Read The History Of Luminous Motion by Scott Bradfield Online


Phillip is eight years old. He experiences material reality as a hindrance, so he tries to stay in an inner realm composed only of abstract concepts like gravity, motion, sound and light. He lives with Mom, who stays alone in her bedroom. Once he killed a man with gleaming tools from a hardware store. He has a friend with whom he does burglary and drugs and seances. Then DPhillip is eight years old. He experiences material reality as a hindrance, so he tries to stay in an inner realm composed only of abstract concepts like gravity, motion, sound and light. He lives with Mom, who stays alone in her bedroom. Once he killed a man with gleaming tools from a hardware store. He has a friend with whom he does burglary and drugs and seances. Then Dad comes to stay, and Phillip descends to a subterranean otherworld where he makes contact with "dead black things, obloid and featureless, like faintly disembodied laundry hampers." A sad, beautiful book....

Title : The History Of Luminous Motion
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780330334129
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 156 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The History Of Luminous Motion Reviews

  • Forrest
    2019-04-27 03:03

    Simultaneously, some of the most beautiful, frustrating prose I've ever read. There's no doubt that Bradfield is a master craftsmen when it comes to narration. This work is ethereal, smart, and evocative of some of my favorite writers (Brian Evenson, Rikki Ducornet, etc). But when Mary Gaitskill blurbs that the work is "Painfully beautiful writing," she is speaking more truth than she knows.The narrator, Phillip, travels through a sort of dreamscape seeking the "History of Luminous Motion". We're not quite told what that means per se, but if pressed up against the wall, I'd say it's the need to keep moving, the need to feel empowered, that seeking for the feeling that one has control over his own life, his own agency. Phillip, along with his friends Rodney and Beatrice, seek power from the world of the spirits to . . . well, this is where things break down. You see, Phillip is psychotic. Not figuratively speaking, he really is psychotic. So his goals are . . . elusive, even to himself. He doesn't quite know what he wants until he's almost "on top" of it. Maybe this is part of the idea of motion, the stumbling on from event to event, from thought to thought, with no real notion of where things are going to end up until you're "there" wherever "there" is.And they end up in a bad place. A very bad place for everyone involved.But, see, Phillip, again, is psychotic. He can't be trusted. So how much of this is real? Having finished the novel, I can't even tell you if his friends are real or not. The only two people that seem real at all are Phillip and his dad.Then there's his mom. Phillip has an obsession with connecting and disconnecting with his mother throughout the novel. I often wondered if his mother was just a figment of his imagination, if she had died when he was younger, if she was a dead body in the house, if . . . if she was even real. And the connection to his mother (and subsequent disconnections and reconnections) are what drive much of the philosophy forward in this book.I must note that this book is full of philosophy. It will make you think. You might not agree with Phillip's (or Rodney's or Beatrice's) philosophies, but they will make you think. The writing is dark, not for those who are seeking comforting prose and happy scenes. Rather, Phillip plunges deep inside himself to the dark places in his skull and between his ribs, where he ruminates on life's meaning or tries to escape from it:For the first time in my life I was utterly alone. I examined the desultory, overinflated images of naked women in men's magazines. I bought a harmonica which I liked to hold in my hand and imagine myself playing. Sometimes I danced alone in my room, listening to Bruce Springsteen or Joe Cocker on my Sony Walkman. I preferred Jim Beam, but I cultivated a taste for gin as well. I drank and danced until I grew dizzy and surfeited with a thick, swollen stomach, and collapsed on my unsheeted mattress, beating my feet in the air, watching the room swirl around. When it started swirling I knew I might throw up at any moment. That's what the plastic-lined trash bin was for. I lay very still and tried to make the room stop moving. It required an act of intense concentration. It was as if this swirling room was itself a mockery of movement, pulling up through my stomach while the alcohol moved through my blood, lifted into my brain and skull and sinuses. I wanted more to drink and tried to sit up. I knocked over bottles and ashtrays. The gray ashes spilled across my clothes and sheets. There were beer cans everywhere. Everything reeked of gin and cigarettes. The floor of my room looked like the high school parking lot. The world seemed to be growing darker and more desperate. "I don't know where I'm trying to go, Mom," I whispered, as if she could hear me. "Maybe I'm already there and I don't even know it."Pretty dark stuff, but probably what you'd expect from a person struggling with psychosis.Only Phillip is eight years old . . . Yeah, eight years old.Okay.Whatever.This is what held this novel back from brilliance. NO eight year old uses words like "surfeit" or "desultory," and, I'm sorry, but a little boy who drinks that much (and later is smoking weed and sniffing glue with abandon, along with his 12-year-old friend, Rodney) is going to survive long. "Well," you say, "an eight-year-old could handle alcohol in small quantities." Fine. How many eight-year-olds enjoy drinking enough that they'll drink until they vomit? Really?And that vocabulary, that beautiful, erudite vocabulary - eight? There's no way. I was an advanced reader and writer at that age, and I couldn't have told you what "desultory" meant. I might have figure out "surfeit" from the context of the sentence, but to construct a sentence using that word? No way! And the book is full of examples like this. Chock full.I just couldn't swallow it. Had the book ended on a big "reveal" that this was written by someone in their twenties, looking back on a childhood riddled with mental illness, I could forgive the indulgence. But no . . . just no! The book ends . . . okay, I won't spoil it for you. But it's not as I would have wished, not by a long shot, not in a way that makes a modicum of sense vis-a-vis all the previous narration.My suspension of disbelief was further shot down by Phillip's Mom's words and actions. She excuses her son for an (view spoiler)[attempted murder (hide spoiler)], and possibly (though it's never quite clear) a (view spoiler)[genuine, honest to goodness homicide (hide spoiler)] just chalking it up to her inability to understand her son. What??? She stands and watches as he (view spoiler)[tortures the boy's own incoherent father, her husband, who is strapped to a chair with cables and extension cords, in an attempt to kill the man (hide spoiler)] and does nothing to intercede? WHAT?!?!? Then it turns out, if I read correctly, that Phillip's Mom (view spoiler)[is, contrary to the theories I held all along while reading the book, a real person (hide spoiler)].This could have been a gem. Should have been a gem. There are still shining moments, but it's like a pearl necklace that's been dropped into an outhouse hole. Yes, there are rewards, and yes, it's beautiful and valuable, but do you really want to have to put up with the stink to get it? Your call . . .

