Reply
Frequent Contributor
x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

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.


 
Thanks, Rachel. The title is from Blake's "Auguries of Innocence," isn't it?
 
Like novelist Ralph Ellison in a famous 1948 essay, I don't accept the Du Boisian notion of "double-consciousness," sometimes called the "poetics of pain," however, like "miller" in a previous reply, I don't have any problem with the concept of "two-ness."
 
I've read "The Souls of Black Folk." I've read Vol. 1 and half of Vol. 2 of David Levering Lewis's biography of W.E.B. Du Bois and I've read a few odd essays like "Criteria of Negro Art" and lectures like "The Conservation of Races," which contains an earlier version of the double-consciousness idea, though not by that name. His conception of race is very 19th century: he names 8 major races (of which I belong to three, although he would consider me white and himself black by one-drop) and many other subsidiary races, and I've heard his view of history described as a kind of global pageant in which each race has its moment of glory: the Age of the Egyptian, the Age of the Anglo-Saxon, the Age of the African. It's available online.
 
  
 

 
 
 
 

 

Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

"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."

 

Jen,

 

I also think that all siblings go through this. Although, I think that the separation from family is part of trying to find ourselves, more so than just growing apart. My sister and I are six years apart and we used to be attached at the hip, then I went through my phase, and once I figured myself out we grew close again. Then when she discovered herself we had the same separation. Now that we are both adults we are very close.

I think this separation that Benji is trying to achieve is more because he needs to find out who his is on his own, not who he is as a a part of Benji and Reggie.

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

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

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

For me I see Benji's two worlds as being his normal life. The life he has at home where he is the black kid who doesn't fit in. He mentions going to bar and bat mitvahs and that he was the only black kid in the room, and that he was used to it. For him, his life fitting into the white culture was what he was accustomed to. When he goes to Sag Harbor he enters his other life, the life of trying to be a normal black kid who still doesn't fit in.

 

I think that the roller-disco party in its entirety is the begining of Benji's journey into manhood. When he starts to talk about Emily he talks about her as though she were just another friend, someone whom he has always known, but as they start skating together he senses more about her, more than just a normal friend relationship. But at the end of the dance with Emily he notices that he doesn't know where Reggie is and it feels good to not know. I think that the realization of Emily no longer just being a friend and the fact that he is growing away from Reggie are both signs of the begining of manhood.

 

"Just be yourself" is a tumutuos statement for a teen. When you are trying to find out who you are can you really just be yourself? While there are some things that are always "you" the rest is ever changing. Even as an adult I notice changes about who I am. It's hard to know what part of who you are is going to be accepted, and what parts of who you are could lead to exile. As a teenager being exiled by your peers is a fate worse than death.

 

Benji coming to Sag Harbor is not the begining of his reinvention. The story leads you to believe (as at the end of the roller-dance with Emily) that this reinvention is something that Benji has wanted for a while, I think that because he hasn't seen his Sag Harbor friends in so long that he can assert the changes that he wants to take place. When you are trying to change around people you see everyday it is hard for them to accept. When you change and then see people whom you haven't seen in a long time the changes are easier for them to accept. The drastic changes are easier to pull off with those that aren't always around.  

 

The constant need to fit in, and feeling like you don't is just part of teenage life. While Benji's situation is different, in that he doesn't feel he fits in with two different cultures, it is still the same basic need that all teens have. 

 

 The double-conciousness that Benji feels comes from the fact that he is different from all of his peers, in both of his lives. At home he feels that he needs to blend as much as he can in order to be accepted by his white friends. In Sag Harbor he has to learn to fit in with his black friends that know what's new amongst the black kids. He fits into neither of these and is constantly trying to figure out what will get him accepted. How do others see me, and how can I change it so that I fit in? I would imagine that is a constant question running through Benji's mind. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Frequent Contributor
hookedonbooks09
Posts: 128
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

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!

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx
Frequent Contributor
Jennd1
Posts: 75
Registered: ‎01-28-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Benji travels between his summer and winter world, both of which are very different racially and culturally.  Benji decides he is going to start reinventing himself by changing his name to Ben.  Being a Jennifer Myself I got stuck with Jenny which I have always hated.  In highschool I finally broke the cycle when I stared to write for the school paper and changed my byline to Jenn which gradually stuck except for my grandmother who still calls me Jenny and I allow it since she's my grandmother.  I think be yourself might be fine for teenagers if they knew how to be themselves most of them (myself certainly) don't know who they are at that age and some are far away from figuring it out.
Correspondent
m3girl
Posts: 194
Registered: ‎03-02-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Hi,

I just saw the listing of questions and will have to check them out and reply again.  But in the meantime I wanted to jot down some of my impressions from this first chapter.

