THE SPARKLING-EYED BOY: A Memoir of Love, Grown Up

Amy Benson, Author . Mariner $12 (179p) ISBN 978-0-618-43321-6

While the words "what if" may be the most potent daydream triggers known to humanity, writers usually explore the road-not-taken in the format of fiction. Benson's Bakeless Prize–winning work of "creative nonfiction" comprises some 32 entries relating to the "sparkling-eyed boy" of her teen years, her first big love. What if she'd kept coming back to Upper Michigan to see him every summer? What if they'd become a real couple? What if they'd had sex? What if they'd married? So this is a memoir, then, of what did not happen. As such, it isn't so much about this boy, but about Benson's feelings and her pleasure in writing about them. At times, it's as if Benson is reading over her own shoulder, commenting on her own musings. She writes that she considered suicide once, but then rebukes herself: "This is bad ethics: I shouldn't let the people who will worry about me know this." After describing the boy's form as "thrown into relief" she adds, "what a beautiful phrase, 'thrown into relief.' " She's fond of the paradoxical pronouncement: "It is our own goodness that gives us the power to be terrible." Buried among these uninteresting musings are occasional moments of insight. A friend tells her, "You're pining for something ; you're not really pining for him ." Benson admits she's right, that she's pining because "it feels good to feel bad sometimes. So much better than feeling nothing." Readers may want a little more from a book, however. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-547-34646-5
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-88040-5
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