  • Krok Zero
    2019-04-19 23:05

    Imagine if Don DeLillo and Oliver Stone collaborated on a remake of Bugsy Malone, except instead of kids-as-harmless-gangsters, you've got kids-as-philosophical-psychopaths. At its best, this novel achieves that wonderful effect I get from guys like Barry Hannah—the sense that every sentence is so thrillingly non-ordinary that I don't even have a context or a frame of reference for it. At its worst, this is an assortment of highly pretentious ideas about—oh, I don't know, "history" and "motion" and psychology and childhood and sex and whatever. But even then it's very readable. More people should know about this book—it got blurbed by Michael Chabon, fer chrissake! Seems to be out of print but CYLL (check your local library, natch).

  • Nicolas Shump
    2019-04-18 23:16

    For several years before and during my undergraduate years at KU, I worked at the Town Crier in downtown Lawrence. It no longer exists, but it was a bookstore, pipe shop, and Hallmark card store. We sold magazines too. I worked there mostly for the books and the employee discount. For me, one of the first things that attracts me to a book is its cover. Often with the books displayed with only the spine visible, I am drawn to titles. This was the case with Scott Bradfield's first novel, The History of Luminous Motion. Bradfield had earned a PhD in English from Cal-Irvine, part time home of Jacques Derrida. I have learned that Bradfield is now an American expat who lives in London. He has written several additional novels and has achieved a modicum of fame for an speech turned into in a essay titled "Why I Hate Toni Morrison's Beloved."This is my first and probably last Bradfield novel I will read. The novel is the story of an 8-year old boy Phillip who lives with a mentally ill mother who makes a living by stealing the credit cards of men she sleeps with. Phillip's father comes in and out of his life throughout the novel. Phillip kills one of her mother's boyfriends who they had actually moved in with. The man, Pedro, according to Phillip is one of the few decent men his mother had met. From the grave, Pedro occasionally appears to counsel Phillip on a variety of topics. Phillip's two friends in the novel are a pair of 12-year olds named Rodney and Beatrice. From what I described so far, the novel is a bit odd, but I suppose there are 8 year olds who are capable of murder and probably women like Phillip's mother too. So that is not my primary beef with Bradfield's novel. It is the utter implausibility of the maturity and interests of the three kids. Now I'm a fan of Marquez and other magical realists. I don't mind the appearance of fantastical elements into a narrative, but I think Bradfield over does it. To his credit, Bradield is a gifted writer who has a true talent with his prose. Here is Phillip's mom explaining the concept of luminous motion: “‘The history of motion is that luminous progress men and women make in the world alone,’ Mom said. ‘We’re moving into sudden history now, baby. That life men lead and women disavow, that sure and certain sense that nothing is wrong, that life does not beat or pause, that the universe expands relentlessly. You can feel the source of all the world’s light in your beating heart, in the map of your blood, in the vast range and pace of your brain. That’s the light, baby. You don’t need any other. Just that light beating forever inside of you.’” (42)Bradfield also excels at creating vivid portraits of the inner landscape of his characters. This is a description of Phillip's mom and her darkness:“Sometimes I even looked forward to having the darkness take me places. I took me down luminous rivers on large rotting rafts and barges. I saw strange birds flying overhead, and the eyes of other creatures emerging from the mucky water. I traveled down the river where twisted houses sat on shores filled with dark men who wouldn’t come outside. The dark men were inside whispering about me. They held heavy spears and weapons by their side while their addled women cooked large pots of gristly meat and hung their washing out to dry. The men wore loincloths and streaks of paint on their arms and faces. A few mangy dogs lay around outside the circle of men, contemplating the dim fire. One of the dark men was my father.” (130)We learn of Phillip's desire if not for love, then for an enveloping sense of affection:“I never wanted to be loved when I was eight years old. I wanted to be crushed by soft massive arms. I wanted to be lifted into some towering embrace. I wanted to be hugged so tight I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to be hugged until my eyes watered and my lungs collapsed and my heart popped.” (140) Though there is an implicit sense of violence in this description, there is also the presence of a deep longing in Phillip. Since Phillip does not find this embrace, he turns to drugs (taken from his parents, weed, and various types of beer and hard liquor. This is where the novel starts to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Because everyone knows of 3rd graders who can easily score good dope and cheap liquor. Phillip is kept out of school too, so he sits around stoned and drunk all day. When he does go out, Phillip hangs with Beatrice and Rodney his 6th grade "mentors" for lack of a better term. Rodney at least has an ambition. “So that’s when I decided to become a warlock. To master the satanic arts of black magic. Devil worshipping, for you laymen. I want to learn to master what they call the black arts.” (178) Beatrice rounds out this odd triumvirate of boy murder and apprentice warlock by appearing to be the group intellectual.Here's Beatrice lecturing Phillip on one of his intellectual shortcomings:“Man’s myth of intentionality. I do things to you. Prediction. Subject and object. The dream of perfect cosmic grammar.” (170) Is this the type of grammar they teach in schools now? It gets better though. Beatrice not to be outdone by Rodney's aspirations of the dark arts embarks upon an ambitious reading project. “I’ve been reading a lot lately, Phillip, since we broke up. French feminists, existential Marxists. I’m teaching myself French so I can read Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason— much of which has been improperly translated, from what I understand.” (171) So the real question I suppose is what Beatrice woudl be doing if she and Phillip had not broken up? Heidegger, Camus or perhaps de Beauvoir? For me, all it would have taken is for Bradfield to add ten years to the age of the protagonists to make me go along for the ride, but I don't know that even Garcia Marquez would try throwing in a prepubescent devotee of French existentialism!Without spoiling the ending, Rodney and Phillip embark upon a violent course of action encouraged partially by the dead Pedro. If you can imagine a trio of messed up, but hyperintellectual tweens with a passion for drugs, sex, and violence, this is the novel for you. I couldn't make it work.

