Thursday, 18 January 2007

Kids are evil.

So, I just finished reading deadkidsongs by Toby Litt. Oh my god. What an unsettling book, I recommend it to everyone who likes feeling nervous, afraid, unsure.

In short, it's about a group of children who, together, are in a gang. Called Gang. At what first starts as playing war by a pond and dissecting animals in untidy, backwood biology classrooms soon twists into something altogether sinister, and that's when the book first begins to get seriously disturbing. It's set out in some parts childhood adventure novel, in other parts military account of operations.

In the last third of the book, I found myself thinking that no, surely, these kids couldn't do that, but they came back and confounded me again and again because they just turned evil. At least, some of them did, and I think it's a really interesting examination of evil itself, and how it manifests itself in different people. One kid is evil because of his home situation and how it moulds him, for example. Another because he's weak (or what, in the book and in the heads of certain people) is perceived as weak) and another because he's easily manipulated.

And now I've read it all the way through, I find myself asking questions and examining issues and incidents in the book that, of course, didn't stand out as much on the first read through, and now I can look at it from a more objective point of view. The kids and their families are all so different, in construction and in philosophy, that it's only a matter of time before they surely fall apart, and fall apart they do. Looking back at it now, it happened to me and my best friend in our early years of secondary school, and it happened as far back as when friends were being chopped and changed in primary school. I do find it unusual, yet commendable, the loyalty that some of the children in the book show to each other. It's the same thing that happened at the end of secondary school, I think, except it was a longer and more protracted process.

The actual writing is great, too. It's written in several different styles, determined by which kid's head you're residing in at the time. The creation and manipulation of unique narrative voices throughout is superb, and you can feel the deterioration of certain minds through the language as well as the content. Sentences become shorter, sharper and you can hear the breathing as panic sets in.

So, I guess, what am I going to say? Read this book. It's macabre, and the quotes on the back suggest that the humour is so dark that it's almost not humour at all. But, as I read, I forgot that there was meant to be humour. When the pranks and adventures are still believable and reminiscent, at the beginning of the book, you can see the funny side of things, the nods to what you did as a child. But, by the end, you're so absorbed and, in turns, horrified, that you can't see the funny side. It's almost as if you become desensitised to whatever the kids have done, to the point that each shocking act they commit is no more shocking than the first: your senses become dull and anesthetised until you close the book and reflect on what's happened, and then deadkidsongs delivers its final punch. And it hits you harder than a model plane jammed into a recently excavated eyeball.

1 comment:

Sarkins said...

Scary.. Kids are so evil. Reminds me of Lord of the Flies.. Well, anything reminds me of Lord of the Flies, I can't take my mind off how badly I fucked my exam essay on it, but that's not the point.

I figure kinds are psychopaths. Like.. Their emotional intelligence hasn't gotten to the point that they see other people as real people, like.. they're incapable of putting themselves in another person's shoes because they can't really get their heads around the possibility that someone else feels things like the child does. So if they're given the means, a child could do anything to another person and feel nothing, making them psychopaths.