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blkeyesuzi
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Registered: ‎01-26-2008
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


bookloverjb85 wrote:

Carmenere_lady wrote:

 

Even though Rachel didn't bring it up I have to add that I was saddend  by this line, p11, "And then my other hand occurred to me.  It was empty. I wasn't pulling Reggie .....he wasn't drifting behind me...I was alone with someone else. "  Thus the closeness that Reggie and Benji share begins to wane and so things must be as it is apart of growing up.

 


I agree that this line was a little sad.  I believe that there comes a time in most young peoples' lives that they realize they are no longer attached to, or as close to, their sibling.  This was definitely the beginning of Reggie and Benji having separate lives.


I can remember a point in time when my cousins and I, who saw each other frequently and on holidays, tried so hard to bring back all the things we had done together and enjoyed all the years before.  We were all so close. We pretended, played, sang, put together plays, and talked about boys and growing up.  We did KID things; however we suddenly realized we'd all suddenly outgrown it all.  Try as we might, we just couldn't bring back those activities we had enjoyed all those years before.

 

It was an unfortunate rite of passage for us. We were growing up and away from each other, so different things interested us and we had suddenly grown into different people.  It was hard to believe that all of us, who were so much alike for so long, had become such strangers to each other. 

 

I can't help but feel this is what Reggie and Benji are going through. The two of them had been inseparable and so alike. But now they're changing and becoming separate selves and it's kind of scary because it's unknown territory they'll have to explore alone.

 

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
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no4daughter
Posts: 73
Registered: ‎10-15-2007

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


hookedonbooks09 wrote:

I agree with emmagrace that Ben (!) has two different levels of fitting in, but I don't think he really feels he fits in either place, for different reasons.  But I don't think this is out of the ordinary for any teenager! 

 

The teenage years are good for taking all of these experiences and interactions and from that, deciding who you really are.  And that usually doesn't happen until you are nearly out of those teen years!


 

I agree!  Reggie, however, seems to be doing a much better job of fitting in as he has the Fila sneaks exactly like NP's and realizes that it just isn't cool to ride your bike anymore.  Although I don't have younger siblings, I imagine it must exacerbate Ben's feelings of not fitting in when his younger brother doesn't seem to have the same problem.  
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jclay26
Posts: 74
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I have to say, first, that this is a fantastically written book. The prose is so thought-provoking, humorous, and engrossing. I find myself thinking about Benji and his experiences long after I have set the book down. I love how the author uses humor to bring important issues to our consciousness.

Benji seems to be caught between so many worlds: His own view of self; his history - that he alludes to as narrator but doesn't realize as a teenager; what is acceptable behavior for Sag Harbor; and what is acceptable behavior for his world outside of Sag Harbor. He seems to go to Sag Harbor to try and learn more about what he thinks he should be - terminology, handshakes - and to get a feel for what he is missing in his regular life. He has more peers that he can identify with in Sag Harbor and that is both good and bad - good in the sense that he has friends he can relate to but bad because it creates a divide; a bigger sense of the two worlds he is trying to fit in to which causes even more conflict.

It is interesting that he realizes how detrimental it was for him to "be himself" and makes him question what he thought of himself. Though telling a teenager to be themselves seems like good advice, it doesn't go very far with their peers. Teenagers can be brutal to each other and sometimes standing out from the crowd can be devastating. Sadly, later in life we start the enormously painful journey towards excavating our true selves from all the false layers we had built to "fit in". To me, this advice is good even if it goes against what teenagers believe at the time. Putting this idea in their heads will help them to have this option later on when they do seek to stand out from the crowd and be themselves.
What you have to do...is trust your own story. Get the hell out of the way and let it tell itself. - Tim O'Brien; The Things They Carried
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Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Detailmuse wrote:  And the parents are mostly offstage, reminding me of those in the Peanuts comic strip ... I'd actually like to see more of them, especially to characterize the teens.

 

I agree.  We do get a bit of a look at his father during the drive out, but not much. 

 

I also would have liked to see more of a comparison between the New York life and the Sag Harbor life.  Maybe we'll see more later in the book, but  since it seems that much of the value of Sag Harbor is its difference from the city, I would like to see more of those differences.  We see some, of course; casual clothing vs. school dress, being with other blacks as opposed to the only black in a sea of whites, for example, but I don't get the importance of the sense of difference, of why Sag Harbor is so important to him, whether for itself or whether for the contrast.  

 


detailmuse wrote:
The book begins fun and fresh; maybe the voice is a little manic because of the possibilities of the summer ahead? 

