Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


I hoped you might see things from my end. That’s what you do, right? When you’re readin. You’re seeing what it’s like for other people.

I have to admit I enjoyed encountering the quote above in an excellent fiction story less than a week after writing a post about how fiction makes us more sympathetic to others as our brains experience things from their perspectives.

My full review:

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey

Secrets. We all have them. Often they eat away at us as our need to hold back creates barriers between us and others. We assume others have secrets, too. We assume what those secrets are. Those assumptions fuel our distrust, make us jealous, spread as angry rumors. Spread as anger. We become trapped in our own secrets; others trap us in the labels they give us based on the secrets they assume we have.

Jasper Jones has been labeled a thief, a liar, an all-round troublemaker. His dad is a violent, shiftless drunk and his aboriginal mom died when he was a toddler. He lives on the fringes of society, and anytime anything bad happens everyone in the town of Corrigan is ready to point their fingers at him.

Quiet, bookish, picked-on Charlie has never actually spoken to Jasper, but he has a secret bit of admiration for the older boy’s supposed untamed toughness. So when Jasper comes to Charlie’s window one hot summer night begging for his help, Charlie takes his first rebellious adventure. And gets more than he bargained for. Jasper leads Charlie to his hidden grove in the bush where they find fellow teen Laura Wishart hanging dead from a tree branch. Laura is dead in Jasper’s near-home, and he’s sure to be wrongfully blamed for her death. He begs Charlie to help him hide her body and until they can uncover who really did it. Charlie knows Jasper gets a bad rap, so he reluctantly agrees to help.

Once Charlie returns home from that encounter, he must learn to live with his horrible secret, even as he sees his town torn apart by their panic about Laura’s disappearance. He must learn to live with his secret while trying to uncover the rest of the town’s secrets. The ones behind: his mom’s harsh, volatile anger; his dad’s withdrawn placidity; the town’s hatred for the family of his Vietnamese best friend; Jasper’s reputation; Mad Jack Lionel’s reputation; his unspoken attraction to Laura’s younger sister, Eliza; and many more injustices than he ever suspected existed. Charlie learns about secrets, and in the process learns more about the wrongs people inflict on each other than he would have ever wanted to know.

I know the sad truth. About everything. Jasper, Laura, my mother. It’s all come to light, it’s all been bared, and it’s bowed my shoulders so much I’m too tired to be afraid anymore.

Eloquent and moving. With some of the most effective dialogue I’ve ever read, that jumped off the page as real voices saying real things more than any I can remember encountering.


As a librarian, as a bookpusher, I have to appreciate this bit:

“And that’s why I need your help. Because you’re smart, and you’re different to the others, and I thought you’d understand for sure. I mean, shit, I took a big risk when I come to you, Charlie.”

I cast my eyes down and keep quiet.

“It’s a big thing for me to trust you, Charlie. It’s dangerous. And I’m askin you to do the same. I can’t force you to do nuthin. But I hoped you might see things from my end. That’s what you do, right? When you’re readin. You’re seeing what it’s like for other people.”


And I quickly knew I was going to enjoy the character’s voice--Silvey’s writing--when I was amused by Charlie’s attempts to impress Jasper from the very first pages:

“Okay. Wait,” I say, noticing my feet are bare. I head toward the back steps, where my sandals sit, scrubbed clean and perfectly aligned. As I strap them on, I realize that this, the application of pansy footwear, is my first display of girlishness and has taken me mere moments. So I jog back with as much masculinity as I can muster, which even in the moonlight must resemble something of an arthritic chicken.

Then he decides to accept a smoke:

I purse the cigarette hard between my lips as he offers me a light. And I lean tentatively toward the flame, like I’m moving in to kiss a horse on the arse, waiting to be kicked.

“Waitwaitwait!” Jasper interrupts, still smiling. “Other end, Charlie. That’s the filter, see?”

He steals it from my mouth and lights it himself, then hands it back.

I expected to cough, but not as much as this. One breath of it wrings my lungs like a washcloth. I splutter and spit. I try for composure and fail.

Followed quickly by his first encounter with alcohol:

I take a small incendiary pull. Of course, it attacks my mouth and burns down the length of my throat. I gag immediately, wiping my lips, trying to keep my lungs at bay. I slant my head and pretend to read a label that isn’t there through my clouding eyes. This shit is poison. And I realize I’ve been betrayed by the two vices that fiction promised me I’d adore. Sal Paradise held up bottles of booze like a housewife in a detergent commercial. Holden Caulfield reached for his cigarettes like an act of faith. Even Huckleberry Finn tapped on his pipe with relief and satisfaction. I can’t trust anything. If sex turns out to be this bad, I’m never reading again. At this rate, it will probably burn my dick and I’ll end up with lesions.


At 3/27/2012 9:49 AM, Blogger CDL said...

Interesting you saw the relationship of your perspective on books in this. I see that and what I'm also wondering is the relationship of this book, these characters, to the introvert information.
One of the statements that struck me is one that you mentioned. I've always thought I could learn vicariously (and that is often helpful), but I couldn't live vicariously.
This book has now moved from my for later list to my holds.


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