Wintersalen Sale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Tour our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | September 17, 2014

    Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?



    My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »

    spacer

This item may be
out of stock.

Click on the button below to search for this title in other formats.


Check for Availability
Add to Wishlist

Black Swan Green: A Novel

by

Black Swan Green: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9781400063796
ISBN10: 1400063795
All Product Details

 

 

Excerpt

JANUARY MAN

Do not set foot in my office. That's Dad's rule. But the phone'd rung twenty-five times. Normal people give up after ten or eleven, unless it's a matter of life or death. Don't they? Dad's got an answering machine like James Garner's in The Rockford Files with big reels of tape. But he's stopped leaving it switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia couldn't hear it up in her converted attic 'cause "Don't You Want Me?" by Human League was thumping out dead loud. Forty rings. Mum couldn't hear 'cause the washing machine was on berserk cycle and she was hoovering the living room. Fifty rings. That's just not normal. S'pose Dad'd been mangled by a juggernaut on the M5 and the police only had this office number 'cause all his other I.D.'d got incinerated? We could lose our final chance to see our charred father in the terminal ward.

So I went in, thinking of a bride going into Bluebeard's chamber after being told not to. (Bluebeard, mind, was waiting for that to happen.) Dad's office smells of pound notes, papery but metallic too. The blinds were down so it felt like evening, not ten in the morning. There's a serious clock on the wall, exactly the same make as the serious clocks on the walls at school. There's a photo of Dad shaking hands with Craig Salt when Dad got made regional sales director for Greenland. (Greenland the supermarket chain, not Greenland the country.) Dad's IBM computer sits on the steel desk. Thousands of pounds, IBMs cost. The office phone's red like a nuclear hotline and it's got buttons you push, not the dial you get on normal phones. So anyway, I took a deep breath, picked up the receiver, and said our number. I can say that without stammering, at least. Usually.

But the person on the other end didn't answer. "Hello?" I said. "Hello?"

They breathed in like they'd cut themselves on paper.

"Can you hear me? I can't hear you."

Very faint, I recognized the Sesame Street music.

"If you can hear me"-I remembered a Children's Film Foundation film where this happened-"tap the phone, once."

There was no tap, just more Sesame Street.

"You might have the wrong number," I said, wondering.

A baby began wailing and the receiver was slammed down.

When people listen they make a listening noise.

I'd heard it, so they'd heard me.

"May as well be hanged for a sheep as hanged for a handkerchief." Miss Throckmorton taught us that aeons ago. 'Cause I'd sort of had a reason to have come into the forbidden chamber, I peered through Dad's razor-sharp blind, over the glebe, past the cockerel tree, over more fields, up to the Malvern Hills. Pale morning, icy sky, frosted crusts on the hills, but no sign of sticking snow, worse luck. Dad's swivelly chair's a lot like the Millennium Falcon's laser tower. I blasted away at the skyful of Russian MiGs streaming over the Malverns. Soon tens of thousands of people between here and Cardiff owed me their lives. The glebe was littered with mangled fusilages and blackened wings. I'd shoot the Soviet airmen with tranquilizer darts as they pressed their ejector seats. Our marines'll mop them up. I'd refuse all medals. "Thanks, but no thanks," I'd tell Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan when Mum invited them in, "I was just doing my job."

Dad's got this fab pencil sharpener clamped to his desk. It makes pencils sharp enough to puncture body armor. H pencils're sharpest, they're Dad's faves. I prefer 2Bs.

The doorbell went. I put the blind back to how it was, checked I'd left no other traces of my incursion, slipped out, and flew downstairs to see who it was. The last six steps I took in one death-defying bound.

Moron, grinny-zitty as ever. His bumfluff's getting thicker, mind. "You'll never guess what!"

"What?"

"You know the lake in the woods?"

"What about it?"

"It's only"-Moron checked that we weren't being overheard-"gone and froze solid! Half the kids in the village're there, right now. Ace doss or what?" "Jason!" Mum appeared from the kitchen. "You're letting the cold in! Either invite Dean inside-hello Dean-or shut the door."

"Um . . . just going out for a bit, Mum."

"Um . . . where?"

"Just for some healthy fresh air."

That was a strategic mistake. "What are you up to?"

I wanted to say "Nothing" but Hangman decided not to let me. "Why would I be up to anything?" I avoided her stare as I put on my navy duffel coat.

"What's your new black parka done to offend you, may I ask?"