  • Mike Polizzi
    2019-04-27 03:17

    For a time, Philip Guston's work ran parallel to the abstract expressionists. He painted what some called abstract impressionism. It seems here that Scott Bradfield created the impressionist book of post-modern hyper-realism, collapsing the psychological novel, the bildungsroman, the novel of ideas, the road novel and the meta-novel into one exquisite, heartbreaking and unsettling paradox. It probes into the problems of postmodernity with high lucidity and intelligence, but reads, nearly, as a standard narrative, using its lacunae to great effect. Narrated by a different Philip, the novel begins with a Badlands-esque road trip, but instead of two lovers we have Philip and his mother, a dazzling presence, equally unsettled and unsettling in her role as enabler. Taking the perspective of Philip's interior the book presents itself as the site of unsettled reality. Philip, our unreliable narrator, is presented as a precocious eight-year old. His intelligence and range are outside the standard domain of eight-year old precocity and he seems more a medium for the deeper essay of the author's play. Within the confines of literalism, Philip as a preciocious eight-year-old would be pursuing subjects equal to the emotional range of a thirty-year-old, let alone the intellectual range-- which isn't to say such a child couldn't exist, it's part of the book's undertaking to make it plausible if not immediately realistic. This is one of the places the author has given the reader to question the tenacity of its narrator, but also to create a sense of simultaneity.The specific type of simultaneity here is a form of expression, as parts of Philip may be autobiographical, the quality of thought is what comes through as authentic. Philip is the agent that allows the author to pursue a limitless fictional universe, a place where that Dostoyeskian question (Is everything permissable?) can be explored. The truth of the particular form of this character may or may not arise from biographical facts from within the author's own life. It is the interest required to make Philip's world elegant in its duality and the capacity to plumb a character that is this intellectually disturbing, as an avatar for moral and perceptual relativism where light is the only true constant, that makes the book. It is the sadness imparted in unexpected way of Philip's condition, the inherent brokenness, that made this book great.

  • herocious herocious
    2019-05-07 01:11

    I read this book after Mary Miller highly recommended it on Facebook.I liked it a lot. Really couldn't put it down for too long.There was a part, though, motivated by Black Magic that struck me as graphic and almost unnecessary, but not out of character. I wouldn't like watching this part in a movie.Having said that, this novel absorbs and shocks and disgusts and leaves you suspended in a very familiar house that is no longer yours.

  • Mari Gee
    2019-04-23 23:23

    I stumbled upon this in a used bookstore for a dollar or so in the very early 90s. It was before internet access was a house-hold thing, and for some bizarre reason I never read the jacket cover, so I had no preconceived notions. I miss that sometimes... knowing too much about a book before reading it is a bit like watching a million trailers for a movie... by the time you see it you've pretty much seen the best parts already. Which is mainly why most of my reviews don't give an outline synopsis of the story... you can look up painfully detailed previews for any given book, so I don't bother reinventing the wheel. My reviews are only to share my reactions.Anyway, not knowing the narrator's age had a devastating impact on me when I came to the end of the book (I don't recall if his age was ever mentioned in the book, if it was I missed it, and all the better!). It is a nausea-inducing confession of the most disgusting aspects of humanity. An indescribably haunting *beautiful* confession. There's something about this tale that simultaneously gives the misanthrope fuel for their hatred of mankind *and* evokes pity for these tragically broken human beings. This book changed the way I look at broken people. I still feel the disgust and I still avoid them like the plague, but there's always the tiniest pang of pity for them now. how gorgeous is this animal... this human being, with the potential to be so beautiful and the unexplained urge to do such ugly things. A must read.

  • Mary
    2019-05-19 01:26

    I found The History of Luminous Motion at a second-hand bookstore and picked it up knowing nothing about it, or the author. I'm so glad I did. I love this book. It's one of the best I've read in years, actually. I'm not quite sure how he managed to get away with this insanely brilliant eight-year-old narrator, but it only made it more interesting. I'm definitely going to reread it at some point.

  • Walter
    2019-05-07 20:19

    One of the odder books I have ever loved, but reading Justin Torres' WE THE ANIMALS made me pick this up again, as something is Torres' storytelling reminded me of Bradfield's. I am pleased to say it held up twenty years later. Give this to people who liked Emma Donohoe's ROOM, though that is by far the superior book.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-19 03:27

    phillip is 8 years old and when you read this book you might be like me and have to keep remembering that. a precocious little boy living in the fast lane on the way to mayhem. everything about this book is interesting with a streak of chilling running through it. phillip's inner dialogue and ability to understand adults is beyond his years. job well done!

  • Brent Legault
    2019-05-05 21:07

    Where are you, Scott? And more importantly, why don't you write? I miss you. I miss the little things you used to say. In your novels, I mean. The novels you used to write. Back in the good old 1990's. You were fast-tracked for Boy Wonderism but now you're not here anymore. Why don't you write? Where are you, Scott?You're not dead, are you?