I thought that the title was quite interesting and had no idea what it meant.

Even from the first paragraph, I like the voice and am interested in finding out what is so special about Sag Harbor.

I love the whole idea of 'getting out' - every one had to be there before all of the fun could really start.  Escape!  Those first few paragraphs reminded me of my childhood when we were finally out for summer vacation and how freeing that felt.  And the whole summer was in front of us.  It didn't seem to fly by as quickly as the summers do now, unfortunately.

I love the humor - when talking about talking to strangers.

I love the boy's description of Emily Dorfman - eating from the high leaves!  That little flashback is so realistic and funny and now I understand the chapter title!

I am not sure of the purpose of the movie preview section.

I liked the comment about knowing better than to smirk in public - and being raised by that strict generation - I can relate.

The haunted houses, vivid memories, short cuts and sadness due to the new construction that eliminated some of the kid's special places is all so familiar and fantastic.

The first chapter is wonderful!  Sometimes the ramblings are hard to follow and understand and I had to go back and re read and then sometimes I still didn't fully understand.

I will look at the questions now and get back...

Susan 

Contributor
RedRaindrops66
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎02-07-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I have to agree with the rambling part. Sometimes I was a little confused, and had to re-read. And sometimes I was like.. "Wait, is this happening now, or in the past?"

 

I also need to look at the list of questions. I will post again when I look at them and ponder. :smileyhappy:

Contributor
kujo
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎06-27-2008
0 Kudos

Re: "Two Worlds"


rkubie wrote:

DonnaS,

 

That's a wonderful quote, thanks for bringing it into the discussion. I've also noted (and admire) that you call our narrator "Ben" as he wishes to be known!

 

And Kujo,

 

I loved The Sound and The Fury! I think that whole first section in Benjy's perspective is really extraordinarily beautiful. I can see the temptation because of the names being the same, and maybe a kind of outsider status, but the comparison between the two characters is troubling.

 

I'm guessing that you're seeing in this comparison the history of the US refusing to acknowledge Africans as intelligent human beings through slavery and beyond. But Faulkner's Benjy is actually mentally "deficient." US law (and the dominant white culture) argued that African Americans were. That Africans being kept in forced labor was actually a means of taking care of them and providing for them. A kindness rather than a horror. Am I following you at all, here?

 


Precisely! In some ways it seems like throughout history, Americans have had a pretty general way of dealing with anything new or different: Benjy, though not forced into slavery, is cast aside and not treated with any kind of respect or taken to any facilities that might have exisited to help him. OUR Benji is forced to deal with glances and gossip and has to continually try to figure out the intentions and motivations of the people around him. 

 

Either way, both are pitied and cast aside; beings that are less developed than "normal," as you said.

 

I know it's a stretch, but I couldn't get it out of my mind throughout the entire first section! 

 

 

Contributor
koren56
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

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.

 

 

 

 

Inspired Correspondent
EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I liked the DuBois quote but the paragraphs before it was the telling point to me.  The fact that there were Famous Black People but if you didn't know who they were, it was a disgrace to ask.  You were expected to just know.
Contributor
JAmber
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎02-07-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I can understand why Benji is confused. The more I read about him, the more he reminds me of myself and I am a white female. I think Benji is caught up in the fact that he is not like any of the other "black boys". His brother has new Fila shoes that he keeps white and clean, but Benji has worn in Chuck Taylors that he loves. At school he shares his horror fetish, and learns that not many people appreciate horror and sci-fi as much as he does. Benji wants to ride bikes, Reggie doesn't. It seems that every where he turns, he is faced with an opposing force. I think all of the kids are growing apart, but they will always have Sag Harbor. Actually, I think the kids really only have Sag Harbor in common. I think Benji should continue to be himself. He has his own identity and isn't copying others, while trying to find himself.

Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Even from the first paragraph, I like the voice and am interested in finding out what is so special about Sag Harbor.

 

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. 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

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!!
Frequent Contributor
CanTri
Posts: 51
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

I'm a bit late getting started so just going to put in a couple comments from the chapter and in reply to some of the other comments.

