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The Sparkling-Eyed Boy: A Memoir of Love, Grown Up Paperback – May 12, 2004

2.5 out of 5 stars 6 ratings

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From Publishers Weekly

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.
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From Booklist

In this rather self-absorbed, obsessive reworking of her first experience with love, Benson recounts her childhood summers spent on the Upper Peninsula (UP) in Michigan, where she met the sparkling-eyed boy, who lived there year-round. Although she never tells us his name, she precisely details his physical appearance, their halting conversations, and their every encounter from the first moment they met diving off a country dock. She tells of the fraught relationship between UPers and summer residents, who often vied over who had a deeper sense of place. More often, she dithers over the fact that he has married, as though she expected him always to be there, waiting for her. Her memoir is filled with an aching yearning and tinged with an eroticism that seem out of all proportion to the innocent relationship they shared as adolescents. Yet her unseemly obsession also works as a remarkably candid disclosure of what it feels like to be young and in love for the first time. Winner of a prize for creative nonfiction from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, this is a provocative, intense read. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mariner Books; 0 edition (May 12, 2004)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 192 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 061843321X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0618433216
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 8.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.44 x 8.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    2.5 out of 5 stars 6 ratings

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Amy Benson is the author of The Sparkling-Eyed Boy (Houghton Mifflin 2004), winner of the Bakeless Prize in creative nonfiction, sponsored by Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and Seven Years to Zero (Dzanc Books 2017), winner of the Dzanc Books Nonfiction Prize. Recent work has appeared in journals such as Agni, BOMB, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, PANK, and Triquarterly. She has taught creative writing at Columbia University and Fordham University and joined the writing faculty at Rhodes College in Memphis in the fall of 2016. She was a fellow at Bread Loaf and a resident at Ledig House International, and is the co-founder of the First Person Plural Reading Series in Harlem.





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