I still couldn't say "Nothing." (Truth is, black means you fancy yourself as a hard-knock. Adults can't be expected to understand.) "My duffel's a bit warmer, that's all. It's parky out."

"Lunch is one o'clock sharp." Mum went back to changing the Hoover bag. "Dad's coming home to eat. Put on a woolly hat or your head'll freeze." Woolly hats're gay but I could stuff it in my pocket later.

"Good-bye then, Mrs. Taylor," said Moron.

"Good-bye, Dean," said Mum.

Mum's never liked Moron.

Moron's my height and he's okay but Jesus he pongs of gravy. Moron wears ankle-flappers from charity shops and lives down Druggers End in a brick cottage that pongs of gravy too. His real name's Dean Moran (rhymes with "warren") but our P.E. teacher Mr. Carver started calling him "Moron" in our first week and it's stuck. I call him "Dean" if we're on our own but name's aren't just names. Kids who're really popular get called by their first names, so Nick Yew's always just "Nick." Kids who're a bit popular like Gilbert Swinyard have sort of respectful nicknames like "Yardy." Next down are kids like me who call each other by our surnames. Below us are kids with piss-take nicknames like Moran Moron or Nicholas Briar, who's Knickerless Bra. It's all ranks, being a boy, like the army. If I called Gilbert Swinyard just "Swinyard," he'd kick my face in. Or if I called Moron "Dean" in front of everyone, it'd damage my own standing. So you've got to watch out.

Girls don't do this so much, 'cept for Dawn Madden, who's a boy gone wrong in some experiment. Girls don't scrap so much as boys either. (That said, just before school broke up for Christmas, Dawn Madden and Andrea Bozard started yelling "Bitch!" and "Slag!" in the bus queues after school. Punching tits and pulling hair and everything, they were.) Wish I'd been born a girl, sometimes. They're generally loads more civilized. But if I ever admitted that out loud I'd get bumhole plummer scrawled on my locker. That happened to Floyd Chaceley for admitting he liked Johann Sebastian Bach. Mind you, if they knew Eliot Bolivar, who gets poems published in Black Swan Green Parish Magazine, was me, they'd gouge me to death behind the tennis courts with blunt woodwork tools and spray the Sex Pistols logo on my gravestone.

So anyway, as Moron and I walked to the lake he told me about the Scalectrix he'd got for Christmas. On Boxing Day its transformer blew up and nearly wiped out his entire family. "Yeah, sure," I said. But Moron swore it on his nan's grave. So I told him he should write to That's Life on BBC and get Esther Rantzen to make the manufacturer pay compensation. Moron thought that might be difficult 'cause his dad'd bought it off a Brummie at Tewkesbury Market on Christmas Eve. I didn't dare ask what a "Brummie" was in case it's the same as "bummer" or "bumboy," which means homo. "Yeah," I said, "see what you mean." Moron asked me what I'd got for Christmas. I'd actually got £13.50 in book tokens and a poster of Middle-earth, but books're gay so I talked about the Game of Life, which I'd got from Uncle Brian and Aunt Alice. It's a board game you win by getting your little car to the end of the road of life first, and with the most money. We crossed the crossroads by the Black Swan and went into the woods. Wished I'd rubbed ointment into my lips 'cause they get chapped when it's this cold. Soon we heard kids through the trees, shouting and screaming. "Last one to the lake's a spaz!" yelled Moron, haring off before I was ready. Straight off he tripped over a frozen tire rut, went flying, and landed on his arse. Trust Moran. "I think I might've got a concussion," he said.

"Concussion's if you hit your head. Unless your brain's up your arse." What a line. Pity nobody who matters was around to hear it.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

