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Original Essays | April 11, 2014

Paul Laudiero: IMG Shit Rough Draft



I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working... Continue »
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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

This title in other editions

Black Swan Green

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Black Swan Green Cover

ISBN13: 9780812974010
ISBN10: 0812974018
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Jason has ongoing internal dialogues with “Maggot” and “Unborn Twin.” What roles do Maggot and Unborn Twin play in Jasons life? And what did Mitchell accomplish by employing this device?

2. At the beginning of the novel, Jason fears that his stammer defines him.  Why do you think he calls it "Hangman"?  How does he learn to adapt to it?  In what ways is the stammer a limitation and in what ways an advantage?  Imagine Jason without a stammer-how would the novel be different?

3. Mitchell often ends a scene in the middle of the action-for example, when Jason is locked in the House in the Woods, or when the fire erupts in Town Hall-and leaves readers to surmise for themselves what happened next. Why do you think he chose to do this?

4. Throughout the novel, phrases and paragraphs are often repeated, sometimes with variation and sometimes identically. How does context alter the meaning of these repeated phrases? And what did Mitchell accomplish by repeating paragraphs with slight variations, as in the chapter “Solarium”?

5. Did you notice the frequent appearances of the “moon-gray cat”? In what instances does the cat appear? Why did Mitchell choose to link these instances using the moon-gray cat?

6. There is a rich tradition of English novels set in villages like Black Swan Green. How did the town of Mitchells imagination compare with those of classic British novels? What characteristics, both of the village and the villagers, did Mitchell employ to recall this tradition, and how did he subvert it?

7. Jason is deeply concerned with the war. How does his budding political consciousness evolve over the course of the novel? And how did events in the world reflect the events happening within Jasons home?

8. Jason successfully completes the test to be admitted into the ultra-popular, ultra-secret society of the Spooks; but his friend Dean Moran doesnt have such luck. Why did Jason go back to help Dean? Was it the right choice?

9. Many of the male characters in the book have reprehensible traits. Some, like Dean Morans dad, are alcoholics; others, like Jasons uncle Brian, are overtly racist and sexist. Jason idolizes his cousin Hugo at first, but by the end of the novel thinks hes “smarmy,” and sometimes Jasons father appears heroic, but at other times, callous and cowardly. Is Mitchell commenting on the pitfalls of masculinity? Are the female characters portrayed with fewer faults?

10. Violence is an ever-present threat in Jasons world, even among adults, like the bus driver, Norman Bates, who carries a Bowie knife, and Kit Harris, the Borstal teacher, who sicced his Dobermans on Jason. What role does violence play in the story?

11. At the end, Jason says, “The worlds a headmaster who works on your faults.” What did he mean? Do you agree?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Samantha Tetangco, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Samantha Tetangco)
A surprise. Beautiful prose. Moving story. Unlike anything I have ever read and everything like books I love.
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Danielle M, May 27, 2011 (view all comments by Danielle M)
Great coming-of-age story set in England in the early eighties. Definitely David Mitchell's most "normal" book (no exotic locations, fractured narratives, or reflective time frames) but excellent nonetheless and further proof that Mitchell is a master at creating three-dimensional worlds both small and vast.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
JNielsO, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by JNielsO)
This one really resonated for me. Mitchell completely captured the dizzying experience of being thirteen - not an adult, not a child, but caught in the great, confusing abyss in-between. I loved this book so much that I actually started to ration my reading to only a couple of pages a day because I couldn't bear for it to end. Vivid and heartfelt. I'll be re-reading this one an a regular basis just to spend more time with the lead character. I'd love to meet up with him again some time. For anyone who feels that "Catcher In The Rye" is an over-rated coming of age novel, this book is for you!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812974010
Author:
Mitchell, David
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
England
Subject:
Boys
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20070231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.22x5.56x.67 in. .61 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Coming of Age

Black Swan Green Used Trade Paper
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$8.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812974010 Reviews:
"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 , "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 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" 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 , "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] 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 , "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."
"Synopsis" by , From the author of Cloud Atlas, now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.

Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.

Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

From the Hardcover edition.

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