 

There's so much great language:

 

The brothers curled away from each other in the back seat, looking like a Rorschach

 

The brothers hyena-yipping over new clothes

 

“Where is the surgeon gifted enough to undertake this risky operation, separate these hapless conjoined? Paging Doc Puberty…”

 

“…if [Emily Dorfman] were an animal, she’d be nibbling those high-up leaves.”

 

“…we knew where our neighborhood began because that’s where the map ended.”

 

Lawn sprinklers that were “calibrated to wet one molecule’s distance from the property line and no farther.”

 

And the parents are mostly offstage, reminding me of those in the Peanuts comic strip ... I'd actually like to see more of them, especially to characterize the teens. I love the character of NP and thought it was so funny that his own mother used his nickname!!

 

 

 

But it's still early in the book.  Maybe it'll come.  

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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hoot
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I was pulled into this book right away. Adolescence is a memorable time in everyones lives. It is the first taste of independent life. The stories although different are parallel in many ways to stories from my own life. Raised in totally different ways, in totally different places, it is amazing that two people can have such similar experiences. I can imagine that anyone can identify with the emotions he describes in this first chapter.

 

He notes that he hopes we recognize some of the places in the book. I realized very early on that he's talking about places in time as well as physical places.

 

I am hooked. 

www.bellasnovella.com
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Everyman
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

detailmuse wrote:  There's so much great language:

 

There is, indeed. 

 

Which makes me wonder about something.  How old is Benji supposed to be when he writes this?  No matter how bright a 15 year old he is, no fifteen year old thinks and writes in this language.  But so far we haven't been told when he is writing the story down, and I ppeeked to the end and it doesn't seem to tell. 

 

So while I also love the language, I'm finding a bit of incongruity here.  We're seeing the inner life of a fifteen year old, but it's being told in the language and with the insights of a much older person.   The contrast is disconcerting; talking about fifteen year old things,  bicycle trips, the music they listen to, riding in the back of the car, bonding (and unbonding) with a brother; but talking about it in very adult language.  I contrast this with, say, Huckleberry Finn, another adolescent-developing story in the past tense, but where the language seems to me much more suited to actually being the language the youthful Huck would have written.

 

Perhaps I should just relax and enjoy the language and not worry about the disparity, but it does sort of jump out at me.

 


detailmuse wrote:
The book begins fun and fresh; maybe the voice is a little manic because of the possibilities of the summer ahead? 

 

There's so much great language:

 

The brothers curled away from each other in the back seat, looking like a Rorschach

 

The brothers hyena-yipping over new clothes

 

“Where is the surgeon gifted enough to undertake this risky operation, separate these hapless conjoined? Paging Doc Puberty…”

 

“…if [Emily Dorfman] were an animal, she’d be nibbling those high-up leaves.”

 

“…we knew where our neighborhood began because that’s where the map ended.”

 

Lawn sprinklers that were “calibrated to wet one molecule’s distance from the property line and no farther.”

 

And the parents are mostly offstage, reminding me of those in the Peanuts comic strip ... I'd actually like to see more of them, especially to characterize the teens. I love the character of NP and thought it was so funny that his own mother used his nickname!!

 

 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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BookWoman718
Posts: 220
Registered: ‎01-28-2007

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Everyman wrote to question about how old Ben is supposed to be when he's writing this book;  certainly he's much older than 15, and looking back to the recent past, I agree.

 

I think the author's note to us readers about writing an Autobiographical Fourth Novel, instead of the usual Autobiographical First Novel,  set me right in the mindset of reading this as the work of a fully grown, accomplished author, who is now ready to look back and tell a story about one summer in a special place.  Pehaps we'll find it was a pivotal summer;  I haven't finished the book yet.   Maybe he wants to draw a picture of a place and a time that many people of all races can relate to, despite the differences in some particulars.  Occasionally in the book he seems to digress for a paragraph or two to make us think about the arc of the presentation of black people, families, in American films, books, and TV.  How amazing it was to blacks to see the Cosby show;  American TV not dwelling on gang-bangers or basketball stars, but actually depicting an upper-middle class family, like them

 

Sometimes this author makes me laugh out loud and sometimes I have to stop, and think, and go back; sometimes I'm just holding my breath hoping these boys will be OK being so much on their own.  It is so autobiographical that I'm comforted that nothing TOO bad happens to Ben - look where he ends up, in the New Yorker! - but I'm hoping these other boys will make it, too.  Although Ben says enough to let us know there are problems ahead. 

 

I love this book and can't wait to suggest it to high school English teachers - hopefully they can overlook the realistic but definitely not parentally-approved language?   What an absolutely great coming-of-age story.   I'm going to hate to turn the last page.