avinashkar, September 5, 2006 (view all comments by avinashkar)
As good as Mitchell's other work, this book is engaging from beginning to end. He puts you in the shoes of a young boy in this coming of age story, presenting him with sympathy without airbrushing the all too real compromises adolescents make. Mitchell's stylistic palette continues to amaze--his comfort with a variety of genres was on ample display in Cloud Atlas, and here he puts his skills to use in the service of a single genre and a more straightforward narrative with equally brilliant results.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(19 of 32 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400063796
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
General
Author:
Mitchell, David
Subject:
Boys
Subject:
Villages
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Us
Publication Date:
April 11, 2006
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
294
Dimensions:
9.28x6.58x1.00 in. 1.17 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Black Swan Green: A Novel
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 294 pages Random House - English 9781400063796 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A single year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor is the focus of David Mitchell's incandescent new novel. The pedestrian village of Black Swan Green appears terribly ordinary for Jason, but the striking cast of characters he lives amongst, as well as the internal musings of his mind, take the reader to the emotional tumult of a young boy coming of age in Cold War England.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "For his fourth novel, two-time Booker Prize finalist Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, etc.) turns to material most writers plumb in their first: the semiautobiographical, first-person coming-of-age story. And after three books with notably complex narrative structure, far-flung settings, and multiple viewpoints, he has chosen one narrator, 13-year-old Jason Taylor, to tell the story of one year (1982) in one town, Worcestershire's Black Swan Green. Jason starts with the January day he accidentally smashes his late grandfather's irreplaceable Omega Seamaster DeVille watch and ends with Christmas, which, because of intervening events, becomes the last he spends in this sleepy Midlands hamlet. The gorgeously revealed cast includes Jason's brilliant older sister, sarcastic mother, blustering dad and a spectrum of bullies and mates. Jason's nemesis is an intermittent, fluctuating stammer: some days he must avoid words beginning with N; other days, S. Once he is exposed, the bullies taunt him mercilessly; there is no respite for the weak or disabled in Black Swan Green nor, as the realities of Thatcher's grim reign begin to take their toll, in England writ large. How Jason and his family navigate this year of change is the emotional core of this rich novel, but the virtuoso chapter is 'The Bridle Path,' wherein Jason, alone for one delicious day, searches for a tunnel fabled to have been dug by the Romans in order to rout the Vikings. What he finds along the way captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] funny, poignant story...simply a pleasure....[Mitchell] follows Pound's exhortation to 'make it new': You've read it before, and then again, you haven't read it quite like this. Jason Taylor is a classic, stammer and all." (read the entire LA Weekly review)
"Review A Day" by , "Mitchell has written another complex novel, in which multiple themes run like streams of extra data beneath every incident, and understanding comes by the process of reading into a satisfying tangle of metaphor and reference. It is the best kind of contemporary fiction." (read the entire TLS review)
"Review A Day" by , "Of all the books that I have read as an adult, the novels of David Mitchell have come closest to resurrecting my own childhood reading utopia....Black Swan Green is Mitchell's most adventuresome work yet. The difference is that while language previously played a supporting role to his formal experimentation, here he performs his experiments within the medium of language itself, and with brilliant results." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye — and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists."
"Review" by , "[A] beautiful, stripped-down coming-of-age story....[Mitchell] reproduces Jason's inner life with such astonishing verisimilitude that readers will find themselves haunted by him long after turning the last page."
"Review" by , "This book is so entertainingly strange, so packed with activity, adventures, and diverting banter, that you only realize as the extraordinary novel concludes that the timid boy has grown before your eyes into a capable young man. (Grade: A)"
"Review" by , "Here the virtuoso ventriloquism of multiple voices and settings focuses only on Jason and his surroundings but to heightened comic and dramatic effect. Recommended."
"Review" by , "[B]rilliant....In Jason, Mitchell creates an evocative yet authentically adolescent voice, an achievement even more impressive than the ventriloquism of his earlier books."
"Review" by , "There's so much to recommend this book....[T]he characters are wonderful — sympathetic, funny, perfectly drawn....Thus far, this is my favorite novel of 2006, and I won't be surprised if it turns out to be the best book I read all year."
"Review" by , "[A] genuinely pristine and personal work. Comparisons could be made to Roddy Doyle or Mark Haddon....But Mitchell has very much a voice of his own, and the child's poetry he brings to this novel is a pleasure to behold."
"Review" by , "[Mitchell] has a perfect ear for that most calamitous year, the first of the teens, when we come face-to-face with the volatile nature of life. There's plenty of sadness in that discovery, of course, but humor, too, and he spins them together subtly in this touching novel."
"Review" by , "Mitchell — who for my gelt is the best pure storyteller writing in English today — not only makes [the coming-of-age story] fresh and astounding and new, he does it by going out of his way to touch all the familiar bases..."
"Review" by , "A testament of [Mitchell's] seemingly bottomless talent....[Mitchell] succeeds in infusing a simple coming-of-age story with his own brand of creative flair, his trademark gorgeous language and his pitch-perfect dialogue....[P]owerful and beautifully rendered."
spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.