brothercyst: IKOAFS

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


There are about five new books I've been meaning to write about and am just getting around to.

Here is the first one, prompted by the review below.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. (IKOAFS, for short.)

I met Ned a couple years ago at Barbes, a bar in Brooklyn, or maybe at the Living Room, a bar in Manhattan. I can't remember. We've done quite a few readings together. It is sort of surprising that we hit it off so well, because our reading/writing tastes are quite different, but we do. He is obsessive in a way that I like and he is extremely talented.

IKOAFS was a manuscript when I read it about a year ago. Maybe a week or two after Ned wrote the first draft. It was good then; it is good now. I remember being really impressed. It is a "young adult" novel but not in the same way as his earlier stuff; it's much more nuanced and assured.

The plot is about a suicidal teenager, Craig, who ends up in the adult ward of a mental hospital. I don't like summarizing plots.

It's 400+ pages but you can read it in an afternoon.

I believed the kid's depression.

He says things like, "Every time I spend a dollar, it feels like I'm being raped." Not an exact quote; I don't have the book here with me. But I thought that part was great.

And when Nia, a sweet girl with a "lucrative body" who is dating his best friend, tells Craig that if he'd only made a move first, she'd probably be dating him...his brain sort of shuts down and everything goes clammy and he thinks: Death. This is one of the best moments in the book. It's perfectly set up. Ned's specialty is writing things that his readership will be able to identify with. This is perfect. I'm not exactly part of his target audience, but it worked on me, too.

There were two things a little bit sad that happened in the editing process, I think. The first draft contained a great scene involving the lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone" that had to be cut due to rights issues. This is a shame because it was a "money scene" - when the book is made into a movie, this could be one one of those moments Billy Wilder talked about. I would never be able to write a scene like this. I wouldn't know how. Some people (like Wilder) have a preternatural talent for telling robustly-structured stories with moments like this. Ned has this.

Also, Craig was 14 instead of 15 in the original draft. I'm guessing this was changed to make the book's sexual episodes slightly less problematic for the squeamish.

The cover of the novel incorporates the "brain map" which is a crucial part of the plot, and which was a rather ingenious literary invention of Ned's for the purpose of the story. That was another thing that really struck me on my first reading. The brain maps were a fucking great idea.

Anyway. A really impressive book. Pick it up.

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