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Stephen Florida
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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > Stephen Florida

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments so let's talk about it....


message 2: by Dax (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dax Why so quiet in here?

Florida is a complicated character who is very much a victim of his childhood. Despite his erratic behavior, I found myself sympathizing with him. Habash's character development is second to none. Really liked the author's use of literary devices as well: the frogman, the bleak landscape. Good stuff.


message 3: by Kristina (last edited Jan 06, 2018 04:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments slight spoilers, but not really

I am currently reading this book. So far, I am liking it.. I agree, Stephen is a complicated character. However, part of me is rooting for him with his strict dieting, peeing in inappropriate places, and possibly mental Illness. I am eager to see where this goes..


Lisa (lisapeet) | 6 comments I loved this one. Aside from being really immersive and a bit uncomfortable (in a good way), I thought it was so different from the rest of the pack—an odd and at the same time solidly-written book. He keeps that strange voice completely consistent from start to finish and I don't think that's any mean feat. Glad to see it in ToB, not least because I think it'll make for good discussion.


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Lisa - Agree, agree 100%


message 6: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments Also 100% agree w you, Lisa

It's v much not a book I'd ever have picked up on my own. And I can't say that I *loved* it, but dang was it through. Almost anthropological.


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Melanie - Yes thats how I feel as well, I actually read this only because it was sent to me via Indispensable. I was not that keen on a "wrestling" book but this character of Florida just got to me. Its not without fault. I wasn't all that keen on the middle section where it became little snippets of things and I lost it a little with the jazz teacher stuff but I DO hope it makes it to the discussion stage.


Lisa (lisapeet) | 6 comments I picked it up 100% for the cover, which I adore. Only after I saw that and started clicking through the publicity material did I think I might like it, but I would have tried it no matter what. I can be very cover driven.


Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments Agreed!! That cover is Awesome! Can there be some type of award like most photogenic or something?


message 10: by Janet (new) - rated it 1 star

Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments Listening to the audio and I'm about a quarter of the way in. Not enjoying it....is it more than just a character study of this lonely guy? If not, I'm packing it in.


Brandon L | 10 comments I’m reading it now, and around page 80, it takes a turn that I wasn’t expecting. Jane, stick with it, I think? I’m halfway through and I find it pretty interesting. It is mostly a psychological portrait though there is some more plotting about what Stephen/Steven wants to do. I’m like 50/50 on whether this turns out well for him.


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 451 comments Janet wrote: "Listening to the audio and I'm about a quarter of the way in. Not enjoying it....is it more than just a character study of this lonely guy? If not, I'm packing it in."

I have to say that I was feeling that way about the book for a while. I just didn't think I wanted to spend so much time with an angry guy going on and on about wrestling. But it did become something else and there are surprising events going on during Stephen's senior year.

I didn't love this book, but it definitely surprised me.


Emily | 2 comments I finished this late last night, and I am so impressed by Habash's commitment to the prose style--and just how it got weirder and more erratic with the plot turns.

This is 100% not a book I would have picked up otherwise, and I'm so glad the ToB brought it to me.


Brandon L | 10 comments I finished this last night and am still mulling over all the different pieces. What’s the deal with The Frogman? How much are we not getting? How threatening does Stephen make things when maybe they don’t need to be threatening? I have a lot of questions about this book, but totally enjoyed reading it.

I got this from Powell’s as part of their Indiespensable subscription service, which included an interview with Habash. He talks about just having the voice pretty set, which is conversational and funny, but also a total obsessive. I loved the voice.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 602 comments Brandon wrote: "I loved the voice. "
Absolutely the best thing about this book, in my opinion.


message 16: by Janet (last edited Jan 12, 2018 02:27PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments Ugh....I absolutely hated this book. I wish I had DNF'd it early on and not wasted 12 hours of my life (listening to the audio). Nothing could be more boring to me than listening to a 22yo male obsess about wrestling. It was like being tied to a chair and forced to watch hour upon hour of monster trucks. In some ways it reminded me of the classic Stoner which a lot of people loved (not me) because it's essentially a character study with very little plot and if you can't relate to the character then where does that leave you?