  • Nathan
    2019-04-21 22:02

    The mental life of a precociously brilliant eight-year-old who departs from family and convention and along the way makes stops at fantasy, delusion, substance abuse, devil-worship and delinquency. Making sense of a world without a moral center. Chilling and sad.

  • Robert
    2019-05-13 01:12

    I read this without knowing anything about it. As a result I experienced most of the story in a state of fascinated confusion and anxiety without expectation. This book was a huge influence on any efforts I've made to write something evocative.

  • Kandee
    2019-04-27 21:18

    I read this book 4 times, each time loving it more and more...until this 'friend' borrowed it and bitched about the over use of similes... and now that is all I can see, but my memory of it is solid, so I won't read it again

  • Breakzqueen
    2019-05-02 21:20

    I have read this book over 50 times. I think I first read in in '95.It's poetry. Some of the most lyrical writing I've come across in modern fiction.Haven't been impressed with the rest of Bradfield's oevre, unfortunately.Will post more about this book soon.

  • Hannah
    2019-05-15 22:04

    the writing pulls you in time and time again, its pretty dark and a little hard to shake the ending (if your sensitive to psychological stuff)

  • Julia Clinger
    2019-05-14 21:16

    Darkly beautiful. Creates its own insane rules and lives by them. Funny AND die.

  • Lyric Powers
    2019-04-27 03:11

    this has been my favorite book since i first read it when i was 13. it's absolutely beautiful.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-02 00:12

    Wonderful, poetic and dreamy story of a young boy's journey. Reminds me of the novel "When We Get There". Bradfield nails it with this novel. A fast read and a satisfying one.

  • Anna
    2019-05-17 23:17

    Another endless road trip novel, this one involving a boy and his mom and the Oedipal issues that emerge when mom decides to settle down with a man. The ending feels a bit forced.

  • Aaron Levinson
    2019-05-06 01:03

    This is a STUNNING work. If you have not read this book waste no time and do so immediately. One of the major new voices in American letters.

  • Richard Chiem
    2019-05-11 04:23

    one of my favorite novels

  • Sara cunningham
    2019-05-09 22:09

    thrilling, twisted, and fantastic.

  • Gaije
    2019-05-15 02:30

    One of my favorite, favorite, favorite, books ever. Gorgeous prose, weirdly surreal narrative, love, love, love.

