Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Sum and Total of Now

The Sum and Total of Now by Don Robertson
Berkley trade paperback edition August 2009
copyright 1966, 290 pages
ISBN-13: 9780425230848
highly recommended

Synopsis from back cover:
It is the summer of 1948. Thirteen-year-old Morris Bird III lives in Cleveland with his parents and little sister. His mother aggravates him, his sister is a pain, and his father's radio personality ego is out of control - as is Morris's own body when in the presence of girls. But over in Columbus [sic], his grandmother is dying. She is the greatest influence on his life, and cancer is stealing her away from him.
As his parents and aunts and uncles bicker over his grandmother's belongings, young Morris distracts himself with the Cleveland Indians' race for the pennant, Phillip Marlowe stories, and the common daydreams of a teenage boy. But in the end, Morris must find courage and strength within to face the harsh reality around him - and the choices he must make - because he's the only one who can.

My Thoughts:

This is the second of three Robertson novels featuring the unforgettable Morris Bird III. Fans of the first novel, The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread were anxiously waiting for this recently re-released edition. It's been 4 years and Morris is now 13 - and experiencing everything that that entails. While the story does start out slow and the climax might also be easy for others to correctly guess, The Sum and Total of Now was certainly worth the effort. My eyes perhaps glazed over a little during the baseball discussions, but then they also did in real life during game discussions when my son was this age. This isn't quite as good as the first novel, but it has been said that it is more of a transition novel between the first and the third. The final novel in the Morris Bird III trilogy is The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened and it's also just been re-released.

If you've read and enjoyed The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, you will have been introduced to Don Robertson's writing style. He does have sections where the writing is following Morris Bird III's thoughts and it's all stream of consciousness writing. While these sections could potentially bother some people, I haven't had a problem with them.
Highly Recommended - and let's face it, fans of the first will be reading it anyway

People were forever telling the boy that confusions were a part of Growing Up. opening

He called on the sum and total of his personal now, and he supposed it was a long way from being good old Maturity, but what else was there for him? pg. 2

His complexion. Some complexion. It was killing him. Especially his forehead. It put him in mind of the surface of the moon. pg. 3

This wasn't much of a family for people to see fit to tell other people much of anything. But this didn't mean they didn't talk...Oh there was plenty of talk, and especially from Morris Bird III's father. The man was actually paid to talk. pg. 8

Things changed. Things forever adjusted themselves and took new shapes. His grandmother had been brave beyond bravery, wise beyond wisdom, but now her face was all wrinkled and yellowish, and she didn't even have the strength to keep from crying in front of her grandchildren. pg. 11

Baseball in Cleveland that summer was a serious business; it grabbed people by the throat. pg. 13

Morris Bird III loved the movies. He loved them because they made sense. Things worked out. You knew who the bad guys were, and you knew they would lose. Nothing was left hanging. pg. 15

Almost four years ago now, on the day (October 20, 1944) .... Morris Bird III had behaved in a courageous manner (helping some injured people), and thus he had made it up to Logan MacMurray and erased his early dropkick and speedometer embarrassments, but a lot of things had happened since then, and the world had revealed itself as being a lot more complicated, and Courage was a harder word to understand. Here he was, thirteen now and pocked and angry, immersing himself in baseball and movies and mournful lonely deep knee bends, and oh boy oh boy oh boy how things forever changed. He saw himself as a thing of now, and whatever he was, was the sum and total of his now, but the now forever changed, and he was a clamor of arrivals and departures and memories and aches and growth and rot, openings and closings, enthusiasms and rejections..... pg. 21

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