message 17: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments Just starting this one and I’m intrigued, but I’ll admit that Stephen is getting more a pass for the toxic masculinity leanings than he otherwise would be getting had I not been listening to White Tears in parallel. Those bros make me want to perpetuate some violence of my own.


message 18: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Amy wrote: "Just starting this one and I’m intrigued, but I’ll admit that Stephen is getting more a pass for the toxic masculinity leanings than he otherwise would be getting had I not been listening to White ..."

i'm listening now in audiobook, about 10 mins every night, so i'll probably listen for the duration of 2018, but i'm okay with stephen. i guess i have more tolerance for stoopid boys than you do. stoopid men, OTOH, yeah, no.


message 19: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Amy wrote: "Just starting this one and I’m intrigued, but I’ll admit that Stephen is getting more a pass for the toxic masculinity leanings than he otherwise would be getting had I not been listening to White ..."

are you listening or reading? if you want to piggy-listen let me know.


message 20: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments Reading. :)


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 451 comments Amy wrote: "Just starting this one and I’m intrigued, but I’ll admit that Stephen is getting more a pass for the toxic masculinity leanings than he otherwise would be getting had I not been listening to White ..."

I wonder how much what other books we're reading affect how we see Stephen. I found reading this at the same time as The Idiot meant that Selin looked more mature in comparison and Stephen even more incurious and unpleasant.

But while this isn't a book I liked much, it was one that was doing something interesting and I'm glad I read it.


message 22: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Stephen Florida and his existential questions fascinate me. I’m at the 50% point. He claims to only live in the moment as if that’s all there is. Yet he seems suicidal at the prospect of not having wrestling as his life’s purpose after graduation so he does think about the future. And such anger! I’m enjoying the author’s unique style. But for the themes, it reads a lot like a young adult novel.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 602 comments Janet wrote: "Ugh....I absolutely hated this book. I wish I had DNF'd it early on and not wasted 12 hours of my life (listening to the audio). Nothing could be more boring to me than listening to a 22yo male obs..."

It's an interesting comparison. I really enjoyed both although I'm not sure finding something in common with either narrator is the ticket, it's whether you're interested in that character's internal life, maybe? (But not every book is for every person.)


message 24: by Janet (new) - rated it 1 star

Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Janet wrote: "Ugh....I absolutely hated this book. I wish I had DNF'd it early on and not wasted 12 hours of my life (listening to the audio). Nothing could be more boring to me than listening to a..."

Yes Jenny, you expressed it better than I did.


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments I think I appreciated this book for letting me inside such a masculine point of view. Last years ToB contestant- The Throwback Special also did this very well but ultimately I enjoyed Stephen Florida much more.
I normally have zero interest in reading about sports but actually the way wrestling was described here was so well done and the mindset of combat from Stephen was fascinating. I have also watched the film Foxcatcher which is exceptional if you find you need more wrestling stories.


message 26: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments I was enthralled by Stephen Florida. Maybe it's because I was a competitive mountain biker in Colorado. Maybe it's because I've had evil thoughts and I've done thoughtless things. Maybe it's because the Frogwoman follows me around sometimes. Whatever the reason, Gabe Habash dragged me inside Florida's head and kept me in that bizarre place full of hurt, anger, despair, hopelessness, and persistence. Florida is an icon of resilience.


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Erin wrote: "I was enthralled by Stephen Florida. Maybe it's because I was a competitive mountain biker in Colorado. Maybe it's because I've had evil thoughts and I've done thoughtless things. Maybe it's becaus..."

Oh thats a great comment Erin. Not for the first time have I wished GRs had a "like" button.


Ruthiella | 340 comments Janet wrote: "Ugh....I absolutely hated this book. I wish I had DNF'd it early on and not wasted 12 hours of my life (listening to the audio). Nothing could be more boring to me than listening to a 22yo male obs..."

I loved Stoner, but I agree with you Janet about Stephen Florida. I am about half way through and 280 pages is waaaay to long for me to be inside this guy's head.


Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments I hated this book too. I usually love unlikeable characters, but this guy was just horrible, gross, creepy, and mean for no reason.


message 30: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Now I'm afraid I have to re-read the book. If you haven't finished, you may not want to continue reading, though I won't spell out the spoilers, just hint at things to watch for. Here's what troubles me: Who was committing the crimes that were occurring throughout the novel? How did the gorilla mask get in the shower? Whose picture was on the wanted poster? How are the alleged pedophilia and the practice wrestling match with Linus with the sexual overtones related? It all comes down to something Nadine said: Is Stephen Florida a reliable narrator? Perhaps not.


message 31: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Dianah wrote: "I hated this book too. I usually love unlikeable characters, but this guy was just horrible, gross, creepy, and mean for no reason."

There are a couple of references to why he's mean. At the end of the book, he says he'd give up everything if his mother and father could be at the gym. It must suck to be a teenaged orphan. Also, his aunt abandoned him when she said she'd be there from Australia. There's a paragraph where he states he can't even tell his bad thoughts to MaryBeth so everything's been building up in him. He never expressed his grief over his parents' death. Hurt people hurt.


message 32: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Brandon wrote: "I finished this last night and am still mulling over all the different pieces. What’s the deal with The Frogman? How much are we not getting? How threatening does Stephen make things when maybe the..."

That's where I am Brandon. After I wrote my review, I realized that this book may be about a heck of a lot more than wrestling.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 602 comments Yeah some have posited that maybe Stephen did all those things but if that's the case wouldn't the author give us more at the end? Or is he cackling to himself?


message 34: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments 1/3 of the way through and really captivated by this. won't read the comments for fear of spoilage, but i wonder how well this is served by being read on audio. it seems pretty complex and experimental....


message 35: by Jan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1058 comments @Jo, I thought the audio was excellent.


message 36: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments I mean, how much did he really give us at the end? Anyway, it’s enough to make me go sleuthing through the novel again.


message 37: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo | 429 comments Jan wrote: "@Jo, I thought the audio was excellent."

good! thank you for the reassurance! that stephen!!!!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 602 comments Erin wrote: "I mean, how much did he really give us at the end? Anyway, it’s enough to make me go sleuthing through the novel again."

I figure it's either there and the author only wants those of us who connect the dots to get it, or he just wrote this straight forward novel about a wrestler and we are looking for mofe.
I had coffee with a writer friend who had just finished reading it and loved watching the look move across her face when I told her that theory. She was like "no! But maybe? Oh. My. God."

I mean it would be rather subversive... And awesome.


message 39: by Dianah (last edited Jan 19, 2018 04:44AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Erin wrote: "Dianah wrote: "I hated this book too. I usually love unlikeable characters, but this guy was just horrible, gross, creepy, and mean for no reason."

There are a couple of references to why he's mea..."


Yes, agreed, he was definitely hurt. But he lashed out in such a mean manner -- the completely awful way he dissed Linus in the beginning, the dirty way he wrestled, the pissing all over the jazz teacher's bathroom, for God's sake! It's one thing to act out from pain, it's another to just be a horrible person. Ugh, I really did not love this book!


Trudie (trudieb) | 27 comments Isn't it a strength of the writing that we can have such strong visceral reactions to a character ?. I think author Garth Greenwell said

Stephen Florida is an unforgettable addition to the canon of great literary eccentrics and I don't think that is too much hyperbole in this case.

I read this book back in September and still recall all these horrible actions and yet retain a shred of admiration for his single-mindedness. All respect to Gabe Habash for pulling this tough balancing act off in his FIRST book.
I personally loved the small section where his careers councillor sends him out to shadow an oil field worker, the whole incident is laced with dark humour creepiness and a yearning loneliness. It would have made an outstanding short story.

Ghosh the more I discuss this book the more I admire it actually.


Brandon L | 10 comments Trudie wrote: "Isn't it a strength of the writing that we can have such strong visceral reactions to a character ?. I think author Garth Greenwell said

Stephen Florida is an unforgettable addition to the canon..."


That's the beauty of the TOB, you get to piece things together in this weird, enormous, competitive, yearly book club.