  • Sienna
    2019-04-24 23:09

    I knew she had her own secret life to live, just as all mothers live fair portions of their lives down there in dark secure rooms and hidden gardens filled with strange plants and trees.I'm so glad I came to The History of Luminous Motion knowing next to nothing about the book beyond loving its title. There's no point in describing the plot — Scott Bradfield will articulate it for you far more capably. But here's the thing: This is the most mesmerizing, unsettling tale I've read since The Wasp Factory. It's also one of the most beautifully written."The history of motion is that luminous progress men and women make in the world alone," Mom said. "We're moving into sudden history now, baby. That life men lead and women disavow, the sure and certain sense that nothing is wrong, that life does not beat or pause, that the universe expands relentlessly. You can feel the source of all the world's light in your beating heart, in the map of your blood, in the vast range and pace of your brain. That's the light, baby. You don't need any other. Just that light beating forever inside of you." We were turning onto the freeway, which was filled with other, hurtling headlights, enormous menacing trucks and buses. "We are like astronauts, we are like wheeling planes and spaceships. We are like swaying birds with soft stroking wings like oars. We beat against the heavy air, and carry our silent and regenerate light with us wherever we go."Sometimes it reads like straightforward YA — and yet it can't be. Can it? Bradfield presents us with a precocious eight-year-old, or an adult recalling his childhood, or a version of it, embedding in the events a sophisticated assessment (and takedown) of our society's scaffolding."I love my mom," I said."You never loved her, Phillip. You're a man. You're weapons, notions, deeds. You're technology. Your mom's the earth. She's the woods. Your mom's the rain and the wind. Your mom's nature. Your mom's what men's words wreck. Your mom's abundance, but men are cold and hungry. Your mom's life, while men aren't even death, they're just nothing. They're just the cold grey void death presumes to be. Men are the end of space and the beginning of metal."Marvel at the strange familiarity of Southern California's suburban sprawl during the late 1980s, all freeways and motels and fast food and strip malls, the setting for a crime-riddled road trip. The drinks, the drugs: my god! Phillip is the best, most disturbing kind of unreliable narrator, his youth at odds with his behavior, love with anger, clarity with cloudy hallucinations.I descended to the ocean floor and encountered bloated, symmetrical creatures with pumping white hearts and translucent skin. Collapsed blue civilizations lived down there, fissured and antiseptic, craggy with barnacles and blistering rust. I reached into the heart of the earth, the sky, the moon. I colonized language, mathematics, schemes of chemical order and atomic weight. I studied the manufacture of automobiles, microcircuitry, Kleenex and planets. I memorized the gross national products of nations and hemispheres, the populations of cities and states and principalities, the achievements of presidents, tyrants and kings. I was learning what Mom had learned already: that there are journeys we make alone every day that take us far away from one another.It's a narrative of solitude, that universal experience of life in our own heads, and connection, and it shines because of the crippled community to which it bears witness. These characters, unreal as they seem, misrepresented as they must be in this child's account of his visions, his exile and redemption, prove that Phillip was right, sort of, when he realized "that the imaginative act was more important to my life than action itself."I don't — can't — like Bradfield's anti-hero, and yet I feel so deeply for him, for his mother and father, for poor Pedro, for Rodney and Ethel, for Beatrice, who's not just all talk after all. So I loved his story, even as it repelled me, even when the details blurred and I hesitated to pry because I knew I wouldn't like what I found: but it was dazzling, just the same.If I owned a telescope and lived on a high mountaintop I could see the stars. Not the stars on a wall map but the stars themselves. Stars exploded and collapsed. They turned and spun. If other people lived in the universe they might be looking at my sun now and contemplating me while I contemplated them. They might be creatures composed of gas or foam or rock or fire. They might live forever. They might love their mms. They