Paperboy by Bob Thurber

By | on March 25, 2011 | 4 Comments

Bob Thurber is a friend of the blog: He contributed a piece to the When We Fell In Love Series about 1984 and Brave New World, and Dennis highlighted him in his coverage of Hint Fiction last Fall, saying of him and Marcus Sakey “I’d read 300 pages of either of these guys.” Fortunately for Dennis, he can, as Bob’s debut novel Paperboy is to be released by Casperian Books in May.

Not to mince words, but the subtitle to Paperboy is “A Dysfunctional Novel” and there’s no escaping the twisted violence and desperation at the heart of this book.

It’s 1969, the moon launch is coming, and Jack, his older sister Kelly, and his mother live together in a two-room decrepit apartment. Herself the subject of longtime abuse, their mother terrorizes her children with beatings, slaps, threats of hunger and imprisonment and other mental abuses. The rest of the world conspires in its own way to manipulate and torment them. Jack’s paper route gets squeezed between the demands of his crooked boss, and the expectations of his manipulative mother. Kelly finds herself institutionalized.

The two teenagers respond to their precarious state differently. Kelly turns to drugs and sex, while Jack sets himself up as half-child and half-protector. Eventually, they turn to each other for what comfort they can.

I’d say I enjoyed this book, but I can’t help paraphrasing to myself the old Dylan line when someone complimented Blood on the Tracks: I don’t understand how someone can enjoy that kind of pain.

The thing is, reading this book, even at it’s darkest places, you can see Bob Thurber’s fingerprints. He’s so sharp – especially at short fiction – that he writes short burning chapters from which you can’t tear away. He slugs you right in the gut without any maudlin posturing – you’ll probably ask for more. Raw and horrific throughout, but genuinely funny in places, Paperboy is a fine first novel, if hard to bear.

You can read the first seven pages of Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel here.

4 Responses to “Paperboy by Bob Thurber”

  1. March 25, 2011

    Nancey Reply

    Looks very good, I’m getting into writing like this lately. The seedier the better. Just finished ‘Knockemstiff’ that was tough I think this is now on my list to read. thank you.

    • March 25, 2011

      Jason Chambers Reply

      Hi Nancy, Funny that you mention Donald Ray Pollack. His forthcoming novel just arrived and assumed a position near the top of my tbr pile. Can’t wait for it.

  2. […] I recently interviewed Bob Thurber and posted one of his short stories here. I wanted to let you know that his new book, Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel will be released May 1st by Casperian Books LLC. He says, “It’s an odd book, unconventional in the sense that its 262 pages are made up of 157 chapters, many of them that could stand alone as very small fictions or vignettes. Many are only a page or less of text, and though there’s digression in the story line, the book still resists being a ‘novel in fragments.’ Check out Bob’s website and blog for details, and read some early reviews here: Barnes & Noble Good Reads Three Guys One Book […]

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