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That's Not a Feeling Paperback – October 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616951885
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616951887
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The Roaring Orchards School for Troubled Teens in upstate New York is a troubled institution. Its founder and headmaster, Aubrey, resembles a cult leader, and while he insists that teens need structure and limits, interpreting his rules isn’t easy; the struggle to win privileges often pits the students against one another. Anchored by the slowly growing friendship between students Benjamin and Tidbit (aka Sarah), the story is told by Benjamin, in recollection, informed by what he says others told him, so it becomes both a first-person narrative and an ensemble piece (there are many scenes in which Benjamin is not present). This is not your usual coming-of-age tale. Aubrey’s arcane, arbitrary form of therapy (the book’s title comes from his list of seven approved feelings) and its attendant vocabulary evoke George Saunders’ eye for the absurdity of bureaucracy and his ear for jargon, too. There are also strong echoes of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But despite the dark humor, Josefson humanizes his characters beautifully. Their longing to connect, and their confusion at where they find themselves—students and faculty alike—is urgently palpable. The prose is matter-of-fact, even placid, and studded with perfectly phrased gems, a cool surface to a work that is rich in feeling. A wonderful and noteworthy debut. --Keir Graff

Review

New York Times Editors’ Choice
Booklist Editors’ Choice


"Dan Josefson is a writer of astounding promise and That's Not a Feeling is a bold, funny, mordant, and deeply intelligent debut."
David Foster Wallace
, author of Infinite Jest
 
"If That's Not a Feeling were a fifth novel, it would be a triumph. As a first novel, it is an astonishment. Dan Josefson sails along the scary edge of perfection in this book, and does so with style, empathy, compassion, humor, and wisdom."
Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

“Deft, tempered prose...unornamented, but never flat or blunted, so that the characters, not the sentences, heat the pages.”
—New York Times Book Review

“The prose is matter-of-fact, even placid, and studded with perfectly phrased
gems, a cool surface to a work that is rich in feeling. A wonderful and noteworthy debut.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

“Funny at times, and more than a little sad, the book’s form perfectly mirrors Benjamin’s profound sense of dislocation and uncertainty. This is a powerful, haunting look at the alternate universe of an unusual therapeutic community.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review

“Metaphor is a hell of a weapon in Dan Josefson's debut That's Not a Feeling...a funny, humane, egalitarian, and gently challenging book, one to quote and roar over, and one that gets better and stranger as it goes.”
—SF Weekly, "Instant Classic"

"This is a book of enormous intelligence, and even more heart."
Jim Shepard
, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway

“An incredibly daring experiment in characterization, and one that will surely reward many rereadings.”
—School Library Journal, "Adult Books for Teens"

“It’s difficult to read this novel and not feel challenged, moved, devastated, and excited for Josefson’s next book.”
Tottenville Review

“Not only is this novel a humorous narrative adventure, it’s also deeply moving, subtle in its approach, and beautiful in its execution.... A vivid portrait of human frailty and perseverance, one that makes us question what breaks us, what heals us, and what makes that journey worth it.”
Tethered by Letters (blog)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Kudos to Mr. Josefson!
Nadia S. Edwards
I wish the author had dug down a little deeper to tell us not just what happened, but what it felt like.
lookingin2you
Despite fertile subject matter, this book is a real disappointment.
notaprofessional

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dienne TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I suppose I should start off by saying that I began my career in a residential school somewhat like the fictional "Roaring Orchards" portrayed in this book, so this book held a special draw for me. There were plenty of differences between where I used to work and Roaring Orchards. We worked with kids of all ages, not just teenagers. We were in an urban rather than rural environment. We had a much bigger staff and much more supervision.

But there were enough similarities that Dan Josefson's portrayal not only rang true, but packed a wallop. My school too was a rarefied, nearly incestuous environment that, despite being in a major city and affiliated with a major university, was oddly isolated from the outside world. I too was one of those staff barely older/more mature (and definitely less streetwise) than many of the students I worked with. I too struggled to understand and implement the therapeutic "process" and be part of the daily therapeutic "milieu". And I too saw the pathos and tragedy that ensue when so many severely damaged kids are isolated with only each other and staff with their own issues. I often found myself wondering if Josefson's portrayal of Benjamin were perhaps autobiographical - how else could he paint such an unbelievable, yet utterly accurate, picture of such a place?