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chris227
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Benji's two worlds of prep school and Sag Harbor are totally different.  However it seems that in both worlds he's an outsider.  He doesn't fit in with the kids at school and try as he might he doesn't really seem to fit in with the other kids at Sag Harbor either.  Though they are freinds it seems like Benji is more often trying to be something he is not.  Even he and Reggie have grown apart. 
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ReggieH
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I definately see this as the narrator looking back on these years. The language is fantastic, and flows beautifully. So many things here (like 'Dag' which I hadn't heard in YEARS) brings back my own memories of the '80s.

 

Briefly on the 'double consciousness' reflection: I too went to a mainly white prep school, and used to travel back and forth between there and my more working class/working poor neighborhood, and felt slightly uneasy in both places, as if each one contributed to being unable to completely fit in with the other. It's something you eventually grow up to deal with, but at a certain age you feel like some kind of a stranger no matter where you are. But then, too, I think being a teenager means feeling 'out of place' no matter what! 

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Jennmarie68
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Everyman wrote: How old is Benji supposed to be when he writes this?  No matter how bright a 15 year old he is, no fifteen year old thinks and writes in this language.

 

I do understand what you are saying. I have never known a 15 year old who not only uses this kind of language, let alone thinks with the hindsight of an adult.

 

But I think that this story is supposed to be written as an adult who is looking back into one of the summers of his life. I don't know how far you are in the book but in chapter 3 there is a section where he starts talking about how Sag Harbor is now, things that aren't there anymore and such. I also get the feeling that these stories are written as memories rather than current happenings.

 

So while it would seem improbable that they are written by a 15 year old I think they are more so the memories of an adult thinking back to when he was 15.

 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
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Vermontcozy
Posts: 5,279
Registered: ‎10-20-2008
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I like being able to see the world through his eyes..and mind...we think we know how other people of a different Race,Gender are feeling..What I am taking away from his book is the closeness of all of us,even if we didn't know that,at some point in our lives...Vtc

Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
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hoot
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Registered: ‎02-14-2009
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Jennmarie68-

 

I had the same impression as well. It hadn't seemed to me that he was writing the story "present-tense". I agree that it is an adult reflecting on years gone by.

www.bellasnovella.com
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fordmg
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


Everyman wrote:

 

I don't know whether the summer retreat is as much a part of culture as it was back in my youth (40s and 50s) up to Benji's.  I live in an area which is a well known vacation area for the Pacific Northwest, but we don't get the all-summer-long vacationers the way we used to.  It's more the one or two weekers, and even neighbors who own summer homes here only come up a few times during the year, usually on the holiday weekends, or at most for  a week.  

 

When I was growing up we went up to Maine to our place on the China Lake for the summer.  I can well relate to  Benji's transformation from school year life to summer by the sea (or by the lake) life.  Been there, done that.

 

But a big difference is that he doesn't seem to care about Sag Harbor the place so much, but mostly about the people.  I used to love going down to the lake to greet it when I arrived, jumping out of the car as soon as it stopped at the cottage and running down to the lake while my parents unpacked the car. Benji seems more concerned with his friends and activities; I get the idea that it wouldn't make any difference to him if it were any other place, that it isn't Sag Harbor as such that draws him but rather just the place where summer freedom (and at his age the start of real independence) happen. 


Nice observations.  I think a lot of kids these days care about their clique more than their environment.  It may not be bad to care about people.

MG

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Guerneymember12
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Registered: ‎09-21-2008
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


Vermontcozy wrote:
I believe that his exposure to the different worlds he is exposed to,will give him quite an advantage as he grows into his own.My daughters(24) generation is color blind,and so is the generation before hers,is it Gen-x? Does anyone feel that way?

I found this so interesting because Vermont's daughter is between my daughter's age, who is color blind, and my age, who unfortunately am having to grow out of terrible teachings.    I think it has a lot to do with where I grew up- a small town in the south - where the most important thing I was taught was we don't go to their houses and they don't come to ours.  but I can not only blame the people around me who allowed this to happen to me, or myself who continued to allow it when I grew old enough to know better (I did promise myself it would be different for my daughter and she has been raised in the West when all kinds of friends who are welcome in our house), but I can Largely blame a small town and a school system who allowed, no made my prom into 2 segregated proms in 1991.(and every prom before that) I'm 36 years old.

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Jennie77
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


koren56 wrote:

Is "just be yourself" really terrible advice for an adolescent, as Benji thinks he has discovered? Is he "himself" at Sag Harbor?

