Archive for the ‘teens’ Tag

All Fall Down

This review originally appeared on A Penguin a Week.

 

Penguin no. 1742: All Fall Down
by James Leo Herlihy

Cover design uses still from the MGM movie ‘All Fall Down’.

“Tomorrow I’m going on a health binge, get some filter cigarettes and start doing push-ups every night. Maybe I’ll do some right now, to make myself sleepy. Because I’ve got about forty-seven big knots in my chest, and they hurt.”
 
When I pick up an old Penguin I’m hoping for a surprise – something off-beat, long neglected, out of left field, a lost gem. ‘All Fall Down’ delivered. 

It’s the first novel from the Detroit writer who went on to write ‘Midnight Cowboy’ five years later in 1965, James Leo Herlihy. It’s a coming of age story in the heritage of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, a decade in its wake. It follows the growth of Clint Williams from an isolated, uncommunicative 14 year old to an emerging adult with the capacity to care and love. 

A fair proportion of the story is told through Clint’s diary – it’s like an external hard drive he relies on to compulsively capture memories and documentation from his chaotic family life. He steals his mother’s private letters (outgoing and incoming) to copy into this notebook which he keeps tucked in his trousers, right against his flesh. It’s the one place he controls and to which he can bring some degree of order.

Clint’s hero, his older brother Berry-berry, is absent for much of the story, on his low-life travels around the USA, much of the time just one step ahead of the law. Yet his being has immense gravitational pull on the family. The disparity between what mother, father and little brother hope for from Berry-berry and the real man (in as much as he is grown up) is the source of the all-round disillusionment which engulfs the family.

When the Williams move to a new house across the city in Cleveland, Ohio, the cracks open up. Berry-berry takes off before he’s even spent a night in his new room. The father, a former left-wing activist, spends his time in the basement doing puzzles. The mother immerses herself in domesticity on the ground floor, while Clint eavesdrops from the laundry chute upstairs and records the exchanges in the diary which he “made use of … with an unconscious ease similar to that of walking or feeding oneself”.

Clint, in an attempt to come to the aid of the older brother he idolises, goes on a road trip across the country to the Florida Keys. He loses his innocence along the way when he is sheltered by Shirley, a young tart with a heart, whose inner beauty and profound loss influence Clint for life.

The person who catalyses the final destruction of both the dysfunctional family and their illusions is the unmarried daughter of one of the mother, Annabel’s, friends. Echo O’Brien is a dynamic young woman, very attached to her perfectly preserved 1929 Dodge touring car. Tall and slender, she could, in a parallel universe, have been in the pages of  ‘The Great Gatsby’. Think ‘Gatsby’ and Tennessee Williams for the kind of tension Echo brings into the Williams household as she becomes the object of both Clint’s innocent, tender love and Berry-berry’s careless lust, the latter returned to his home city and the proximity of his family, but living on the edge of town with a dark secret.

Watching Berry-berry live a lie and talk up his hollow, self-centred life, gradually grinds away at Clint’s hopes and illusions. Like Holden Caulfield’s obsession with ‘phoneyness’, Clinton Williams can’t take the lies: “I just stayed there at the table and thought about what big liars we all are”. Berry-berry tells his biggest, most unforgivable lie at the climax of the novel and it is this which finally severs his bond with his once adoring brother. Berry-berry ultimately cares only for himself and loves no-one, not even himself. Clint though has a great capacity and desire to care and cherish. His growth into adulthood is complete with the realisation that “[in] the difference in the love offerings people make to one another, lay the reason for all the pain in the world.”

First published in the U.S.A. 1960. Published in Great Britain by Faber & Faber 1961. Published in Penguin Books 1962.

More Evidence of Body

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies

As the dust settles in the wake of Embarrassing Teenage Bodies (broadcast in October) and we start cranking up for the next series in March 2009 it’s been a good moment to take stock and assess what kind of impact we had, this time with teens in particular.

In a previous post, Evidence of Body, I pointed out a special characteristic of this cross-platform initiative – unusually you can see, after very little time, evidence of immediate, positive changes of behaviour. That was with reference to the week long series of Embarrassing Bodies in April/May, but the recent 4-part series focused on teenagers yielded much the same kind of clear evidence of real public value.

A quick and pretty unscientific trawl through the comments on the website – this time there were 11,000 submitted over the 6 days around transmission! – reveal actual changes of behaviour; the building of confidence around illnesses perceived as ‘embarrassing’; the prompting of increased openness in discussing such matters; reassurance; clarification; and the encouragement of peer-to-peer support.

Here’s a brief selection to give a feel for the sorts of impact evident across the site:

Changes of behaviour

From Ellie [in Vulva Gallery]
thanks teenage bodies thanks to you i’ve had the confidence to go and have a std test

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From kathryn [in Am I Normal? video]

GREAT show. It encouraged me to go get something checked out =) & I’m sure it encouraged a lot of other teenagers to get stuff thats bothering them checked out!

Thanks so much

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Building confidence

[in Vaginal Prolapse]

This site and video is soooo useful and informative!!! I feel more confident to see my GP and look him/her in the eye and state my problem.

