IT'S A FUNNY KIND OF STORY
by Ned Vizzini
Miramax Books, 2006
Reviewed by C.B. Smith, author of Still Life with Psychotic Squirrel and Diary of a Teenage FaŽrie Princess.
Recipe for suicide: push yourself beyond your abilities, criticize your performance relentlessly, lust after your best friend’s girlfriend, smoke pot and masturbate daily, fail to make emotional connection with others. Do this as a ritualized habit and you’re two steps away from psychosomatic meltdown and doing a triple gainer off the Brooklyn Bridge. Following this precise process is what eventually places Craig Gilner at death’s doorstep knocking frantically for entrance. Funny thing is, before embarking on his course of destructive habits, he was just a normal, blend into the woodwork kind of kid, a regular guy, the kind of guy you would see walking through the halls at school and notice only if he was momentarily blocking something you were trying to see, “What does that poster say behind that guy—is the anime club meeting today?” One could say in the social domain the primary impression left by his presence was a decided lack of impression. In other words he was terminally unimpressive.
So, how then can this be a funny kind of story when it involves the escapades of a fifteen year old boy under so much social and academic pressure he attempts suicide and checks himself into a Psychiatric Hospital? It is entirely due to the skills of Vizzini that this mélange of otherwise tragic cum melodramatic potential is rendered a soul searching, life affirming, joyous celebration as we are allowed access to an inner sanctum where only the invited may tread. One may immediately on understanding the premise of this tale jump to Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as a likely parallel. The mistake with this approach is in confusing apples for oranges. While Kesey’s tale is an indictment of the failures in the mental institutions of his day, a grim satire to be sure, Vizzini’s foray into psychiatric institutions is teeming with fascinating and personality- laden characters who in summation lend a vacation camp veneer to the proceedings within. And what can be taken away from this tale is that even in the most unexpected and unlikely of places, redemption is not only possible, but entirely achievable. Douglas Coupland was dubbed the voice of his generation with his landmark socially relevant novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Perhaps Ned Vizzini will be awarded the same distinction as the voice of his generation for his contribution A Funny Kind of Story; equally socially relevant and worthy of official acknowledgement.
Ned Vizzini began writing for The New York Press at the age of fifteen. At nineteen, he had his first book, Teen Angst? Naah…, published. Ned is also the author of Be More Chill, the first young adult novel ever chosen as a Today Show Book Club pick, as well as one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top Ten Books for 2004. He lives in New York City.
Hyperion Books for Children
Ned Vizzini's Website
Ned Vizzini @ KGB (12/16/07)
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