Thursday, December 30

Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You - Peter Cameron

In the summer between graduating from high school and starting college, eighteen-year-old James Sveck decides he doesn't need to continue his education, and would rather move to an isolated farmhouse somewhere - maybe Kansas. His mother, an art gallery owner recently returned from an aborted honeymoon with her third, soon-to-be-ex-husband, and his working-class-made-good lawyer father are not pleased, and send him to a therapist. During his sessions with Dr. Adler James talks about his life, particularly the incident that happened while he was in Washington, DC, attending the American Classroom program.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is literature - James is filled with angst, more sensitive that the common folk around him, and appears devoid of the need for human connection. He has no real friends, is close only to his grandmother, and manages to drive away the nearest person he has to a proto-friend, because he's unable to understand societal norms. Had these personality traits been related to an autism-spectrum disorder they may have made his narrative more interesting - though difficult, I can think of at least two novels (Moon's The Speed of Dark, and the more well-known Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Haddon) that have carried it off well.
James, however, is not in any way disabled, except by his crippling sensitivity. Like the vast majority of adolescents I, too, was Too Sensitive To Live - every moment was filled with high drama, visible only to me (and, if hey weren't involved in it, my friends). I sporadically kept diaries at the time - like Someday This Pain... they don't make for interesting reading as an adult.
This isn't to say that I found the novel barren of interest - I finished it, and from time to time came across a line that resonated, like this one:
“My mother was right, but that didn’t change the way I felt about things. People always think that if they can prove they’re right, you’ll change your mind.”
But my common complaint when it comes to Literature, holds true here - nothing happens, nobody changes, and I didn't enjoy the reading process. Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You has been favourably and frequently compared to Catcher in the Rye. Another gap in my literary background, I'm ill-equipped to judge. Knowing the way analysing novels for English Literature generally reduced rather than increased my pleasure of the work, I am heartily glad I'll never have to study the themes, metaphors and sub-texts of this book. - Alex

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