Monday, April 16, 2007

About A Book and Guns

American Youth — Phil LaMarche

Well, this is a first. I am finally giving a negative review of a recommended book.

This is a rare occurrence simply because if I truly dislike a book, I won’t finish it. Thus, no review. (I’m at the age where I figure life is too short to plow through a book that doesn’t engage me or that I am not enjoying.)

However, in its favour, I did mange to read American Youth to the very end. I was taken by the young character Ted who found himself in a terrible moral dilemma involving a gun and the accidental death of another young boy. The consequences of that accidental death were far-reaching and devastating.

It is a strange and horrible coincidence that the very aspect of this book I disliked so much involved the appalling availability of guns — and that only days after my finishing the book the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech took place.

Perhaps it is doing a disservice to Phil LaMarche’s novel to mention that massacre while doing this review.

But there are so many passages in this book I feel glorify hunting and the ownership of guns. Did I misread it? Is LaMarche actually condemning such ownership? To be honest, I don’t even want to go back and re-read all those portions of the book pertaining to guns, rifles, death and suicide (or attempted suicide) with the use of a gun.

As a Canadian, I don’t know anyone who keeps a gun in their home to protect their property or to defend against intruders. This doesn’t mean such people don’t exist here — it’s simply not a common occurrence. Of course I know people hunt and own rifles and I know there are gun collectors. But amongst my acquaintances, I don’t know of anyone who keeps a gun in their home that a child could have access to.

It galls me when I hear the line, “Guns don’t kill, people do.”

Well, a hell of a lot of people wouldn’t have the opportunity to kill if guns weren’t so readily available as a means to do so.

And it breaks my heart to think of children having access to these weapons. The consequences can be so tragic — damaging and irreversible.

So, despite this novel have been well-written, it held little appeal for me. I just couldn’t get past that whole gun thing.

But do check out the link for other “good” reviews — no book should be judged based on one person’s opinion.


John said...

I agree. The "Gun Culture" is awful. The fact that kids are able to acquire weapons of this nature at all is disturbing, let alone be able to get them into schools, or anywhere else for that matter.

We've had a spate of recent shootings and stabbings which have made the national media. It seems that events like this are, unforunately, beomming more common.

I don't want to end up living in a "Big Brother" society, but something has to be done. And soon I fear.

But what do I know, I'm just a decorator.

Beth said...

You know what most sane people do - that easy access to guns has tragic consequences. I'm also thinking these school shootings (in the U.S. and Canada) are partly due to the "copy cat" mentality. How do you stop that? No press coverage? Impossible.

oreneta said...

In kindergartens in a lot of the States, the teachers I know teach about guns, and how to handle them and not handle them...the kids are GOING to handle them...they are in Mom's purse, or Dad's bedside table, and if they know how to use them, they are less likely to shoot their sister.


Beth said...

I hate guns. Hubs being a cop, we have lots of them in our house. Locked up, of course, but my kids DO know about guns and how to handle them. Doesn't make me feel any better tho.

Beth said...

I had no idea that took place. But even if kids know how to handle guns properly, they don't possess the maturity to use them - or go near them...

Due to your husband's profession, I'll bet your kids have had it drilled into them the dangers of handling guns. And know all about the repercussions involved.

John said...

No press coverage is, I agree, an impossibility. However, I also think that the "media" have a great deal to answer for. One way or another, with so much publicity, events can be glamorised. It's a very very sad fact. One gang or individual makes it into the papers, so another gang or individual wants to do something bigger and "badder".

I've no idea what the solution is. Education? Maybe. Guns can't be outlawed...since when has the "law" mattered.

It's a huge subject and debate. One that can go round and round in circles. I think all civilised people would agree though, guns and killing people are awful, in any scenario.

Unfortunately we live in a society where not all people are civilised.

(Oh, and sorry for the "spelling errors" in any comments. My keyboard has a tendancy to leave out letters on occasions).

Jackie said...

Guns are an issue and I personally don't think anyone other than policemen and soldiers should have access to them. However, there is another societal issue - why are people so screwed up and why does our "mental health" system let people down. The kid yesterday must have sent out all kinds of clues that he was deranged and yet he apparently didn't get the help he so obviously needed. Where the hell were his parents and friends when he needed them? I can't imagine what it takes to have someone get so unglued and so angry that he/she could actually kill a human being let alone 32 of them.

