Book of the Month Discussion*: Sag Harbor.

*Note: We’re making this discussion a sticky post, and it’ll be at the top of the page all this week. Scroll down for newer posts.

From Random House

From Random House

Benji, Reggie, Nick, Clive, Bobby, Randy, Marcus & NP (“Nigga Please”). Back when summers were idle, the coming of September meant reinvention and, in the meantime, there were a ton of “firsts” to be had. First car, first job, first kiss, first (insert your summer story here).

After a long break the anticipation of re-entering the world with anything newly acquired—attitude, clothing, money, height, breasts—have always been at the center of teenage existence. All the twisting, turning, faking and becoming everything that you are not to inadvertently find your way to who you are.

In this bildungsroman, the journey to that self is inextricably linked to that place, Sag Harbor, where Benji’s own maturation takes place. In between doing nothing and finding more of nothing to do, there’s class and race and history, and the feeling every teenager has that they are going through all of it alone.

Discuss.

If you didn’t get a chance to read, here are a few sneak peeks.

11 thoughts on “Book of the Month Discussion*: Sag Harbor.

  1. ernise June 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm Reply

    I finished Sag Harbor a few weeks ago. I really found myself laughing out loud at some of the images and descriptions in the book. While I’ve never had a vacation home to go to each summer, I could definitely identify with some of the events in Benji’s life, i.e., new Coke, DAG, the rise of the rap genre in the 80s, clean tennis, etc.

    All in all, I enjoyed the read once I got into. I’ll admit, I found it a tad bit slow initially, but once I was on a plane and the book had my undivided attention, it caught.

    • belleisa June 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm Reply

      I felt like that’s what the book needed, “undivided attention.” The book was slow and because it wasn’t a plot driven story, when nothing was happening…it read that way as well. However, when I opened the book and got into the story, I really got into it. The comedy and the sarcasm really sucks you in.

  2. ladyfresh June 15, 2009 at 8:08 pm Reply

    It was a wonderful trip through someone elses memory lane, lol. I kinda wish i could have been there but realized my summer punishments *ahem* trips down south are probably just as funny.

    I wonder how much of the parents issues were a reflection of what happened in Colson’s life. His father is quite the harsh character.

    • belleisa June 16, 2009 at 10:32 am Reply

      I don’t know if I was out off more by the mother’s complacence (I know that’s a bit like blaming the victim), or his father’s misogyny. The scene where he forces her to go out and buy plates and compares her getting the wrong plates as “treating him like a child,” was pretty intense. That and telling his son to “only marry a virgin,” so that other men won’t talk about your wife was pretty disgusting.

      The lack of communication in his home was amplified by the scene with his sister Elena. Not only did she stop coming “out” she was basically running away.

      • ladyfresh June 16, 2009 at 11:55 pm Reply

        That and telling his son to “only marry a virgin,” so that other men won’t talk about your wife was pretty disgusting. that was a major cringe moment for me but came across as honest as hell, i’m not a writer but can you make that stuff up?(I guess you can but it struck some chords in me.) The fathers misogyny wins out for me as seriously off putting. If this was even partially autobiographical his family must be looking at him sideways.

      • Winslowalrob June 17, 2009 at 8:08 am Reply

        Belle that is TOTAL blaming the victim ;). But yeah, his dad was a d-bag squared, he was off-putting as hell.

        Ladyfresh, there is no WAY that happened to him, I quit believing faux-memoirs after The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which really had me going). If it did, I am sure that Reggie would kick his ass.

        PS I really saw myself in NP. That can’t be good.

        • belleisa June 17, 2009 at 1:28 pm Reply

          I don’t think it’s bad that you saw yourself in NP, that is, as long as you are able to look back and see how you’ve evolved.

          I’d hate for that to be autobiographical–well really for his father to still be alive and for it to be autobiographical, but I can see advice like that being passed on and not neccesarily through the prism of protection from unwanted pregnancy, or STDs, but simply from ego.

          In terms of the autobiography I was interested in learning which of his friends got the real guns after the bb gun incident and which had actually been in a skirmish and lost the ability to lose their legs.

        • ladyfresh June 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm Reply

          PS I really saw myself in NP. That can’t be good.

          *pause*…nigga please

          sorry i had to

          • Winslowalrob June 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm Reply

            Haha, dang that was deserved. I do not even want to begin telling you some of the… tall tales I spun up.

            Oh, and sorry to harp on this, but back to the dad, remember when the brothers find the note their mom wrote (which augured just how much d-baggery the dad would take part in)? Belle’s analysis of his focus on ego is spot on.

            Now somebody find a Whitehead interview where he spills the beans on how much of this is real. I demand to know!

            • belleisa June 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm Reply

              A writer will never tell you what’s true and what’s not.

              The note the mother wrote was another reason, I found her so frustrating and so sad. The fact the she could honestly asses the situation and still, at least for the duration of the novel, stay with her abusive husband. It touched a nerve because so many women in real life do the same.

              But I digress, another really heartbreaking scene is when Benji is passed up by Melanie for Nick . I felt like it was a vulnerable moment–a guys worst nightmare to be passed up by someone perceived as “cooler.”

              I love how White head pairs this with: “I needed people to be able to see past my creaky facade in order to prove their worth, but when they did see apst it, I refused to accept it.”

              And this: “We never know we have it good, and we forget so easily. We will die out…but you understand where such behavior leads–eventually the accumulated missed opportunities, shortsighted decisions, and wrong turns will overtake us.”

              All the boy needed to do was have his first kiss. I think it’s these moments that are the most honest and autobiographical….comming from any writer.

  3. rikyrah August 10, 2009 at 11:53 am Reply

    I wound up liking the book. the parents weren’t developed enough, but they weren’t the point of the book – it was about the teens. i felt for the mother, but wanted to shake her in that plate confrontation. the point about the sister was deeper than a notion, and he just let it be, which is sort of how things are in real life. the young man has to process things over time. I did like the book, and how the ending was sort of unsatisfying and not all neat.

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