Still Can't See Nothin' Comin'

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Overview

Every so often, a book comes along that has the ability to define a generation's coming of age. Still Can't See Nothin' Comin' by first-time author Daniel Grey Marshall is one such novel. Through Jim, the story's young teenage protagonist, Marshall exposes a world in which growing up is often harder than dying. Brilliantly recreating the frustration, cruelty, confusion, and vulnerability of adolescence, it is about how Jim comes to terms with the chaos of his life and eventually...
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Overview

Every so often, a book comes along that has the ability to define a generation's coming of age. Still Can't See Nothin' Comin' by first-time author Daniel Grey Marshall is one such novel. Through Jim, the story's young teenage protagonist, Marshall exposes a world in which growing up is often harder than dying. Brilliantly recreating the frustration, cruelty, confusion, and vulnerability of adolescence, it is about how Jim comes to terms with the chaos of his life and eventually rediscovers a sense of hope in the face of overwhelming despair.

As the novel opens, Jim has returned home after six months on the run. He left Madison after being involved in a botched burglary that ended with one of his best friends shot dead. Despite the risk of being caught, he returns for a brief reunion with his ex-girlfriend, Leslie, and his little brother, Billy, before turning himself into the police. Seeing them triggers a flood of memories—all the moments, unsaid words, split-second decisions, and blindsiding events that brought him to this desperate place.

In a series of flashbacks, Jim relives the pain that he endured at the hands of his physically abusive, tyrannical father, the lonely betrayal of his mother's silence, and the increasing emotional distance between himself and Billy. The true turning point comes on the day that his older sister, Mandy, with whom he was extremely close, commits suicide. Accompanying him on this dark journey are his best friends Philly and Jeremy. Inseparable, they are forever changed by Mandy's death, and together they begin a downward spiral. Rarely attending school, they spend their days on downtown streets and rooftops getting high on alcohol and dope.

Although he has not lived at home for months, Jim is drawn there one last time hoping to solve the mystery surrounding his sister's suicide. Discovering Mandy's journal, he reads the sickening truth—that their father had been raping her for years. Enraged and grief-stricken, Jim confronts his family and, turning the tables on his father, beats him badly. Events continue to snowball, as Jim rejoins Philly and Jeremy and the three decide to rob a local convenience store to get the money for their final escape from the past. However, the robbery goes seriously awry and Jim is once again on the run from his life.

Unfolding at a relentless pace, this fiercely gripping narrative paints a raw, powerful portrait of a young man who experienced abuse, alcoholism, drugs, death, and disaffection at too early an age. Heralding the arrival of a fresh, new voice on the literary scene, as Still Can't See Nothin' Comin' builds to its powerful climax, it will leave readers with a sense of optimism about the resilience of the human spirit.


About the Author:
Daniel Grey Marshall, age 23, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. He began working on Still Can't See Nothin' Comin' at the age of 15. Marshall lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is at work on a second novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Jim Carroll
Dan Marshall's writing has the gritty purity and passion which can only be found in a first novel...engrossing. He shows not only talent, but a remarkable sense of judgement for his age.
Kirkus Reviews
Holden Caufield is alive and well in Madison, Wisconsin, swilling Robitussin when the booze runs out: an earnest debut, penned during the 23-year-old author's teenage years. Allied against their abusive father and ineffectual mother, 15-year-old Jim Drake and older sister Mandy spend all their time together, deftly combining their social circles and dating each other's friends. Misfits who drink heavily and engage in angry, destructive (i.e., typically adolescent) behavior, the teenagers happily arrange themselves into a surrogate family. Falling in love with the wise Leslie, Mandy's poetry-writing, vintage-dress-wearing best friend, Jim finds happiness for the first time in his life. As does Mandy, who takes up with Jim's friend Jeremy. But when Jim, in a drunken fit reminiscent of his father, slams ten-year-old brother Billy into a wall, Mandy sinks into a deep depression that culminates in her unspeakably gory end. (Suffice it to say that the author has read Anna Karenina.) Afterward, Jim's father starts beating him nightly, insisting that Jim should have "saved" Mandy. In response, Jim and his friends, Jeremy and the kind Philly, ratchet up their drinking and smoking habits a few notches. Then, after a scarcely credible showdown with the local druglord, the three boys drop out of school, set up housekeeping at an abandoned theater, and plot their escape from Madison. In order to secure bus fare, they hold up a family-owned convenience store (using guns lifted from the druglord and his henchmen, no less), with disastrous results. Maudlin, overwrought, and often tiresome: How many scenes of adolescents chugging 150-proof vodka can a reader stand? Still, acompellingnarrative structure is suggestive, perhaps, of better things to come from Marshall.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060198626
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Leslie met me at the bus station yesterday. I was wearing these real dark glasses so most everybody just looked like shadows. Her I would have recognized in a second, even without that soft, distant voice of hers, saying my name like a far-off song.

