Still Can't See Nothin' Comin'

Still Can't See Nothin' Comin'

5.0 3
by Daniel Grey Marshall
     
 

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,…  See more details below

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060198626
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/01/2001
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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What People are saying about this

Jim Carroll
Dan Marshall's writing has the gritty purity and passion that can only be found in a first novel...not to mention an engrossing story. He shows not only talent, but a remarkable sense of judgment for his age.—(Jim Carroll, author of The Basketball Diaries)

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