Thursday, September 06, 2007

Beautiful Children by Charles Bock

I finished Beautiful Children last night. I have to say I was left feeling slightly deflated, that the book was not quite as brilliant as I thought it was going to be...but then I have these ridiculously high standards.

James Meek's The People's Act of Love had the same trajectory. After 1/3 I was way too enthusiastic - It's as good as the great Russians I'd yell as I thrust a copy into the hand of whoever had mistakenly asked for a recommendation that day.

By the end I had calmed down a bit. It's a great novel, just not quite up there with Fyodor and Co.

Beautiful Children starts very hard and fast; plunging the reader into the emotional vacuum left by a missing child, then speeds into the Vegas night, thrusting nightmare visions of money, neon and paid for sex into your face. Bock (a name you should avoid typing into a Nokia phone with predictive text if slang words relating to sensitive anatomical parts are likely to upset you) is clearly a great talent.

It is hard to write about youth, sex, drugs etc without things disintegrating into boredom. Beautiful Children retains a great humanity and depth of feeling at all times, even when things get really degraded. There are moments when it feels like this is the voice of doomed youth, a voice that could explain the mysteries of teen trouble in lingo our "grownup" minds can grasp - but there are other moments when I felt things just didn't quite work...

What do I mean by that? I'm not clever enough to articulate it I'm afraid. Think of it this way. Remember the first time you heard a song by that band that ended up being your total teen favourite? Then the album came out and was just life changingly awesome? Then the second album came out and it was not as good? You couldn't say why and there were a few great singles...but there was that track with the bongos? Or the bad cover version that was later used in an advert?

I wouldn't be surprised if Bock ends up selling large. But will he be a name remembered for all time?

Beautiful Children is a visceral, thrilling, dangerous book - but it didn't quite rock my world. (But then I am middle aged nowadays!)


  1. Oh god, please don't talk about second album syndrome. Second novel syndrome is currently keeping me awake at night.

  2. Don't worry Marie - it's all part of why your blog is still correctly named.

    You gotta struggle baby...

  3. well but what is it about, in this book?
    please tell us the story....

  4. not a lot of story. is kid dead? did he run away? no pay-off in end of book. and it's wayyyy too long.