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>Marcelo in the Real World

June 30, 2010


I read such a good review of Francisco Stork’s novel Marcelo in the Real World at Jenny’s Books back in March that I knew I had to read it, so when I found it at the library, I pounced on it and finished it before the day was out. I thought it was a charming little novel and a quick read for a summer’s day. It was refreshing, like a popsicle.

It seems like everyone has been reviewing this novel lately, and I don’t have a lot to add except that for me, the charms outweighed most of the problems that have been pointed out, like that the villain is two-dimensional. I think because Marcelo–who describes himself as “on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum”–isn’t as interested in other people as many are, some of his attitude rubs off as the novel goes on. And it seems to me that sometimes simplifying an issue for someone gives you a better understanding of it, like when one of Marcelo’s adult friends answers his question about how people can use sex to hurt each other:
The ways we use sex to hurt each other are innumerable and unspeakable. Anytime we treat a person as a thing for our own pleasure. When we look at another person as an object and not as a person like us. When sex consists solely of taking and not giving. When a person uses physical or psychological force to have sex against another person’s will. When a person deceives another in order to have sex with them. When a person uses sex to physically or emotionally hurt another. Any time an adult has sex with a child. Those are some of the ways sex becomes evil.”

The same kind of simplifying works for me again when Marcelo discusses ethical issues with the girl whose suffering has made him aware that there are such issues:
“It cannot be that this is the first time I realized this, but it is. We all have ugly parts. I think of the time in the cafeteria when Jasmine asked me what the girl in the picture was asking me. How do we live with all the suffering? We see our ugly parts, and then we are able to forgive, love kindness, walk humbly.”

I like the way that, by the end of his story, Marcelo finds a way to live without either ignoring other peoples’ pain or being overwhelmed by it.

Reading something this straightforward or doing something simple is a good way for me to see the world differently. A long-standing joke among my friends is that while we all do sedentary, intellectual work for a living, we dig ditches for fun–we go to the beach and build sand castles. We’re serious sand castle builders, as you can see from my photos (above).

Also, I like red popsicles. What’s your favorite flavor?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 10:22 am

    >I do not care for popsicles. I'm glad you liked this book! And I am so, so impressed by your sandcastles. Ours never attained such grandeur.

  2. June 30, 2010 10:34 am

    >Jenny's review persuaded me to read this too. I'm really pleased I did, as it is such a heartwarming book, despite its flaws.I'm not a big fan of ice pops (as they are called in the UK) I prefer ice cream !!

  3. June 30, 2010 12:27 pm

    >I am currently hooked on a tri-flavored popsicle from Trader Joe's. But perhaps that means I am not good at simplification. I do love those Easter Island heads, though!

  4. June 30, 2010 1:43 pm

    >Jenny, the older brother of the guy standing up originated a tarpaper mold technique this summer.Jackie, I used to prefer ice cream too, but became lactose intolerant after the birth of my first child, so now I've learned to enjoy other frozen sweets. In France I would order a granita, which is what we call a "slushy" over here.Harriet, you can see a bit of me behind the last Easter island head. That's Ron and Walker on their knees building in the other picture.

  5. June 30, 2010 3:42 pm

    >Excellent sand sculptures! I like popsicles (red's my fav too next to purple) but I like sorbet better. No ice cream for me, sadly.Guess I'm the only one who hasn't heard of this book. I'm happy to have the final Larsson book in my hot little hands!

  6. June 30, 2010 4:00 pm

    >I like your simplified review. The fact that it was an audio colored my thoughts on this book a lot. Just reading those quotations made Marcello sound a bit more abstracted than he seemed to me when he was acted out by the reader.Anything but banana or root beer. Brr. Actually creamsicles are my favorite. I am somewhat lactose intolerant too, but I will take a pill for a creamsicle.

  7. June 30, 2010 7:40 pm

    >Freshhell, I'd like sorbet better if it came in chocolate.Trapunto, I'd take a pill for a creamsicle, too. I sometimes take them for ice cream, if I haven't eaten out or otherwise ingested too much dairy already that day (have you noticed that it's hard to find restaurant food with no dairy ingredients–I've had waitresses tell me "but that's just a condiment" about parmesan on pasta salad).I can see that an audiobook might make the simplicity I enjoyed less charming. It would drag it out, for one thing. I read fast, and audiobooks read it to me much more slowly.

  8. June 30, 2010 9:54 pm

    >I was briefly lactose intolerant after a wicked stomach virus and it made me very sad. Sorry ice cream etc is off limits to you. And I love the sand castles.

  9. July 1, 2010 3:54 pm

    >Do fudgecicles (sp) count as a favorite flavor?I first heard about this book in a library magazine last year, before it was released I think. I finally got it in December and yet I *still* haven't read it. I plan to in the next month, though.

  10. July 1, 2010 5:34 pm

    >Elizabeth, ice cream isn't totally off limits if I haven't had a lot of other dairy food that day and I take a Lactaid pill or two. Could be worse.Amanda, fudgesicles totally count. Who can resist one? (Not me.)

  11. July 1, 2010 8:51 pm

    >Super impressed with the sand heads, were you entering a contest or was it for pure fun?I like blue. That's not really a flavour, but you picked red so it's ok.

  12. July 1, 2010 8:58 pm

    >Jodie, the sand heads were just for fun. We planned them out ahead of time and they took about 3 hours of manual labor.Ha, I was waiting for someone to point out that "red" isn't really a flavor–although I think it's a more accurate description of many popsicle's flavoring than "cherry" would be. Blue is often "blue raspberry," isn't it?

  13. July 2, 2010 2:58 pm

    >I am not a huge fan of popsicles, I admit. I don't like ice cream on the wooden sticks- I think the wood morphs the flavor. But when I was younger, red was my favorite flavor :-)Great review of this book! I still haven't read it.

  14. July 3, 2010 12:33 pm

    >Aarti, my teenagers still like the kind of popsicles that come with a really bad joke on the wooden stick. Morphs the flavor, huh? I'll have to consider that when I eat one this weekend.

  15. July 5, 2010 8:40 pm

    >Hmmm. I would have said red, but I do like fudgesicles, and creamsicles are not bad either. Did you ever have Del's lemonade in Rhode Island, because that's pretty good, too. I am totally envious of your beach vacation. It's about 60 degrees here. Yes, I am whining.

  16. July 5, 2010 8:41 pm

    >Oh, what I meant to say above all was, Nice heads!

  17. July 6, 2010 2:12 am

    >Readersguide, I never had Del's lemonade. But I did have a "milk shake" and a "frappe" which is what we in the midwest call a milkshake. And I had an egg cream, which fulfilled a childhood longing (from reading Harriet the Spy, of course).

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