Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel Paperboy discussion


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message 1: by Jon (new)

Jon “What I want to ask, what I need to know, is there a place like that, a street that peaceful and serene, a route so straight and effortless outside of dreaming?”

-- Jack Fisher Paperboy

As the reader submerges within the depths of Bob Thurber’s Paperboy he wants to take the protagonist, Jack Fisher, and assure him that everything will be alright. But scrambling to climb the abyss both fall into, the sad truth is we can’t escape. What becomes so sorely apparent in Thurber’s stunning debut novel is how powerless a human being is, immersed in bloody conflict with his own existence; and how he will come up short (like Jack’s accounts invariably do) against the immensity of his own nature and the nature of others—every time.
In Paperboy the reader travels the desolate and serpentine route of Jack Fisher, 14 who falls victim to a negligent mother, an absent father, the influences of an emotionally disturbed sister, Kelly, and a world of poverty, starvation, physical and psychological abuse. At the end of the week, when Jack must collect the subscription fees from his clients, he can never reconcile the balances in his little green book. People move, evaporate, or hide. But it’s 1969, and at times there is relief for Jack. His frustrated boss, Sam, upbraids Jack about his dwindling clientele and the money that doesn’t add up, but supports him nonetheless, keeps him on, keeps him in papers; and there’s the promise he finds in superheroes, the Apollo 11 space mission to the moon, and the strained, confused love he shares with his sister.
As the world turns its screws into poor Jack, we squirm with him, we feel his suffering, our empathy is wrung from us as Thurber renders prose, so tight, so precise, so truthful, that the reader can barely breath for want of oxygen, of light, of release. Why then do we persist? Why do we travel with Jack down his daily route? Why do we quest in tandem after his quixotic dream? Because, Thurber suggests, we are all Jack Fisher, fishermen dipping our lines into an opaque ocean. We may not suffer the same abuses that Jack endures, but to be human is to voyage like Odysseus through that ocean of random and unseen terrors and torments, to dream of an unattainable state of perfection, to be hailed as a hero, and completed by love.
To read Paperboy is to participate in a relationship that is inextricable from the reader’s own reality. We come to realize that we can only be the latest editions of ourselves, built upon what the world has delivered up to that day. The writer, Bob Thurber (a different kind of paperboy, perhaps) has managed to establish that relationship by exacting emotions from his audience with piercing observations that puncture the thin skin of human subjectivity and reach beyond into realms of objective truth. So, on our journey with Jack we turn our heads and watch, more importantly we want to watch and need to watch that activity at the side of the road, that struggle for survival amid the blood, the glass, the crumpled metal. We watch because we are curious, because we are thrilled, because we empathize and know that as in a dream, we are the dreamer and what is dreamt, we are both spectator and victim, and we can’t tear ourselves away from that.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

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