I though the oil worker thing could have resulted in something terrible, especially given the work, but we get to see that Stephen isn't really motivated by money, and while he could do the work, the lack of passion there is a key factor about why he doesn't see it as an option for himself. It's less "scared straight" than dismissing an option for himself.


Nadine (nadinekc) | 544 comments I'm a big fan of this book - while I was reading it, and even moreso several weeks later. Stephen becomes increasingly unhinged, but there's some little core of humanity in him that doesn't let go - the guy he becomes when he's with Mary Beth. He's a trainwreck, and an unreliable narrator, but he'll swing between almost arbitrarily awful behavior (peeing off a balcony onto students' heads) to kind gestures (sending $2000 to a screwed-up aunt in Australia he doesn't know, even after she broke her promise to move back and give him a home and family.). And on top of all that, he can be quite funny - he's got an odd way with words. Since Stephen has mental problems he isn't a reliable narrator, so it's up to the reader to decide when he's describing reality and when he's either delusional, or letting off steam by inflicting imaginary pain on his enemies. That was what made the book so interesting for me - deciding what's 'real', what's delusional, what's hyperbole.


message 43: by Bob (last edited Jan 19, 2018 05:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob Lopez | 360 comments I've been loving this book. But I'm sad to say, at about 115 pages in, my backpack was stolen with my copy of Stephen Florida in it. It was just getting REAL GOOD!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 602 comments Bob wrote: "I've been loving this book. But I'm sad to say, at about 115 pages in, my backpack was stolen with my copy of Stephen Florida in it. It was just getting REAL GOOD!"

Frogman strikes again?


Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Trudie, Brandon, and Nadine: I can't disagree with anthing you all wrote. This is the beauty of the ToB! While I know that this will never be a favorite for me, you (and everyone else above) have given me much to mull over. Thanks!!!


Nadine (nadinekc) | 544 comments Dianah wrote: "Trudie, Brandon, and Nadine: I can't disagree with anthing you all wrote. This is the beauty of the ToB! While I know that this will never be a favorite for me, you (and everyone else above) have g..."

And the beauty of reading in general - sometimes I'm surprised by the books I like and the ones I don't. There are books that ring my every bell and are well-written, and yet - meh. And vice versa. So I am always glad there are lots of opposite opinions to give a deserving book some love when I can't.


Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments I was thinking that because he is such an unreliable character that maybe he is doing those bad things around campus, but he does not know it is himself. He is mentally ill, so maybe he has dissociative disorder which is why he can give his aunt 2000 dollars and then later on give a poem to Linus.
I also think it's interesting how he places himself in all these weird situations and in his mind these men are going to do something horrible to him.
unreliable as he was throughout this book, I wanted him to win.


message 48: by Erin (last edited Jan 23, 2018 05:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Nadine wrote: "I'm a big fan of this book - while I was reading it, and even moreso several weeks later. Stephen becomes increasingly unhinged, but there's some little core of humanity in him that doesn't let go ..."

Is he unreliable in that he honestly made up the whole thing about the assistant coach and Linus, or is he misleading the readers? I'm a bit unfamiliar with unreliable narrators. I went back and did the timeline for the woman (view spoiler).

So I have a ton of empathy for Florida when I think of him as a hurt teen. At one point, he'll give up the thousands of people at the gym just to have his parents there. But when I think of him as a psychopath, it gets harder. Could he have committed the crimes? Or is there just enough information that we see he couldn't have done it? Or are we being asked to consider the degrees of mental illness in our capacity for empathy? Because that's where I'm left and it troubles me. Too often Florida says he has no remorse, just like a psychopath. Yet I feel empathy for him. But that's because I'm not sure if he committed the crimes...


message 49: by Erin (last edited Jan 23, 2018 05:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Erin wrote: "I mean, how much did he really give us at the end? Anyway, it’s enough to make me go sleuthing through the novel again."

I figure it's either there and the author only wants those of ..."


Wait, that's Mary Beth in his room, right? It's a happy ending. Did I just make that up? Now you're making me wonder if it was Linus.


message 50: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments Help! Someone! Have I gone more insane? It's Mary Beth who says, "There you are" at the end, right?


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