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The Big Book of Misunderstanding Hardcover – April, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Harrington Park Pr (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560233834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560233831
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,400,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gladstone's sweeping if muddled first novel certainly opens dramatically, as plucky, eccentric Joshua Royalton contemplates suicide, thinking, "Did I have to end my life to end my childhood?" As his attempt is squelched, so begins this prickly portrait of a boy's bittersweet Philadelphian upbringing. The largely "misunderstood" son of a restless mother and a controlling father, Joshua navigates the usual boyhood traumas, curing his persistent "outcast" status in grade school by participating in his town's dramatic production of Hello, Dolly!. Moving on to develop an impressive theatrical reputation in high school, he dates the lovely Meri and dreams about getting into Yale. Once admitted, he is ushered into an early adulthood comprising new friends, revelations about his sexuality (Meri is no longer part of the picture), and his parents' strangely smooth separation after 25 years of marriage. But Gladstone's debut is patchy. Dialogue and first-person prose convincingly channel a perceptive child's universe of sugar cereals, pet turtles and trips to the zoo, yet as Joshua grows up, his supporting story often seems contrived, robbing the narrative of the emotional richness it strives for. Gladstone frequently substitutes punch lines for poignancy, and sometimes fumbles both: Joshua's homosexual disclosure to both parents unleashes pages of silly, sophomoric, Leave It to Beaver patronizing. A touching twist at the book's conclusion counterbalances the clich‚s with some heartfelt sentiment as father and son finally begin to understand their familial interdependence. Gladstone's tender, bouncy narrative, flush with the intricacies (both exquisite and torturous) of burgeoning gay youth is broad enough for a mixed audience. Gay readers whose coming-out process was nightmarish may want to pass on this trouble-free, sugary rendition, but those who managed to emerge unscathed will find it refreshingly nostalgic and entertaining. Author tour.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Back once again to the minefields of the tortured father-son relationship, the locale of so much fiction. Josh and Lew, two wildly different brothers, grow up with a super-controlling lawyer father, Harris Royalton, who makes General Patton look tame, and a mother whose midlife education and career in psychology rock the upper-middle-class, dysfunctional family's already tilting boat. But what constitutes family? Josh intuits his differentness early on but denies his same-sex attractions. While Lew excels on the playing fields, Josh sings and dances on stage, studies hard, and, turning his back on his parents' alma mater, opts instead for Yale. The brothers' estrangement mirrors and intensifies the discord underlying the family's whole structure, and only years later can the adult Josh finally return home, confront the myth and the constraints of his father's "sacred Royalton family," and make peace with the frightened and abandoned old man. This incisively written novel should appeal to both gay and mainstream readers. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

And I highly reccommend this for what is good.
DonMac
This book is a sweet, touching memoir that many of our generation can relate to, regardless of their life's path.
Jacqueline Borock
Turning the last page made me return to the opening page and start reading all over again.
Grady Harp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "iandthou@yahoo.com" on July 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Do I have to end my life to end my childhood?" Josh Royalton asks. Jim Gladstone's first novel is a good-humored flashback on a family maddeningly normal at its disfunctional worst. So why is Josh about to swallow his dad's Clonazepam tablets?
Unlike misunderstood gay kids whose alienation from family is a rite of passage perhaps more painful than their coming out, Josh was nearly loved to death. It's one of the cosmic ironies of the tale-that whatever Joshy, his brother Lewis, or mother `Becca do, they cannot get beyond Harris, the well-intentioned but controlling father, whose blind faith in their Ozzie and Harriet family appears unshakeable. Whatever they feel, dad assures them they're fine, all's well, they'll get over it, or he'll take care of it. As they flounder toward individuation, his obsessive manipulation drives them away. Lew takes to sports his dad can't coach and eventually escapes to California, leaving no address. `Becca takes psychology courses, gets a Ph.D., and divorces Harris to claim herself. And Josh drifts-still bound by his childhood and his dad's smothering influence, until he's on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He writes his book "to live through my twenty-two years again. I would set them to paper and set them to rest." With The Big Book of Misunderstanding he writes himself out of suicide.
But if you think this book doesn't sound like fun, you misunderstand! It is one of the most original, honest, funny, and brilliantly written memoirs in lavender print. Gladstone's writing is irresistible, with refreshing, inimitable phrasing, sparkling verbs that cut like diamonds, and perfectly apt though unexpected new metaphors. His are sentences you underscore and star in the margins so you can find them again.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The TBBOM is a very well-described memory of a time when Bridget still loved Bernie and mucky-green bell-bottoms were on their first round of fashion. Like a Supressed Memory Recovery artist, Jim GLADSTONE reminds us why we gave up eating Count Chocula, despite the prize at the bottom of the box. He takes us on a journey that some us never wanted to be on in the first place, but had no say in the matter. We've all been through, "If I have to stop this car, my belt's coming off". GLADSTONE reminds us that, regardless of who we've grown into today, our destiny was shaped by a little brother's fear of a Satanic night light or a father's absolute disbelief of a family broken up. After finishing this Psych-Time Travel novel, you will end up right where you should be - asking yourself how you got here but thankful that you do not have to go back.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chad Sosna on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Certainly this story of the Royalton family and son Joshua is not a bad novel: the real crime is how great it could have been. Teasing you with son Joshua asking, "Do I have to end my life to end my childhood?" you later wonder what all the angst is about. By the end of the book, why did he feel suicidal at all? It certainly wasn't the coming-out process; that was relatively easy and quick in this story.

The central problem is that the writer wanted this story to be about a young gay man's desire to separate from the terrible environment of his upbringing. Trouble is, his childhood is pretty good. The supposed bad guy, his father, is not bad at all, and his mother has her own trials but they are fairly mild.

This is more of a chronicle of a boy's life and his family than it is a "gay" novel. In fact, readers will be disappointed at the number of pages devoted to Joshua's rather benign upbringing. The plot doesn't get started till nearly the middle of the book so that we can see various (many of them unnecessary) childhood scenes, equipped with frequent "remember that" sort of name-droppings of TV shows, fad toys and brand names. I don't need an author to goose me onto memory lane; it's more effective to organically weave the environment and era into a story.

There were a few problems with dialogue. Sometimes the children spoke too adult-like, and toward the end of the book, Joshua and his father sound like therapists talking to each other. And there's that main problem that nags the reader throughout the book: what's Joshua's problem? A similar, but much more realistic and believable story is "The World of Normal Boys" by K.M. Soehnlein.

My suggestion is to watch for future works by Jim Gladstone, because he is a good writer. The trouble here: he didn't have an editor.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DonMac VINE VOICE on August 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved the first 2/3 of this book. The detail of the narrator's childhood, his brother and parents is so real. All
the insecurities, love, childhood memories are captured beautifully. I was very drawn to this family - the father in particular who was guilty maybe of being too loving, too much of a family man -- and I had a hard time dealing with the determined, headstrong way in which the children worked to separate themselves.
Also, as the narrator grows older and accepts his homosexuality in college - everything seems very rushed. It is just one declaration of "this is me and I'm gay (*snap* sometimes)" after another. Not a lot of detail around his college life - it seems a little forced after so much examination of his childhood. It just rang false for me. One other annoying detail (and my time clock could be off)but some of the pop culture references
Bottom line - I think most people would be greatful for such a nurturing, loving upbringing. The fight to get away pulled me into that whole " be yourself, realize yourself" kind of mentality. I mena the parents embraced the kids differences, even separate amicably (if emotionally)...I guess in some ways the story just comes off as kind of selfish.
What is good here, though, is great. And I highly reccommend this for what is good. The other stuff ... maybe it's just me.
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