Not only does Josefson's novel work on a psychological level, it works on a literary level. Our narrator, Benjamin, is the ultimate unreliable narrator. His story is ostensibly a first person narrative, but it shifts frequently to a third person omniscient point of view, including many events, conversations and even thoughts, feelings and dreams, which Benjamin could not possibly know.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bernice Hunt on October 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The director of Roaring Orchards, a school for troubled teens, believes wholeheartedly in the therapeutic process of his own invention on which the school is predicated. Cockamamy? Yes--but not a bit more so than many of the weird therapies that were popular in the 60's. Josefson's intelligent, empathic, and always lucid writing brings the school to vivid life. The teachers are patient and well-meaning, but often bumbling and incompetent; the parents are desperate and hence gullible and trusting; the children struggle with mighty burdens of anxiety, anger, frustration, and desire as they attempt to follow "the process" in order to graduate. The book is sad and wryly funny, and everyone in it is so compelling that I was sorry when I got to the end.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cathleen M. Walker VINE VOICE on September 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1971 I spent six months in a juvenile facility for troubled teens. In 1993 my daughter spent time in a half way house for troubled girls. It is now 2012 and I am now doing this work. Not many people have any idea what this work entails for those involved, both staff and kids. This books captures it in heartbreaking reality. I was completely captivated by the characters, the stories, the outcomes. The author is truly gifted and I am honored to have read this book, and to recommend it to anyone who cares about the next generation.

WEEPING IN THE PLAYTIME OF OTHERS: AMERICAS INCARCERATED CHILDREN, 2ND EDIT
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Granfors TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved Meg Abbott's "Dare Me," and thought this book might be like it. It was and it wasn't. "Dare Me" digs more deeply into the psychology of the girls whereas Josefson lets actions speak louder than words. There are some very crazy actions.

Dan Josefson has created a dystopian school amid the traditional world of private schools. "That's Not a Feeling" takes place at Roaring Orchards, a boarding school for troubled kids. In an otherwise idyllic setting, Roaring Orchards, the school, is purgatory.

There is no real curriculum. There is no real adult around. The students are put into levels and different punishments on a whim. The cast of characters is wide, each with a highly unusual, negative trait.

The main character, Benjamin, was tricked into coming to the school on what he thought was a visit. Then his parents disappear, and he's stuck. He befriends Tidbit, a girl who seems to understand his own sense of disillusionment with the world and can play the words right into a teacher's face with a straight expression.

Although this is kind of a black comedy, with the various character names (Pudding for one) and constant teasing and psychobabble, Josefson looks closely at the use of drug therapies and self-esteem building programs that aren't working.

Truly, this is a book that lays it out plainly but in a comic way: don't mess with other people's brains and quit trying to get them to indulge in telling their secrets to strangers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Florio TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think the author did a masterful job of messing around with the rules of storytelling in That's Not A Feeling. This is a first person narrative that slyly jumps around to third person while still being the recollections of a first person account. I liked the way that the omniscient perspective would be used in the same paragraph as words like "I" and "me", and yet never broke any grammatical rules. It all fits, as the structure of the story reveals.

What is key to believing that the protagonist is actually relating past events is that he is an unreliable narrator. He can 'remember' anything he likes, fill in the blanks of what other students and staff members are feeling and saying, at will. He clearly does, as it is doubtful he knows what the headmaster dreams of at night, or the darkest thoughts of staff while they fumble around in their intimacies.

So if you understand that Benjamin is making the story his, it's easier to buy in to the conceit of the POV.

What I found disappointing was the plot and pacing. I like cohesive storytelling, and this is more of a series of unrelated vignettes. True, the darkly comic and arch tone will appeal to plenty of readers. You have to be willing to work as a reader to keep up with the satiric asides and symbolic commentary. So while I would applaud the deft absurdist crafting of the book, I personally didn't enjoy it.

Moreso, I really wanted to love this novel! I have personal experience with group homes and mental illness, and was excited to see some of my own experiences reflected in fiction. The universe-within-a-universe rings especially true, with breaking people down and rebuilding them in a structured fashion of idiosyncratic language, social codes and privileges. Stockholm Syndrome is clearly at play here.
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