I've just finished King Dork by Frank Portman and despite a really stop-start reading week, it was no problem.Whenever you pick up this book, no matter where you are, the voice of the adolescent Tom Henderson is so authentic,pitch perfect and consistent that you are back into the groove within a sentence.
I was completely taken by Frank Portman's writing style,so much of this book is so funny but there's an underlying poignancy and I've been gripped by quite a few books like this recently.
Tom Henderson is the ultimate US high school loser "Zero athletic skills, a non-existent social life, and an inexhaustible supply of rock-and-roll dreams". Tom plucks his ever-changing names for the band out of thin air, and these make for regular droll moments throughout the book.
Underpinning the book is Tom's wry 21st century student's take on the cult of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger, a book I only read for the first time a few months ago.
Frank Portman flags up all the cult books we know and
loath love.It would seem U.S. children of the 60's were made to identify with the likes of Holden Caufield whilst here in the UK the cult theme was the same and I remember it well, but we had to feel for Piggy and Ralph and understand Lord of the Flies. I suspect it was the generation before that had to read and learn from Pinkie in Graham Green's Brighton Rock. It makes me think does every generation of children have a book with a moral message from which they must take a lesson on "how not to go off the rails"?
I knew there was a reason not to have sold my entire collection of Thomas Merton books on eBay. I thought my days of reading monastic deliberations were over but in a funny sort of way I really want to flick through The Seven Storey Mountain now that Tom Henderson has attempted it.
Shamefully, I'm thinking my fascination with Thomas Merton may have resided more in his tragic demise than in the humility of his words.He famously made a rare exodus from his hermit's residence to travel around Asia.Staying in the presumably unaccustomed "luxury" of a hotel whilst in Thailand, he stepped out of the shower onto a poorly earthed electric fan and that was that.
Hang onto your copy until you've read King Dork just in case you get the urge.
Many thanks to Adele Geras who pointed me to King Dork in the first instance and she is absolutely right;it has film writ large all over it and I can only endorse her plea, read it beforehand to get that unique flavour of Frank Portman's brilliant writing.