"Jim." She looked at me then, sort of sizing me up. My face flushed a little: I was wearing these rags I picked up off some ghetto clothesline back in Jersey right before I went to the bus station. My previous outfit stunk like hell, and I didn't want everybody staring at me on the long ride home. "You okay?"

I smiled at that. "Somethin' like that, yeah."

She started cracking her knuckles as she spoke. "When I got the message that you called again I didn't know what to think but you said meet you at the bus station, so here I am." This she spit out so fast it took me a minute to figure out what the hell she said, a sure sign she was nervous, which I could already pretty much tell by looking into her pale blue eyes. Jesus, I had forgotten how beautiful she could be. Her hair was longer now, her bangs down to her nose, and darker. Sandy blond, sort of, not the almost white it had been when it was only half an inch long. "You sober?" she asked.

"Yeah." I nodded, and it was obvious she was immediately sorry she had said anything. I surprised her. Not as if it mattered. I wasn't keeping score.

I looked away then. West. The sun would be setting soon. I really wanted to watch the sun fall. I hadn't done that since I started heading back home.

"Where you been?" she asked me, almost hesitantly.

I didn't even know where I went so I couldn't exactly tell her. "Idon't know."

Her lips pursed at my answer.

"The ocean," I offered, and hoped she didn't push me further.

She could tell she wasn't going to get much more out of me. "C'mon." She gestured. "Car's over here."

I kicked my shoes off, picking each up as it flew into the air and chucking them into the old army bag I always carried over my shoulder. That bag was probably the one thing I held on to the whole time I was on the run. My sister Mandy gave it to me when I was twelve, and I've kept it the last four years as if it was a security blanket or something. in some ways I feel like I'm still just a scared little kid, afraid of the dark and crying for his mother.

We didn't have to go very far. I was surprised because there were never any parking spaces this close to downtown. I guess she wasn't too much up to walking, 'cause her dark green Plymouth was parked in front of someone's driveway. Or maybe, considering the way she looked, she was just too freaked out to notice.

My breath caught in my throat. Sitting in the backseat of Leslie's rusty old car was my little brother Billy. Only six months older than the last time I'd seen him, he looked like he'd aged six years. No more preppy department-store clothes. He wore just a plain hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. Leslie must have been giving him fashion lessons. But what really made him look so much older were his eyes. They were grayer now, like mine. They used to be baby blue. I had always been jealous. I wondered then if eyes can turn color out of grief, the way your hair can go white.

At the sight of me, he kind of half smiled and said softly, "Hey, Jimmy." I think he wanted to say more, but just sat there with his mouth open, not moving.

I smiled honestly. With all of our differences, he was my little brother and I loved him. We grew up together under the same roof, we both knew what it was to face my father's drunken raging, my mother's silent tears and helplessness. We both knew what it was to lose a sister. He was my brother, and I loved him.

The smile relaxed him quite a bit. As Leslie and I stepped into the car he blurted out, "Are you gonna go to jail if they catch you, Jimmy?" I could tell by the scared, anxious excitement in his voice that he was pleased to see me.

"Yeah, I'll go to jail. Juvie, at least. I did a lot of bad shit, Kid." I started calling him Billy the Kid when he was five or so. I think he figured he'd outgrown it by now, but it was my habit to call him that, and coming from me I don't think he minded too much.

"This kid in my class said they were gonna kill you." I could hear the question hanging in the air.

"The kids at school are full of shit, you know that," I said sharply. I was swearing too much. Billy's only eleven.

"I didn't say I believed him or anything. That's just what he told me. Anyways, you didn't have to yell at me like that." He was sniveling.