 

 

We all tell our kids that dont we. No wonder adolescense is such a confusing time. Teens want to be themselves and yet it is important to fit in. As Benji found out, when he marched to his own drummer he didnt fit in. So no, he's not himself at Sag Harbor. He's too worried about what the others will think of him.

 

 

 

 


 

Koren,

 

I agree with what you are saying....I was told as a child, and have already told my pre-teen child, to just be yourself.  But I, like Benji, found out that when you "really" were yourself, you were different, and didn't always fit in with the group.  So, what I did, in order to fit in better sometimes, was make sacrifices to and of myself.  I don't think Benji was really himself in either of his two worlds.  But, if I recall experiences from my own life, I don't know if I was ever really myself growing up either.  I guess that the watered down version is that I tried on different versions of myself until I found the self that I thought fit in best, even though it wasn't really me.  I didn't figure out until after I became a parent that the "real me" was/is the best version.  While I wish I had the courage to have just been myself all those years ago, instead of just letting that person "slip out" sometimes, I guess I became the person I am today because of who I was yesterday.  

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Read-n-Rider
Posts: 157
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I agree with detailmuse and suzi in their comments about the great writing and beautiful language in this book; and there is so much humor and vivid imagery as well.  I had to laugh out loud at some of Mr. Whitehead's descriptions; it's obvious he was once a teenage boy himself.  Who else, for example, would refer to the "sweaty palms" produced by initial hand-holding by saying, "Our fingers slobbered over each other."?  Wonderful!  I bet the girl involved would have put it quite differently!

 

Joan

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Vermontcozy
Posts: 5,279
Registered: ‎10-20-2008
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Thank you for referring to my post..Its wonderful that "Sag Harbor,which I can relate to,and feel very deeply about,because I was raised in New York,Brooklyn and has spent time out that way and even worked near Sag Harbor,should bring readers like ourselves together.We were raised to be openminded,etc. Fast forward..When I lived outside of Atlanta,Ga(My daughter as born in Atlanta) ,then I really felt what I had only read about..Segregation.because I wanted to understand all of it("To Kill a Mockingbird")was really my only reference.and I was younger when I  read it..I immersed my self in books by Southern Writers,observed as much as I could...given all that, I made some wonderful friends,(being Jewish,they had never met a Jew)....I took away so much,and now living in Vt,,not a real diversified state,but the teens are so Hungrey for it,that 25 students from our small High School ,went to help rebuild after Katrina,and brought other teens,of color home to attend school here...So glad that you are finding Sag Harbor a wonderful read...it takes imagination,and abstract thinking to fully get it..I know that you must have both...Vtc
Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
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PinkPanther
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎10-26-2008
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Benjie feels like he does not belong simply because he is going through adolescence. It is a normal phase. I know that not one person in this discussion can say that they felt right when they were around the same age as Benji. He looks at his friends and compares them to certain standards, and some of them do meet up, while others don't. These friends that do meet the standards probably do not feel that they do in their own minds. Eventually, he will find his niche only after traveling through the required stages of life.
"I ought, therefore I can"
-Immanuel Kant
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Thayer
Posts: 195
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


rkubie wrote:

Hi Steve! Glad to see you starting us off.

 

I'd like to think the comic effect of these particulars (the Carpenters, AM talk radio, fried fish) belie some of the seriousness of what this new generation of successful African Americans has to deal with in terms of recognizing themselves in a larger cultural context.

 

I also wonder if part of developing contemporary consciousness (for all of us) is developing a sense of irony about self-identification?

 

Certainly the DuBois essay was written at a very different time. But Sag, for many of the young teens going out, is the only predictable time in their lives that they get to self-identify with other African American kids. 

 

I guess my suspicion is that the author is using a light touch with more serious matters, and that the developing consciousness of these kids, that even the "retreat" that Sag offers, does relate in some way to the American identity that DuBois is wrestling with in his essay? 

 

Thanks for your thoughts.


 

I think Benji struggles to "just be himself" as advised. He doesn't truly yet know who he is or in fact where he fits in-both as an adolescent and in a cultural sense. The fact that he only gets to "self-identify with other African American kids" in Sag is also confusing as these, too are mostly kids who are struggling with the same types of diversion issues.
~~Dawn
Live the life you love ~ Love the life you live.
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Thayer
Posts: 195
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I find it interesting that we assume that a "journey into manhood" must be that of a sexual nature. If Benji has realized that he is the only black kid in a private school, that leads me to believe that there are many racial/cultural/economic issues that he has faced or is trying to come to grips with. To me, his "journey into manhood has long since begun.
~~Dawn
Live the life you love ~ Love the life you live.