Chris's Reviews > Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
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's review
Apr 06, 10

bookshelves: adult, life, not-graphic, voice, ya
Recommended to Chris by: Andy Gottschalk

My first impression of James was that he is from an over-privileged, over-cultured Manhattan background and that, even though he is highly critical of his family’s superficiality, he has not escaped being shaped and influenced by it. I disliked him enough that I might have considered not continuing with his story if I hadn't been so intrigued by the quotes that open the book.* My patience was rewarded, because his roundabout narrative slowly reveals hints of his true inner life and painful experiences and that his "nastily superior" attitude toward people is primarily a defense mechanism--misanthropy resulting from alienation.

James is constantly concerned with using language as precisely and correctly as possible. He is precocious and over-knowledgeable about everything except his feelings and how to relate to others. He's smart and witty and insightful in his cutting observations about life, but can't find a way to connect with anyone or anything in a meaningful way. Sometimes I get in these moods where everything I see or think about depresses me. Everything seems like evidence that the world is a shitty place and getting worse. I'm not sure I ever ended up liking James or even fully empathizing, but much of what he said resonated deeply and he had me constantly chuckling wryly

James' fear of being vulnerable extends to even his readers, and if he's not quite an unreliable narrator he's certainly a reluctant one. His story includes some self-discovery, but it's subtle and gradually divulged in unarticulated ways (I often feel like I want to think something but I can’t find the language that coincides with the thought, so it remains felt, not thought. Sometimes I feel like I’m thinking in Swedish without knowing Swedish.). I found this to be a quite well-written book and I had to check other reviews to make sure I wasn't the only one reminded of Catcher in the Rye as I read it. Recommended.

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*Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.
--Ovid

When you long with all your heart for someone to love you, a madness grows there that shakes all sense from the trees and the water and the earth. And nothing lives for you, except the long deep bitter want. And this is what everyone feels from birth to death.
--Denton Welch, Journal, 8 May 1944, 11.15 p.m.
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Quotes Chris Liked

Peter Cameron
“I often feel like I want to think something but I can't find the language that coincides with the thoughts, so it remains felt, not thought. Sometimes I feel like I'm thinking in Swedish without knowing Swedish.”
Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel

Peter Cameron
“She had all the best things wrong with her—incest, insanity, drug addiction, bulimia, alopecia: you name it. All the perfect stuff for a memoir. She’s so lucky.”
Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel

Peter Cameron
Just ignore him and he’ll go away, my mother used to say to Gillian when we were young and I bugged her. Just ignore him. All he wants is attention. In retrospect there seems to be something almost cruel about that—to simultaneously acknowledge and refuse someone’s desire for attention—especially a child’s. All he wants is attention, as if it’s bad to want attention, like wanting money or power or fame.”
Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel


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