The Worldby John Kearns
"Why didn't they know? ... He could see the darkness of their souls, the void that drove them to huddle together at all times ... He saw the souls, too, of all the other swim clubs that he had joined or visited over the years, clubs filled with equal measures of hypocrisy, deceit, and meanness, each one seeming to its members, as primitive societies did to theirs, to be all that there is, the whole world."
Saturated with what he has learned of Classics and history, a 16-year-old boy reflects upon the flow of recent events in his own history: his discovering his Irish heritage, his loss of a job, his receiving an Artistic vocation, his traumatic experiences of unrequited love. These events become psychic cataclysms that destroy his traditional worldview and force him to create a new one. They also teach him what it means to become an Artist and a man.
Exploiting imagery ranging from Greek mythology to video games and employing conventional and experimental techniques, The World is a passionate, multi-layered, poetic depiction of an artistic soul's maturation. Twenty years in the writing, The World is a work that should be read again and again.
- iUniverse, Incorporated
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.38(d)
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THE WORLD, by John Kearns is a lyrical, poetic slugfest, running the gamut between coming of age with all its shocking revelations, to a tender adolescent love story and discovery of artistic vocation. Set in the Philadelphia of Kearn's youth and told with compassion, vision, and an in depth analysis of the complexities of existence...THE WORLD simply leaves the reader breathless.
Reviewer: Frank Alagno from New York, NY I was surprised by this book. My expectations were for a typical roman a clef but this book was much more, in terms of both sophistication and craftsmanship. I've been away from Latin & Greek literature for so long - since college - that I didn't catch all the allusions to many famous works in my first read of The World. Some were hard to miss, of course, but others were more subtle. The erudition of this book almost rivals the grace of its style. I expect that this is a book we'll all be talking about in the future
This is a compelling and challenging work that has four unusual qualities that I noticed. First, its main character has no name: he is referred to as The Artist or The Youth. Second, instead of chapters, it has two sections: one in a relatively straightforward, traditional style, the other in a more experimental style using interior monologue and quick shifting through time and space. Third, The World¿s title is written with two reverse letters. Fourth, the diction of The World changes abruptly at times: rational, intellectual, and well informed in one sentence, emotional, colloquial, and naïve in the next. The purpose of the unusual naming of the protagonist seems to be to show the stages of development he goes through. But, the unusual naming itself seems to be less important than the name changing. The changing of the character¿s name expresses one of the most important themes of the book: the concept of vocation. (When the protagonist considers filling out an SAT form, he thinks, 'Future Occupation? I was called, I believe. Voco, vocare.' ) The name of the character changes from The Youth to The Artist to show that he has been called to the artistic life during his experience at the littered stream. This is a technique used throughout the Bible and one that goes back to the oldest stories in the Book of Genesis. (When The Youth runs along the river and thinks about the rivers of history, he remembers the tale of Abram of Mesopotamia -- 'between the rivers'-- who became Abraham when God called him.) The change in writing styles from the first section to the second seems intended to reflect the change in The Artist's worldview. In the first section, The Youth/The Artist sees the world according to what he has been taught -- by his parents, his teachers, his Church, his own reading. His point of view and the style of the writing are traditional, though with incipient independence and idiosyncracy. The second section occurs after The Artist has learned suffering through his own personal experience, after his being cruelly rejected by the girl who was his American Dream girl, the symbol of beauty and belonging, the girl 'who had come to mean the world to him.' Its more experimental style reflects the shattering of his traditional worldview (its pieces scattered like the elements of the Big Bang mentioned in the beginning of the book) and his efforts to piece a new one together for himself. The title and the changes in diction seem to indicate that the novel depicts the worldview of a young person and the perceptions of adolescents and children. The title seems to make fun of the children who think of their pool as the whole world. It also suggests that The Artist's view of the world is immature and developing -- and still somewhat naive even at the end of the book, when he falls in love at first sight with New York City. The changes in diction seem to show that the protagonist¿s mind is that of an awkward adolescent, a person not fully formed, a sophomore or ¿wise fool.¿ Indeed, The World provides an authentic portrait of what it is like to be an adolescent and, particularly and most poignantly, an adolescent in love. It evokes youthful feelings that many adult readers prefer to forget they once had. As another reviewer suggested, I think this book will be one that will inspire discussion for years to come.
I feel the compulsion to keep reading long after I should be sleeping. Last night, I went to bed around 11PM with this book in hand, only to be up reading it until after 1:30AM. I'm normally a slow and methodical reader, but every once in a while a book comes along that urges to me read faster and faster. The World is just that kind of novel. The writing causes me to hasten my pace to get to the next part. I like the 'refrains' that are used throughout the novel to drive the theme along. 'There's nothing worse than a sneak.' I also enjoy that it is not written in a linear or chronological fashion, but in snippets to reinforce each theme. I think my favorite lines are when arbitrary thoughts pop into the Artist's mind and he self consciously thinks how funny they are.
I feel the compulsion to keep reading long after I should be sleeping. Last night, I went to bed around 11PM with this book in hand, only to be up reading it until after 1:30AM. I'm normally a slow and methodical reader, but every once in a while a book comes along that urges to me read faster and faster. The World is just that kind of novel. The writing causes me to hasten my pace to get to the next part. I like the 'refrains' that the author uses throughout the novel to drive the theme along. 'There's nothing worse than a sneak.' I also enjoy that it is not written in a linear or chronological fashion, but in snippets to reinforce each theme. I think my favorite lines are when arbitrary thoughts pop into the Artist's mind and he self consciously thinks how funny they are.
This is a beautiful book for the summer time. The writing is poetic and the story deals with a young man's travails during one difficult summer. There is a lyrical and somewhat funny description of a country club's celebration of the 4th of July. The World describes pools, swim clubs, trips down to the Jersey shore, and the activities of kids spending their days by the pool. I was impressed by the beauty of the language at the beginning, though it seemed to move slowly at first. Then when the love story begins, the pace picks up, the poetic language packs more punch, and the end of the first section is devastating. The World brings back adolescent feelings of love that many adults tend to forget they ever had. Then the second section has a complete shift in writing style. The sentences are short or incomplete. We read the character's thoughts jumping from place to place and there are many sad, painful, and also humorous memories. At the end of the book, I realized that the story was modelled after the story of Prometheus. Now I want to read it again!