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Wordsmith
maude40
Posts: 357
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Friendships

I loved the section on page 42 about Marcus. "Marcus was a key player in that he reassured us that there was someone more unfortunate than ourselves." His three "mutant powers", showed his friends that they were okay. Yvonne
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Waiting for something to "happen"

I've had thoughts along the same line as you, Darbys Closet.

 

I was frustrated with “A Fortunate Age” because it was written as “literary fiction” … lots of theme and character development but no plot. 

 

I’m halfway through“Sag Harbor”, and I’m enjoying Mr. Whitehead’s fresh and irreverent tone. It’s especially intriguing when he deals with serious themes of racism and teenage self-identity with an apparent light touch. The story is rich with characters and I’ve enjoyed meeting Ben and company. I keep turning the pages hoping for something to “happen”. I’ve been introduced to the actors, they’re all on stage… and I’m waiting….

 

I’ve read two earlier works by Mr. Whitehead, “The Intuitionist” and “Apex Hides the Hurt”… both novels had well-developed characters. Both stories were strongly plot-driven, and reading them gripped me.

 

I had hoped to be similarly gripped with “Sag Harbor.” Still reading…

 


Darbys_Closet wrote:

I like the summer friendships for they are just that "summer friends" and their relationships are defined by the current summer along with the ones they have shared previously.  To an extent it reminds me of the summers my family used to go to the beach and we'd run into families we had met there previously, yet my parents were always around and so was my kid brother.

 

A note to others in this book club that were also in the previous one, if we thought AFA was disjointed, this one to me seems even more so.  For I feel as thou I could end one chapter and then skip ahead several chapters, start reading and still not really grasp where this book is going.  In AFA, the chapters were like a brief visit to each characters diary the chapters in this book feels like an on-going paragraph you'd find on the back of the books cover.  You know the one that tells you to read the book to figure out what the book is about.

 

Thoughts?


 

 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Correspondent
bookloverjb85
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎10-12-2007
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Re: Friendships


Darbys_Closet wrote:

I like the summer friendships for they are just that "summer friends" and their relationships are defined by the current summer along with the ones they have shared previously.  To an extent it reminds me of the summers my family used to go to the beach and we'd run into families we had met there previously, yet my parents were always around and so was my kid brother.

 

A note to others in this book club that were also in the previous one, if we thought AFA was disjointed, this one to me seems even more so.  For I feel as thou I could end one chapter and then skip ahead several chapters, start reading and still not really grasp where this book is going.  In AFA, the chapters were like a brief visit to each characters diary the chapters in this book feels like an on-going paragraph you'd find on the back of the books cover.  You know the one that tells you to read the book to figure out what the book is about.

 

Thoughts?


Darbys_Closet,

I would have to disagree.  I read AFA and I definitely thought that was disjointed, but I feel that I can follow along with this story better.

I have seen that a lot of people feel the same way as you though, stating that it is hard to get into the characters and wondering when the story is going to start.

--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
Distinguished Scribe
blkeyesuzi
Posts: 730
Registered: ‎01-26-2008

Re: Waiting for something to "happen"


IBIS wrote:

I've had thoughts along the same line as you, Darbys Closet.

 

I was frustrated with “A Fortunate Age” because it was written as “literary fiction” … lots of theme and character development but no plot. 

 

I’m halfway through“Sag Harbor”, and I’m enjoying Mr. Whitehead’s fresh and irreverent tone. It’s especially intriguing when he deals with serious themes of racism and teenage self-identity with an apparent light touch. The story is rich with characters and I’ve enjoyed meeting Ben and company. I keep turning the pages hoping for something to “happen”. I’ve been introduced to the actors, they’re all on stage… and I’m waiting….

 

I’ve read two earlier works by Mr. Whitehead, “The Intuitionist” and “Apex Hides the Hurt”… both novels had well-developed characters. Both stories were strongly plot-driven, and reading them gripped me.

 

I had hoped to be similarly gripped with “Sag Harbor.” Still reading…

 


Darbys_Closet wrote:

I like the summer friendships for they are just that "summer friends" and their relationships are defined by the current summer along with the ones they have shared previously.  To an extent it reminds me of the summers my family used to go to the beach and we'd run into families we had met there previously, yet my parents were always around and so was my kid brother.