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[in Am I Normal? – Vagina]

I was worried about how i looked “down there” but this video made me realise everybody is different and that it’s completely normal to worry.

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From Alice [in Breast Gallery]

I always thought, since my breasts our a coned shape and not fully shaped yet or may stay like this that it isn’t normal…but in fact it is!
Gosh it is amazing to see all the different variety 🙂
TV models or whatever can go stuff themselves, they fooled me into believing that mine weren’t a good shape!
I feel more confident now, even if they are small 🙂

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From Isabella [in Enlarged Labia]

This is obviously alot more common then what people think, so lets not feel embarrassed!! Because like alot of you, I am pretty relieved that i’m not the only one! lol. and it’s never affected my sex life

🙂 Hope everyone feels alot more confident, by reading everyones stories. Thanks Channel 4

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Saving lives

From Sinead [in How to Check your Testicles]

After watching your show, my husband decided to check himself one night whilst having a shower. To his shock he found a lump. He went straight to his doctor and within a week he had surgery for testicular cancer, needs to have a few more scans, but thanks to the show he managed to find it in time.

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Encouraging openness

From Sarah

I think this programme and website is the best thing for young and older people. Theres not alot of publicity about embarrassing problems espesh about problems or worries down below.

Yes theres GUM clinics and doctors you can talk to but just knowing that doesnt make you feel comfortable talking about it. Maybe no one will feel confortable talking about it, i know that i didnt but i think the more publicity about it, the more people will talk about it.

I never had any sex education at school, only to tell you about the different STI’s out there and i dont think schools really do enough.

This programme is amazing. Well done everybody 😀

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Prompting preventive health activity

From shannon [in Am I Normal?: After Sex]

these videos hav helped me check my self down below and now me and my friends have been comfitable talking to each other about our pubity problems!!!

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Reassuring

From Beth [in Anal Fissure]

Oh My!!! This Is Exactly What I Have Been Looking For!!!
I Was Worried Because I Was Told I May Have Colon Cancer 😦
Thanks Ever So Much Guys! x”

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From Katie [in Gonorrhoea]

Hi! This program was a great help to lots of teens and raised alot of awareness. i am 16 and have only had one sexual partner, … i am worried that i may have caught something but i am too shy to go to the doctors about it. i have read the above comments and am pleased i am not alone :S

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[in Ingrowing Pubic Hair]

I find this so embarrassing… but i’m glad to know i’m not the only one.

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Clarifying what is ‘normal’

From James [in Penis Gallery]

i think this page is great.
its good to know all the sizes out there and know i am normal
thank you so much

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Peer to peer advice

From Chris [in Hyperhidrosis]

i sweat a lot under my arms, for no apparent reason. im not always even warm. i have driclor and have never properly used it because it stung. so now ive read these comments i think i’ll definately give it a go! thank you 🙂

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From Tom [in Dandruff]

Im 17 and I have dandruff and i use head and shoulders and it never seems to work. and its really embarrasing and annoying especially when im with the girlfriend
😦 thanks to everyone for the tips i shall try them out

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[in Enlarged Labia]

I have it too… Lol, This is well embarassing. I’m only 14 so I haven’t had any sexual experience but it does make me worry a little bit what a future boyfriend might think…however, some of these comments are quite empowering…thank you all, I feel a little better now!

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From Matt [in Testicular Cancer]

BLOKES, GO TO THE DOCTOR, IT TAKES LIKE NO TIME AT ALL, I HAVE BEEN ABOUT MY GENITALS LOOOADS OF TIMES AND IM ONLY 19.

NOW IM WORRY FREE =]

i posted this for some support :D”

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[in Enlarged Labia]

i am so glad i’ve actually found this website, because it has really helped me reading all these comments about other people that have this problem. i haven’t actually told anyone, and i’ve never been in a proper sexual relationship because i am so embarrassed about what they would think. … i’ve tried to mention it to my friends when we watched the program, but they all found it weird and strange – so i didn’t dare say that i had it too. i have no confidence but it has helped me reading all your comments! thank you 🙂

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Helping diagnosis

From Mellissa [in Tinnitus]

omg! hooray to your program for quite alot of years i have learnt to live with tinnitus not knowing what it was until now docters just say there’s nothing wrong and my ear is clean. i had explained i had a pulsing in my ear and i’ve been ignored watched your show and came on to your site only to find out what i have been suffering with im glad to say it’s not caused by loud music in teenage life i did bang my head really badly and i’m sure thats when it started i feel relieved but disgusted that my docter shrugged it off. … thank you so much i’m going to have it looked at anyway just to be sure. x

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Engaging content

[in Consultation: Breast Reduction]

A very very brave lady. that video is very interesting in fact i think all your videos are very interesting. good on ya girl

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From James [in Penis Gallery]

Great site. You just don’t see this sort of thing anywhere else and it’s really important

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Raising awareness

From Becca [in Problem Piercings]

Personnaly I think that teenagers in todays society need to be more aware of all aspects of problems in and out of the body. More needs to be done to ensure that this is happening. This programme is really helping me and my teenage friends. Thank you and please continue helping other people.

Update 17.12.08: You may like to comment on the above – or address some further questions about how preventive healthcare is most engagingly presented – over on The TV Show website at Channel 4.

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