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The Powell's Playlist | June 18, 2014

Daniel H. Wilson: IMG The Powell’s Playlist: Daniel H. Wilson

Like many writers, I'm constantly haunting coffee shops with a laptop out and my headphones on. I listen to a lot of music while I write, and songs... Continue »


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War Boy


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Chapter One

I'm Rad I'm deaf I don't talk I'm fourteen I'm telling the story. And storytellers lie so why bother you ask.

Because just the way any white boy would tell it there's a place where I knew there would be a story and a story like none in my life or anyone's and it was in the light at the end of the General Douglas MacArthur Tunnel.

On the Green Tortoise bus.

When I woke up suddenly seeing two things at once: a huge truck loaded with redwood logs headed the opposite direction out of the sun and into the tunnel and also the hairs on Jonnyboy's legs glowing brighter than gold like they were fiber optics lit from inside and his skin was a solar collector.

And I asked myself one why were the logs going north across the Golden Gate Bridge where they already had redwoods to cut of their own and two where to the south did they come from anywayz unless Big Sur which was practically a national park and three was it the way kweerboyz feel the way the light on Jonnyboy's legs touched something inside me that also seemed new like being in San Francisco for the first time really that I could remember even though I was born there.

All these thoughts in the time it takes to strike a match. And now it seems like signs and portents in more ways than three but then I just knew somehow it was the beginning of everything changing and would dead sure be a scene to scroll the screen when I breathed my last. So I made a promise to myself when the truck passed by and the rumble of the logs moved the air and Jonnyboy shifted his leg against mine that I'd try like a trooper to keep track of what happened so someday I'd read it and know who Iwas when I left home for good and made my life mine.

Storytellers lie was right up there at the top of Jonnyboy's rules-to-live-by list with Ignore heroes and Never make decisions based on fear. It was how he'd buck me up in the old days when I was head down kicking dirt while people around me grooved on someone talking and I mean fully with their eyes and the moves of their faces and it was just like music before I found punk rock. Because I couldn't be part of it no way never nohow and there I was unwashed and alone in the wonderful modern world. And is it lame to wish you're what you're not and even worse something you know less than zero about. So Jonnyboy could have read me hard on that but never did. He just smiled and eyed me and moved his lips and it was me who did the reading.

?Storytellers lie.

As in don't worry get happy. As in happy you don't have to listen. As in most people's stories are your basic commercial on TV that's maybe interesting to watch but nothing to pump up the volume about.

And since he was the storyteller nine times out of ten that ' s really film at eleven on Jonnyboy. It wasn't so much lying as entertaining the way he saw it. But he was proud he never lied about the big things. Big things like being a full-blooded kweerboy he took seriously the way some people take religion or politics or dressing in black seriously. Once he told this bigtime homo in Monterey he didn't like old movies and the guy asked what kind of kweer he thought he was and Jonnyboy worried for a week I swear.

Because he thought he was a good kweer. just not a good S.F. kweer was what he finally decided.

Since he came from down south.

Since he listened to the unheard music.

As in do U know about the Germs?

Which is the first thing he ever asked me way back when at the Electric Light Arcade on Lighthouse Avenue in New Monterey. He saw me before I saw him and is it blushing material because I had full long hair in a surfer cut and worse curse an upside-down KLOS visor cap. I rode my sk8board hella fast through the open doors the way I always did and braked with my skidplate to stop hard in front of the pinball game I was shredding then which was Mars Attacks. And Jonnyboy didn't waste time he just walked right up.

He slid two quarters across the glass so we started playing doubles and did we rock that machine more than twice around the clock. And it was almost three hours later I swear after multiple new high scores when he finally realized I wasn't just the silent type and popped the question with the one-inch yellow pencil stub complete with pink eraser he pulled from the piercing in his left ear.

And is it surprising I didn't know about the Germs or any other bands really except for Kiss and I only knew them because when I was little I had a cheesy old notebook with their stickers on it. But Jonnyboy wouldn't take no for an answer. The way he saw it was that I knew inside and he knew I knew from the way I shredded my way into the arcade and the way he put it as in read my lips was:

-You're a punk when you're born.

Meaning there's more to it than music and fashion. Which may be how it started with the New York Dolls and the Sex store in London but really the look is just a package to get attention for what's inside. The look tells everybody you don't blend in and you won't blend in. And that was Jonnyboy hands down your pants no doubt about it. He blended in nowhere and it wasn't just his hair whether it was purple or shaved or piled in a greasy high pompadour or his glow-in-the-dark nail polish or his jewelry made from old computer parts and other machines he scavenged from the trash in alleys behind stores and offices late at night. He was only regular-sized but everything about him seemed big from the way he smiled to the way he moved to the way he looked at you sometimes like the two of you just got the punch line of a rad-ass joke no one else would ever understand.

And I mean no way never nohow. By the end of that first time we hung out he was calling me Radboy and I knew it was curtains for the name I used to have. Because it just felt right and walking out into the parking lot beside him afterwards I looked at our shadows on the pavement and mine seemed taller and badder than ever before and I knew it was goodbye forever...

Product Details

Hillsbery, Kief
Harper Perennial
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Publication Date:
July 3, 2001
Grade Level:
8.04x5.33x.76 in. .54 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Adventure

War Boy New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.50 Backorder
Product details 336 pages Perennial - English 9780060935016 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[An] energetic debut novel....The 'Nocal' post-punk atmosphere...can be grating with its forced edginess, but against the novel's hard-core heart stands Radboy's decency and will to survive."
"Review" by , "There's an overload of energy surging through this nevertheless soulful-sentimental first novel....[I]t grows on you — and the engagingly inchoate Radboy is a touchingly real and likable creation."
"Review" by , "[A] fine first novel....While Hillsbery occasionally gives Radboy pop references that he probably wouldn't know...he has expressed the exuberance and wonder of a boy on the cusp of manhood with great authenticity."
"Review" by , "Kief Hillsbery's language is galloping, frenetic, all-consuming, reckless even, but never out of control; the resulting novel is disturbing, hypnotic, and impressive. You won't be able to put it down."
"Review" by , "It's rare to be deeply moved by something as apparently hip and accessible as War Boy, but that's the way art works...taking us by surprise once in a while..."
"Review" by , "[A] realistic and affecting portrait....Written in beautiful prose that is alternatively frenetic and poetic, it captures perfectly Rad's unique voice."
"Review" by , "Adults will be impatient with the overly stylistic writing and rather obvious plot....Older teens and twenty-somethings might enjoy the frank and lyrical descriptions of crystal-meth parties and punk music."
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