 

A note to others in this book club that were also in the previous one, if we thought AFA was disjointed, this one to me seems even more so.  For I feel as thou I could end one chapter and then skip ahead several chapters, start reading and still not really grasp where this book is going.  In AFA, the chapters were like a brief visit to each characters diary the chapters in this book feels like an on-going paragraph you'd find on the back of the books cover.  You know the one that tells you to read the book to figure out what the book is about.

 

Thoughts?


 

 

 


In reference to the above:  These are some of the things I like most about this novel.  I'm enjoying the character-driven aspect of the novel and feel more like a fly on the wall watching these characters in their everyday activities.  

 

As I'm reading this book, I feel like I'm experiencing the vacation with them.  

 

This book reminds me of my summer vacations.  They were always so highly anticipated, yet there was no agenda or anything one would ordinarily look forward to.  The "excitement or beauty of summer", to me, had everything to do with its "clean slate" and endless possibilities for each day.  The reigns were loosened and there was a little more freedom in the air.  I never knew from one day to the next what I'd be doing, whether swimming at the pool, or hanging with friends, yet I knew each day would be filled my own time and each day belonged to me.  

 

Most of my favorite summer memories don't involve intrigue or drama, they were just lazy days spent with friends and I learned a lot about myself in those times.  I experimented with ideas, hairstyles, identities, and my friends were there doing the same things.  We were all in the same boat:  Trying ourselves on for size, so to speak, knowing that we could leave all the failed experiments behind when summer was over. 

 

That's what this book represents to me.  It's a slice of summer and I get to be a part of it for a little while.

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
Frequent Contributor
PinkBaby
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎09-03-2008
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Re: Friendships

i think the friendships and every thing else was much clearer in sag harbor and so far its been a fast read. ooooooooooo not boring like a fortunate age.
Correspondent
CJINCA
Posts: 51
Registered: ‎11-28-2008
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Re: Friendships


rkubie wrote:

Are the friends more of a comfort or a challenge to each other?



Young kids might find comfort in each other easily; their relationships are less fraught, and proximity is more important than status.

 

But as the group of kids gets older, status emerges and becomes more important.  There is less comfort because regrouping means having to re-earn your status within the group.

Wordsmith
BookWoman718
Posts: 220
Registered: ‎01-28-2007

Re: Friendships

I am SO enjoying the writing in this book that I hadn't really noticed the lack of plot!  I suppose something will "happen" eventually, and I'm hoping it will be all the more intriguing because of all the background that will have gone into getting there. 

 

I love reading about a slice of life that is familiar but seen from a different pair of eyes, and described so fully and faultlessly.   The pictures in my mind of the ice cream parlor and its tourists-and-townies cast of customers were so vivid that I had to go back and read it again just to savour the experience. 

 

On every page I can see these hand-slapping, dirty shirted boys, smart and gangly and stumbling toward adulthood, set down for a summer in their own little piece of Paradise. 

Frequent Contributor
Aunt_Beth_64
Posts: 261
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Friendships

I like that Benji and his friends seem to pick up where they left off.
Frequent Contributor
GSB65
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-06-2008

Re: Friendships

I have really enjoyed this book.  So many have said they are waiting for something to "happen", but I think this is more like you are reading a boys journal of his summer.  Some books are centered around that big climactic ending, where I think this one is more about Ben's journey through his summer at Sag Harbor.  The things he has experienced and learned and how it has changed him over that three months.  You get glimpses into all the areas of his life that affect who Ben is.
Contributor
LisaMM80
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎02-04-2009

Re: Friendships

My family goes to the same beach community on a lake in Pennsylvania for 3 weeks every summer (we live on the west coast during the year).  My kids see their many cousins and other summer kids, the same people year after year.  It takes about a day to see who's around, who's coming in for the 4th of July, who has their boat in, etc.  The kids have way more freedom in those 3 weeks to explore and drift around without constant adult supervision than they have at any other time.  The grown ups are doing their own thing with BBQs and cocktails and catching up on all the gossip, and don't pay much attention to the kids.  On "our side" of the lake we have a small beach and a floating dock and some woods, etc.  The other side, separated by a wooded strip, is the "Jewish" side, complete with men in long dark robes and beards and kids in yarmulkas and much bigger houses and boats.  It is very much a feeling 'us and them'.  