"Listen, Kid, I didn't — " I began to say, but bit my words back. It wasn't his fault. "Hey, I'm really sorry." I looked back at him. "Cool?"

"Yeah, right, cool. Everything's cool, Jimmy."

He didn't sound so sure about that, but when I checked his face for any familiar signs of worry or fear or anything, there was nothing there. He wouldn't meet my eye.

Leslie was sitting behind the wheel, not saying a word, her face a mask of tension.

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Interviews & Essays

Author Essay
How a 15-Year-Old Writer Got His Novel Published -- 8 Years Later

As a child, all I ever wanted was to be a writer. Amid all the 8-year-old police chiefs, firefighters, doctors, and lawyers, I alone was an author. And to me, this prospect was every bit as glamorous as those other occupations were to my peers. However, there was a problem. While my peers received approval and encouragement from our teachers, my dream of a career as a writer -- when shared -- was met with variations on the same response:

"You can't do that." "You'll never make any money." Or, my personal favorite: "Do you know how hard it is to make it as a writer?"

Still, I persisted. At 15 years old, I began writing Still Can't See Nothin' Comin'. Three years later, I completed the rough draft. In my excitement, I promptly -- foolishly -- sent it off to more than 40 literary agencies. After months of waiting, I received a few nibbles of interest, but ultimately nothing came of it. At this point I realized the manuscript was desperately in need of revision, and I devoted the next year to editing. Second draft in hand, I contacted another 20 or so literary agencies. As I recall, the response was even more mitigated than the first time around. After a telephone conversation with an agent in San Francisco who promised to look at a third draft when I finished it, I again threw myself into revision. This time I spent two full years, painstakingly reworking the manuscript line by line. When the California agent saw the result of these efforts, she again declined to represent the book.

I wasn't ready to give up, but I did feel a need to do something drastic. By now I had decided that in a sense, my detractors were right. If I stayed in Madison, Wisconsin, where I had lived all my life, I wasn't going to make it. But if I moved to New York City, where I had been sending my manuscript for years, I believed I had a chance. At any rate, I decided that if I couldn't get the novel published, even after living in the publishing capital of the world, I would give up and go to school -- which I had, by then, delayed for a full 4 years. Truthfully, I came to New York to fail. I couldn't bear the thought of giving up too soon, of never really knowing whether or not I could have made it as a writer. I knew too many adults who had stories of things they had almost accomplished, artists they had almost been. Armed only with my unpublished, oft-rejected manuscript, I came to New York to prove to myself -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- that what I had always wanted to do couldn't be done.

This single act, more than any other, seems to have ignited an extraordinary chain of events which placed me where I am today. I was given the phone number of a young woman named Alison Brooks with whom I'd worked at a café in Madison years ago. She'd moved to New York and become a literary agent with the Literary Group International. Over dinner, she asked to read my manuscript. Nine months later she sold it to Regan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. I could say the rest is history, but it isn't -- it hasn't happened yet. And you know something? I still can't see it coming. (Daniel Grey Marshall)

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2004

    Kate - a teenageer

    Take it from a teenager...this was a great book! I couldn't put it down! I would reccomend this book to any high school student and to parents who think that they have 'bad' children and on that note to any parent. This book is a true tale of how hard it is to be a teenager these days. Excellent Excellent book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2003

    Really, really good.

    Beware: This book was really depressing and deals with some heavy issues. That's not exactly a bad thing, though. The thing I liked about it was the philosophy and introspection on the ups and downs of teenage life. Also, what really got my attention, was the way Jim expressed and felt and thought about -- are very paralell with the way I express, feel, and think. And to think, this is fiction! Jim and I are totally different, and yet so alike in ways. Very heartfelt and inspiring, I loved this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    Inspirational

    This book was amazing. The kind of book u can't put down. I never actuly sat down and read a book from start to finish before i read this book. It was an inspiration to me not only as a reader but as a beginning writer. The book was so heart filled. It was one that could compair easily to me as a teenager, and growing up. Everything in that book just made such since and made me want to read every last bit of it. I would recommend this book to anyone of any age. Also to parents with teenagers, may help them get a better understanding of what living the life of a teenager is like now in this day in age.

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