might travel across landscapes filled with strange sounds, plants, birds and clouds. They might eat time or fart philosophical propositions. They might live language or speak matter. They may never have heard a single note of music in their entire lives. They might possess the advanced technology required to journey from sun to sun, but then they might be too lazy and self-involved to bother. Some nights I stood there in the darkness and cried for my lost mom. I was finally beginning to realize that just because I hated Dad didn't mean I didn't love him too. Dad was a house. Mom was just infinite space which Dad's house isolated and defined. Mom was the sadness I couldn't express. She didn't stand a chance.

  • Tripp
    2019-05-16 01:13

    Lyrical, sharp, beautiful writing in the service of a disturbing story. Bradfield takes the risk of stretching the voice of his eight-year-old point of view character, Phillip Davis, and Phillip's adolescent friends--none of them sound like any kids you ever heard, I don't care how precocious. He pulls it off; he pulls off this dialogue because it's spoken by kids, not in spite of. It was a great risk to take, and he nailed it.The language is amazing, and all in the service of the story and Bradfield's narrative goals; in fact, the language, being so at odds with the creepy and downright horrible images and episodes recounted by Phillip, creates an extra layer of dissonance and discomfort. I notice some of the Goodreads comments mark Phillip as a young psychopath, though he seems more like a sociopath to me, or, to quote the psychiatric diagnosis from near the novel's end, "paranoid schizophrenic, with delusions of grandeur and competitive reality disorder."It's remarkable how destabilizing and claustrophobic it is to be locked into Phillip's point of view for the duration, which made it difficult at crucial moments to distinguish what was conventionally real from what was Phillip's reality. The novel nicely doubles as a Lost Planet guide to late 1980s Southern California, particularly that aspect of suburbia that can seem deficient of almost everything that makes life vital and interesting. The cigarettes, booze, and drugs consumed by young Phillip and friends is stunning.Phillip's obsession with the fundamental forces of the universe serve to structure the book, with sections titled Motion, Light, Sound & Gravity, and so on. Here is where Bradfield's prose achieves escape velocity time and again. Even when he's using his gift with language to show the emptiness and tautology of Phillip's mother's dialogue, it's a thing of brilliance:"In those days I thought light was layered and textured like leaves in a tree. It moved and ruffled through the car. It was gentle and imminent like snow," captures part of Phillip's early fascination with what he calls the history of luminous motion. When he and his mother finally stop driving away from Phillip's dad and settle in one place, he goes to school. Rather than a simple statement of this fact, Bradfield colors it with Phillip's perception and vocabulary: "It was interminable day after day of vacuous and unremitting childhood, unrelieved by any useful information whatsoever. The world had closed itself around me, and threatened to teach me only what it wanted me to know."Finally, when it comes to the gruesome, Bradfield understands the secret Hitchcock knew so well, that there is no need to hold the camera on the blood and gore. (view spoiler)[Glance at it, rather, elide the violence, and let the reader's imagination work for you. After his mother moves in with a man--a pretty good sort, it should be said, whom Phillip refers to as Pedro--Phillip arms his Oedipal complex for murder, and goes about his work like this: he doses the man's beer with Seconal and "after a while I pulled Pedro's toolbox out from under the bed where it waited for me like history....The toolbox contained hammers, screwdrivers, ratchets, Allen wrenches, hacksaws and spare, gleaming new replacement hacksaw blades....All that long night as I feverishly worked, what I wanted to do more than anything was build something for Pedro that would last forever." Note the attention Phillip pays to the fact that Pedro's toolbox contains "gleaming new replacement hacksaw blades. He's not using them to build a birdhouse, but that is never articulated, because we are in Phillip's point of view the whole way. He's using them on Pedro, though Bradfield leaves it to the reader to infer this. (hide spoiler)] Gorgeous language, disturbing story.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-10 20:09