 

So reading Sag Harbor is fascinating to me- The 'us and them' of the white vs. black areas. I totally get the whole thing.  I don't feel a need for much plot (good thing, since I can't find much plot!).  I'm enjoying the exceptional writing, the witty turns of phrase, the dead-on descriptions of young teenage awkwardness.  It's a really accurate portrayal of summer friends and family connections and summer people vs. locals/townies, trying to fit in and find your place with your peers.  I'm really enjoying this book.

Contributor
Hillabeans69
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎10-02-2008
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Re: Friendships

How do Benji and his friends interact when they meet up with eachother each summer at Sag Harbor?

 * Benji & his friends are more free acting and unsensoring with each other when they're around each other for the summer.  They relate to each others lives outside of the racist world they usually live in.

 

Are the friends more of a comfort or a challenge to each other?

     * Friends are both a comfort and a challenge.  They comfort as they're there when lonely and need support and also there to have fun with.  They're a challenge in that they question and push you.

 

How is status determined in these friendships?

   *Status is determined by age a how long each person has be "out".

 

Can you compare Benji's Sag Harbor friends with his private-school friends at home?

   * Benji's Sag Harbor friends seem freer and more relaxed.  Benji seems more conservative and reserved when he's not out.

Hill-a-beans
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Friendships

JT,

 

I do see how Benji doesn't fit in at home. But I kind of get the feeling that he doesn't really fit in in Sag Harbor either. I think that he is heading in the same direction as Randy, only fitting in with their group because he has something to offer, or he is the only person around to hang out with. 

 

I get the feeling that even though there is some comradare with the boys, Benji's status with the boys is dependent on his empty-house status. If his parents were there, or if there were other alternatives to hanging out with him I'm not so sure that Benji would fare well within the group. 

 

But said all that I do think that there are probably a few friendships the Benji has in Sag Harbor that are "real" so I don't think he would be lonely. I just don't think that he truly fits in due to the fact that he's not up on the latest and greatest that the rest of the boys seem to have a handle on. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Friendships

I have to agree with so many people, that it doesn't feel as if the story is comming together.

 

The writing is great, but there's no real flow to the story. I'm at a part right now where the story is jumping from a flashback of how things were to a flash forward of "this isn't here anymore, or that changed"

 

I do get that it's a memoir but it's not congruent and it doesn't seem to all fit together. I'm not finished with the book yet, so maybe there is something that is going to link all of this. I'm hopping because I really think this story has great potential.

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009

Re: Friendships

When Benji arrives at Sag Harbor it seems the first order of business is to determine who's out. After that it's just doing the normal summer things.

 

As far as the Sag Harbor friends go I have to kind of disagree with many of the posts I've read. I don't think that Benji's Sag Harbor friends are all that much of a comfort to Benji. I tend to think that the situation, being away from home and having the extra freedom, is what is comforting to Benji. These kids seem to only hang out with each other because there is no one else to hang out with. The friendships are always challenging because it's a constant battle to prove who has the most to offer the group. Also, Benji is trying to reinvent himself as Ben, and even though these kids aren't around him all the time there are certain things about a person that you come to expect, and by trying to reinvent himself he is causing more challenges for himself.

 

It is hard to compare the Sag Harbor kids with the school kids. I personally think that the small glimpse we've gotten into what goes on at school shows that Benji has some true friendships there. Despite the mistake Benji made his freshman year I still tend to think he has some true friendships at school.

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Contributor
LisaMM80
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
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Re: Friendships

Completely agree with Jennmarie.  Benji seems out of step with the others and the friendships seem situational. 

 

<<I get the feeling that even though there is some comradare with the boys, Benji's status with the boys is dependent on his empty-house status. If his parents were there, or if there were other alternatives to hanging out with him I'm not so sure that Benji would fare well within the group. 