Nomad said...

Standing on chair aplauding and whistling loudly...

Can't STAND them. Don't see the need for them, unless in law enforcement, understand the sport issue...but for me that is it.

In France the kids do military, many of the little boys have semi automatic replicas and pistols they play KILLS poor son has been banned from touching sticks because he shoots things with them. All the other little boys would have to put away their toy weapons if they wanted to play with my kids...(Nazi-mom that's me...)


I keep saying to my son when he does it...yeah but honey...that KILLS people...(he'll be a pacifist if it kills me...)

For me the kicker is that some police training teams use video simulations of gun conflict to train officers in defensive gun tactics...yeah pretty much like the violent video games that our kids can watch...

As you can see...don't get me started...

Dan said...

Beth, I don't think you're being unfair by introducing the VT massacre into this review. After all, if the author wants to glorify hunting and all that, he should be prepared for folks to be turned off during times like these.

Beth said...

You are right. Everything you say is right. And therefore, it is depressing.
Other than education (by parents and teachers) I don't know of a solution. Mandatory gun registration is a farce.

Another excellent point. What could possibly have been going through his mind? What hell was he in?

Fabulous rant.
Guns, sticks and little boys - you have quite a battle there. Are boys hard-wired with this urge to shoot anything that remotely resembles a gun?
And the video games - they "see" death...but they just don't understand.

Beth said...

Thanks for saying that.
I still feel kind of guilty for tying the two together. And still saying to myself - did I misinterpret this book?
But what a coincidence. Guns, gun accessibility, death...

patricia said...

Hey, you can't like every book you read. And even if it is well-written, if the subject matter is very disturbing for you, what can you? Good for you for finishing it, and for giving an honest opinion about said book.

Myself, I would never be interested in a book like that for the same reason.

And the gun topic? Oy, I'm so tired of it. It is so sad. Things will never change in the US regarding attitudes towards guns.

Mom of Three said...

Well, given Virginia Tech, I have to say that it's out of control, but it's also a genie that's out of the bottle. Good luck trying to get even a vague idea about the guns that are out there.

Beth said...

It is sad. Not only in the U.S. but any place where guns can be had and used - for all the wrong, tragic reasons.

An impossible task. And I hate saying that anything is impossible.

JR's Thumbprints said...

It's sometimes difficult to get through a novel if it's loaded with too much of one thing. It's the writer's job to entertain us; even when our values are so different from the milieu.

Beth said...

That's it - you're right. While the boy's story touched me, there was just too much of that "other" aspect.

Lynn said...

Virginia Tech. Need I say more on this subject? On the other hand, I took your advice about "The Glass Castle" which you had quoted. I was awestruck, if one can be so about a book. I could not put it down, and it has stayed with me for the past several days. The honesty and simplicity of the author's story as she wrote it must rank this amongst the best books of all time. Thank you.

hip_ragdoll said...

It's funny, I read this book too and I didn't dislike it as much as you did. I found the narrative cold, but compelling, but I didn't think of it in terms of glorifying guns -- I more thought of it in terms of exploring what's so wrong with American culture, the way the mother reacted specifically, and the boy's involvement with the gang of, for lack of a better term, "American" far, far right activists (I know that's a bad word for them).

I'm glad that you had such an emotional reaction. I think that's entirely lost on me after reading so many books, I'm just not there any more.

And you should never apologize for not liking a book -- goodness, that's what makes my world go round.

Beth said...

So glad you loved The Glass Castle.
Such a fabulous book.

Well, I didn't hate the book - and I did finish it. Just didn't leave me with a good feeling.
And even the mother's role - turns out she was so wrong with her advice and it was that advice that put the young boy in such a terrible situation. Weak plot point.
Can't win 'em all!

Princess Pointful said...

I was just actually reading about the gun control debate (which is obviously at the forefront of people's minds these days), and it shocked me how defensive people are of their rights to bear arms.

It could be a Canadian thing, but I also have limited exposure to guns for protection sake. It just really never occured to me to have one or want one around me... and I am a woman living alone.

Beth said...

princess pointful:
I heard via a friend that there were people saying that if the other students had had guns, they could have defended themselves!
That could just be rumour floating around but if true, holy crap. What kind of mentality is that?
What a ridiculous solution - EVERYONE own a gun!