    This is a strange and lyrical book about a dark little boy who lives in an unreal world. He speaks to a man no one else can see; a man he may or may not have killed. He robs houses, smokes and drinks, and talks to dark forces during seances, or at least he imagines that he does those things. And he's only eight years old. The writing is often beautiful and poetic (although it somehow feels very dated), and Philip has a lot of potential to be an interesting character, but I felt that in total the book fell somewhat flat for me. Philip's internal meanderings felt repetitive and wholly unreal, and while that may have been the intention, I didn't feel that it really did anything new with the idea of the mentally deranged little boy. Perhaps if I had read it at the time of it's release this book would feel more revolutionary, but as it is it falls somewhere in the middle of the pile.

  • John Young
    2019-05-02 21:16

    Okay... I am starting to feel bad that I have only been putting highly rated books in my book-list here, so I feel compelled to list some things I hated.I read this many years ago, and wanted to like it. A friend in college that was extraordinarily well-read gave it to me, and another (respected) friend touted it as well...I couldn't stand it!To this day, I will admit that maybe I just wasn't getting something, but I refuse to re-read it to find out.The main problem that I recall was the narrator's voice. A pre-adolescent child that goes on a cross country road trip, and speaks with the world-weary savvy of a 40-year-old seems like a bad idea.Again, it's been over a decade, so I apologize for the lack of specific complaints. However, I wanted to balance out my list a little, and I thought this turkey should make the cut.

  • Jonathan Rimorin
    2019-05-12 04:21

    I read this book back when everyone was reading it, in 1992 or 1993. The hardback had that glazed frosted cover, probably designed by Chip Kidd, the same sort of cover design that everyone would be raving a year or so later when it was done for Donna Tartt's "The Secret History." As for the book itself, I remember a little bit of it: primarily this one hilarious conversation between these three ten year old kids when one of them resorts to Althusser's ideological state apparatus to bolster his argument. The whole book was like that, a bunch of kids living their suburban lives who were superconversant with French poststructuralism and neo-Freudianism. This kind of comedy killed in the early '90s; I wonder how it would stand up now.

  • Amy
    2019-05-16 01:13

    For a while, I thought this might be a good companion book to the Last Samurai, but when smart kids go bad. Basically, Phillip is 8 (even though it would have made more sense for him to be at least 13, since all of the kids very unbelievably talk as though they were bright college students) and is super close to his mom. However, Mom seeks out the company of men, but things can only last so long before Phillip destroys their situation and they go back out on the road. This pattern comes to a halt when Phillip's dad re-enters their lives, and by this time, Phillip's mom has sunk into a deep alcoholic depression. Recommended for those who appreciate a "bad seed" story.

  • Matthew Pritchard
    2019-04-28 20:12

    I'm not really sure I bought the whole 8 year old narrator angle. It's a tricky thing to pull off. I was waiting for a twist, like it was one of his hallucinations, or maybe he was the dad, but it never came.I'm also not sure what the book was trying to tell me. I didn't feel much affinity with the poor little mite and he didn't seem to have a transformation to offer me. He started off twisted and stayed the same.The prose was rabid in a pre-millenial kind of way. You could put that down to the narrator's voice I suppose. For me that was what dated it, rather than the setting or the place. Martin Amis on Amphetamine Sulphate. In California.