 

But said all that I do think that there are probably a few friendships the Benji has in Sag Harbor that are "real" so I don't think he would be lonely. I just don't think that he truly fits in due to the fact that he's not up on the latest and greatest that the rest of the boys seem to have a handle on. >>

Inspired Contributor
canterbear
Posts: 73
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Waiting for something to "happen"

The last advance reader book AFA was not well written at all.
Where as this one is.

 You need to remember while reading this one that it is a novel about life and a teenagers growth.

It is not a fast moving suspense, or flashy romance novel.

It is what it is.

I have never read a "black" author before or any book with african american characters.
I find it insightful, even though at times a bit hard to fully understand all the "brother" talk.

I am enjoying the read.

 

Doreen 

  

Correspondent
bud12
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎01-26-2009

Re: Friendships

Rather than seeing this as an autobiographical novel as the author does, I like thinking of it as a "novel -memoir." It is the brilliant description of so many scenes from Benji's summer  that grab me the most. It is not the dialog but images conveyed and the perceptions of what was occurring that intrigued me the most.

I see the friendships among the boys at Sag Harbor as conveying varying aspects of what it took to come of age there. This included  noting the Dag with one's buddies and finding humor in it when possible, mastering the art of adult deception to get what you need such as beers from one's own house, getting out quickly which sometimes worked to prevent being drwan into violent arguments  or "borrowing" Benji's aunt house to practice mutual seduction with Melanie.The friends accepted each other despite their flaws. Thus when Marcus stole booze from his employer none of the kids challenged his cover that it was all based on racism that he got dismissed. These kids understood each other as no one else did. They also walked the tightrope to keep themselves safe, exploited the situations they found themselves in the best ways they could., and learned about the real world they lived in. What better way was there to spend time with friends while consolidating their identities.

Jo
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: Waiting for something to "happen"

I agree with your comment that "Sag Harbor" is not a fast moving suspense novel, nor a flashy romance novel... But what does it mean when you say that "It is what it is"?

 

Like everyone else, I'm having a fun time reading this book… and in his letter to us, Mr. Whitehead acknowledged that he had fun writing it.

 

Reading is not a passive activity. I assume a certain amount of necessary responsibility. There are writers who move me, but at the same time require a certain amount of work on my part as a reader.  Even with other works that’s more entertainment than anything else, thrillers, detective thrillers, etc. I supply the theater (in myimagination).

 

Mr. Whitehead has populated the Sag Harbor stage with a cast of wonderful teenage boys. He  has written a warm, hilarious book and he has set up certain expectations. As a reader, I also need to know if the expectations he raises in us, his readers, are being met.

 

My question is… is “Sag Harbor” merely a coming-of-age excursion… a very sophisticated version of “How I Spend My Summer Vacation?”

 


canterbear wrote:

The last advance reader book AFA was not well written at all.
Where as this one is.

 You need to remember while reading this one that it is a novel about life and a teenagers growth.

It is not a fast moving suspense, or flashy romance novel.

It is what it is.

I have never read a "black" author before or any book with african american characters.
I find it insightful, even though at times a bit hard to fully understand all the "brother" talk.

I am enjoying the read.

 

Doreen 

  


 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Frequent Contributor
bookworm_gp
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Friendships

I'm sure it was a comfort to hang with his friends at Sag Harbor who knew him well. These boys were more like family than friends. But there were challenges as well. It's always a struggle to fit in and be cool. And he had to downplay the likes and dislikes he picked up from the rest of the year, like his choice of music. His tastes seemed so much more varied and rounded because he was exposed to different things that maybe the other boys weren't.
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Contributor
sjj
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎11-28-2008
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Re: Friendships

Benji and his friends are so typical of those relationships that we build throughout our childhood.  Though we grow and mature, the foundation of the relationships remain true and it takes no time at all to fall into the routine. 

 

I believe the friends are more of a comfort.  Benji does not seem to truly feel he fits in at school, which is such an instrumental part of our lives.  This definitely brings back those memories of the hard and difficult years of high school.

 

The friends at Sag Harbor and the private-school are really not comparable as they are extremely different.  There is an inherent culture and norms that are shared among a group of individuals that face similar struggles.  I envision that the friends that meet at Sag Harbor relish the summers as they are among their true friends where they can be themselves.  There is a tremendous bond among these individuals.