In Between Dreams; A Thousand Tails; Map of Seventeen

Poems : Abducted (1993); The Persistence of Memory (1996)

Christopher Barzak's blog :


Genre : Fiction - Young Adults

American publisher : Bantam Books : 12$ US, 16$ CAN

Synopsis : Adam McCormick, a 15-year-old kid, tells us how his life began to take a new turn after Jamie Marks's murder, a kid of his class who was the closest thing to a friend he had and his mom's accident that paralyzed her.
As his grandma would have said bad things always happen in three and God's finger was pointing at his family. Adam's family is like most of families with ther own problems. His mum and dad fights regularly, his brother smokes pot. And one day, his mom had a car accident and got paralyzed. But worst of all, she makes friends with her paralyzer who comes to live with them. But the same day as the accident, Jamis Marks's corpse is discovered by Gracie. And Adam becomes friends with his ghost and will take the wrong direction with him. Gracie will try to help him come back to life, but he will follow Jamie. Until one day he understands Jamis needs more than a friend, he needs to go where he has to, and he, Adam, needs to return among the living.

Passages I liked :

" I got comfortable in the closet and started reading the book I'd chosen, which was about this kid who goes to a prep school and is always getting into trouble and hating on the world, but he can afford to spend all kinds of money taking a trip into New York City, running away from his problems. It was interesting but I kept thinking, Why the hell is he complaining? It's not like it was hard for him to get where he was going. He didn't have to lie, steal or cheat someone out of money. He just left and no one missed him because it was a boarding school he attended and it's Christmas break, and his parents don't miss him because they're used to other people taking care of their kids. So this kid has his own money and can break cash out whenever, for trains and cabs or to get drunk or to rent a romm and get prostitutes to mess around with. Of course he's sorry after doing these things, but then he just goes and does something stupid again and really doesn't have to worry because he has enough money he can make a new life and forget about the one he's just fucked over. At the end, he's in therapy. Whatever."

" My real problem was I didn't have a good reaction time. I didn't know how to make myself look graceful when confused. I didn't know how to pretend like nothing was the matter or how to seem at ease even though everything we did seemed so scripted. People traded words that meant nothing for more words that meant nothing, and you had to do it if you wanted to be considered a member of the group. How are you doing? I'm fine, and you? Beautiful weather today, isn't it? Good morning, good afternoon, hello, see you again, be good, behave yourself, have fun! Take care! You all come back now, hear?
Click, squek, click-click.
It's hard to believe these words mean much of anything. They're just another part of the sham. People say this stuff automatically, and how can words mean anything if you don't think about saying them, if you don't feel them as you say them? And for some reason people think these are the most important words in the world. If you say them, you're normal. It's funny how people are so shocked when they find out their neighbor is a serial killer. With the standards of normality being whether you say good morning or comment on the weather, why are they so surprised? Maybe the shock is part of the act too. Maybe they just don't want to draw attention to their own weirdness. If it's someone else, it's not you."

" I'm just not sure anyone can describe what God is so easily. If I had my way, I'd take a bit of every religion and science and philosophy, because then maybe the picture of God would be more complete, like a mosaic. I think mostly people pick just one idea of God, but when they do that they end up looking at this one little speck of something that's really big and amazing. They look at that one speck in the mosaic and say, 'That's God', and don't see the rest of the picture around it. But then there are people like my mom and dad, who don't look at the picture at all, which is just as bad. thinking about that i figured it couldn't hurt to at least go and look at Tia's tile with her."

What I think :

One for Sorrow is a peculiar ghost story. It is a ghost story indeed, but it's mostly it's a story about the living. How a boy who no one pays any attention got lost between the world of the living and the world of the dead, because his only friend is a ghost. One is dead and wants to live, the other is alive but wants to die. They nedd each other to get back to their own world.

But it's also an initiatory journey for Adam who needs to find his place in the world he lives in. He makes me think a lot of Hoden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger). At first, I thought it was because of the quotation at the beginning of the book " That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write, "Fuck you", right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it'll say 'Holden Caulfield" on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it'll say "Fuck you". I'm positive, in fact." So I thought I had Holden on my mind, that's why I was comparing Adam to him, but then I realized, that they really were similar in some ways. They both represent the malaise of teenagers, who're looking for themselves, and want to live their own lives and not the one their parents or teachers or society choose for them. I was afraid at first that Adam would not find his way back to his life, the one he can make all by himself, but in the end, I was relieved.

It's a great first novel...

Note : I found Christopher Barzak's e-mail address, and decided to write to him just to say thank you, without waiting for an answer. And this morning I was really glad to see that he actually answered me. The Internet is wonderful for this kind of things, it really makes people more approachable.

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