Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Bully Book and Grendel

Have I mentioned that I'm taking four English classes this semester (that's out of a total of five classes)? So I'm always reading so many things at once that they all start to (inevitably, just like everyone describes) merge together and express the same sorts of ideas. But I wasn't expecting my little aside book I was reading to align so closely with a book for ENG 320: Medieval Monsters and Modern Night-Stalkers.

The former book is The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale, of Starkid connections (maybe someday I will write about my late discovery of Starkid). I had been wanting this book (which is available only digitally, either from iTunes or in Kindle edition) for some time and finally downloaded it Tuesday morning. I was especially curious about it because of its connection to Little White Lie. So I started reading during my commute to school . . . then stayed up late (well, not that late for me, I guess) reading (for a long enough time, though, that my tiny iPhone screen was starting to bother my eyes). Wednesday I was sad because I only had time for a few minutes' reading in the morning (I was just so busy doing schoolwork right up to midnight). Finally, I was able to finish today (yes, three days is a long time--this is a short book that begs you to turn the digital pages).

Now, I must agree with some of the reviews of the book--there are too many typos in it. Typos that seem to be explaining why it is "only a digital book." But hopefully there will be future editions of the book to remedy this (and take the chance for extra improvements to the text, too, right?).

But I liked this book overall. The main premise is that there is a book a fifth grader developed teaching future generations/years how to put themselves at the top of the social ladder . . . and someone else at the bottom. Half the book is in journals from a boy who is, in his year, placed at the bottom. So The Bully Book takes on all these issues of social adjustment and changes that happen in school, why people bully others, and how it feels to be at the different "levels." Rather concisely and acutely, too, I might add (which makes for a definite value in this book).

The connection I was referring to has to do with John Gardner's book Grendel, which is of course inspired by Beowulf. This book, from Grendel's perspective, explores what it means to be a social outcast and what you may be driven to do based on that. Sound familiar? Eric Haskins (from The Bully Book) and Grendel have a few things in common. Except for the fact that Grendel has inherent "strange" qualities, and Eric's fault (the reason he is chosen to be the bottom rung) is that he is completely "normal." And that Eric tries to put himself back in his places, while Grendel "knows" he cannot and therefore doesn't try. But, really, reading these two books at the same time was almost disturbing because of the degree that they overlapped. I would expect the books in different classes to do this, but a random little somebody's-first-book expressing the same ideas as a book based on a piece of classic literature?

Now that's what I call the wonderfulness of books.

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