 

  • I think Benji wants to be more than Reggie and Benji but at least from the first chapter I don't think he reallly has a plan on how he's going to go about individuating himself besides being called "Ben".  I don't think he's thought it through beyond breaking ties from his brother.
  • Not only is Ben caught in Marginality between Manhattan and Sag Harbor and their two different cultures, but we also see it from the perspective of his parents, flipping back and forth between the top 40 station and the radio talk show.
  •  I disagree with people saying that it's different today with race, that we're more of a color blind society or that if Ben was in the same prep school 10 or 20 years later it would be different.  I think we have moved slowly forward to more equal rights for all, but I don't think we're even close to being a "color blind" society.
  • I think it's a waste of breath to tell a teenager to be themselves because most don't know who they are.

Kim
Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


Everyman wrote:

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. 


This is a really good point. I think his attention goes so much to the people because his outsider-ness is such a consuming source of tension. Still, it seems he'd find solace in the setting and we'd see some of that. It will be interesting to watch this as the book continues.

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

Re: "Two Worlds"

I am thinking about Bobby who goes to school in Westchester (which is also where I live). For some reason those westchester prep school kids are depicted as more liberal. It makes me wonder why they are different....seems to me that the same prejudices appear in the city as in westchester. I suppose the private school for Bobby just had a supposedly more open bunch of kids. It sounds like the school Horace Mann which does exist and prides itself on its "openness" and humanitarian values.
Jo
Inspired Contributor
drbjaded
Posts: 41
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity

Here are a few questions to get us started. Please use any of these as a jumping off point for our discussions. Please only remember (and it can be difficult!) not to post spoilers for later sections of the book! Thanks! 

 

Well the first world is the city and the school he attends.  They attend a fancy prep school instead of a public high school where there aren't very many African-Americans or people "like" them.  Sag Harbor is a place where EVERYONE is "like them."  People of their same culture and ethnicity.  I think Benji feels more comfortable (in his own skin so to speak) in Sag Harbor but he has a uniqueness in the city because there aren't many African Americans.  He stands out in the city and blends in at Sag Harbor

 

Dancing with "Spider" I think was the beginning of his journey to manhood.  When he talks about getting some of her sweat for later activities this is the first he discusses anything sexual in nature.  The hand contact really sent him on the journey.

 

I don't think it's bad advice but I say that now that I'm an adult.  I think I was myself when I was an adolescent.  I don't think he is truly "himself" in Sag Harbor because he's always wanting to look cool and act cool to his friends.  He wants to act the party of his people and he is losing a bit of his own self in the process.

 

I think coming out to Sag Harbor is starting over again.  No one knows what has happened to you over the year from wherever you came from so coming out to Sag Harbor is just erasing everything that happened until you "got out." 

 

I think he's measuring himself up to the kids in Sag Harbor.  He needs to measure up with an even mixture of individuals. 

 

 

"You cannot love life until you live the life you love."
Frequent Contributor
pigwidgeon
Posts: 293
Registered: ‎01-28-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


detailmuse wrote:
I'm inclined to agree that Ben is himself at school (but frets that it's not a "Black"-enough self?), and I so agree that he's a pretender in Sag Harbor ... where he also seems to not be Black enough! I really saw the misfit when he's out-socialized by his little brother -- when Reggie and NP go off together in their matching Filas.

Detailmuse: I couldn't agree more. This is exactly how I felt while reading the first chapter.
At Sag Harbor, I was feeling Ben's pain when he was riding his too small bike while Reggie and NP went the beach route. Ben wanted to Sag to be as it had always been, while some of the others, including his own brother, had changed the rules. What a tough time in life to try and fit in anyway, but to have your outsiderness magnified by your own "twin". I'm really interested to see how things turn out for Ben.

 

Distinguished Scribe
blkeyesuzi
Posts: 730
Registered: ‎01-26-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


rkubie wrote:

Hi all,

 

Here are a few questions to get us started. Please use any of these as a jumping off point for our discussions. Please only remember (and it can be difficult!) not to post spoilers for later sections of the book! Thanks! 

 


 

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

 


 



 

 

He's probably more "himself" at Sag Harbor, since he seems to be willing to try allow another side of his personality come out to explore because he feels the freedom to do so at Sag Harbor. 

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
Distinguished Scribe
blkeyesuzi
Posts: 730
Registered: ‎01-26-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Notions of Roller Rink Infinity


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!!

detailmouse,

 

I have to say that you seem to read novels the way I do.  Many of the exerpts you picked out had jumped out to me, as well. That's one of my favorite parts of reading and when I read good writing, it thrills me. 

 

It's the talented author whose words land so beautifully on the page and seem to be chosen, like notes in a symphony. ...and we're the ones fortunate enough to hear the music. 

 

I really enjoyed your post.  Thanks for sharing it.

Suzi

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