57 thoughts on “What We’re Teaching Our Sons – Owen Booth

  1. “We’re sure it wasn’t like this when we were children.”

    “We promise ourselves that next week we’ll get it right.”

    A lot of short short and nifty wise saws, or not so wise!

  2. “Everyone was very sad, we say. People had taken to calling the whale ‘Diana’. It was one of those moments when the whole nation comes together.”

    More incantatory refrains of the recurrent teaching of our sons. First whales, today. And why one was beached so close to home. In the Thames, was it? I am 71, old enough by far to be a grandfather, old enough to lose my memory. And I mine my own eaves. And I often read Steve Rasnic Tem. Owen Booth here: “And the grandfathers themselves, as boys, searching desperately through the streets for their own silent, unknowable fathers.”

  3. “We’re teaching our sons about women. What they mean. Where they come from. Where they’re headed, as individuals and as a gender.”

    What else can I say? Other than taking them to art galleries, as this text seems to suggest, to see paintings with women depicted over the centuries. I wonder if Courbet’s The Origin of the World (1866) was one such.

  4. Now we are teaching them of Money and Geology.
    I admire the ironic obliquity of these incantations. But irony of ironies, does one irony cancel out the other irony?
    Also I am impressed at my preternatural synchronicity in reading Tem’s Book of Days and this Owen Booth-book in chance oblique tandem.
    Also cf Haas’ Sugarland, reviewed a few months ago?

  5. As we learn to teach, sport! And emotional literacy. With examples like collecting, steam trains etc, I feel I may have suffered a form of Aspergers all my life! A horror book of ultimate ironies of self-awareness disguised as a literary whimsy!

  6. “We’re teaching our sons about sex.”

    Almost a cleansing catharsis, with snow cover or bald heads and bald bodies. But half of us may be gay or straight or both, half of us may be into or actually IN pornography, and half of us nastier than most, I infer. The irony is that all bodies contain ugliness. But did the snow hide it, or the hair? Women, as mothers, are ironically mentioned for the first time here, as far as I recall. Bodies contain minds, too, I guess. Meanwhile, I think I have extrapolated here further than the book strictly allowed!

  7. Teaching Big Bang and Higgs and stag parties in Amsterdam, this book suddenly takes a startling turn. Not sure if, as a father myself, I am allowed to laugh along with it. Or to feel some other sort of emotion through the veils and piques of irony.

  8. Just read the sections on ex-girl friends and lonely billionaires, and I am getting into the swing of this book, that is not what it seems. I am not sure they are simple, if overlapping, ironies I am seeking but things far more undefinable. Do I dare compare this book with, inter alia, The Journal of a Disappointed Man that I real-time reviewed quite a while ago: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/the-journal-of-a-disappointed-man-w-r-p-barbellion/

  9. “We don’t think they would appreciate the irony.”

    Crying and Europe are the next two,sections, the next two lessons we teach our sons.
    I know the feeling. Crying become a refrain.

  10. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: I’m gettin great hawlin here.

  11. “‘Tell us a story,’ our sons ask, ‘to help take our minds off all the terrifying things that could potentially be hiding in the dark.’”

    We tell our sons today of ‘empathy’ and ‘haunted houses.’
    Please have empathy with me, O younger readers of my old man reviews, when I refer you to a friend’s story about a haunted house I read and reviewed here literally minutes before reading and reviewing the next part of this book today, as above.

  12. Cynical or sincere, this book takes fire as we teach our sons about relationships. Does this book get feistier and fierier the more it sees into its own heart? Please forgive a long quote worth quoting from it:
    “Consequently, we tell our sons, all our relationships tended to end the same way: in heartbreak and despair and things getting set on fire. Our sons, elbows deep in their Happy Meals, nod knowingly. Now things are different, we tell them. Now we understand that what relationships actually do is provide you with a whole new set of problems to deal with, so you don’t have time to worry about all the stupid, self-indulgent stuff you used to worry about before. In this way, we say, relationships are not unlike children.”

  13. “Together with our sons we’re planning to climb the ten highest mountains on the planet.”

    Teaching our sons about mountains ….. and then drugs on the Amazon River.
    There is something unique about this book that is growing on me.
    Competing with the Book of Days for pithy wisdom and constructive double ironies without bluffing.

  14. The Bradford Goliath

    “Nobody wants to see The World’s Strongest Man drop dead on television.”

    This book is getting stranger and stranger. But is that me? Whatever, a ground-breaking sort of book with perhaps a new invented form of irony, untried till now.

  15. “We end up walking along a busy road with our half-asleep sons in tow, stretched out behind us like ducklings…”

    I wish I had read this moving portrait – of separated and divorced fathers teaching their sons about gambling – yesterday.

  16. “‘When we were your age,’ we whisper to our sons, ‘your grandmothers were librarians. They used to let us play in the library after closing time. In the dark, the shelves seemed to go on for miles. It was like being lost in a forest of books.’”

    From the best restaurant in the world, close to the Pyrenees, with a ten year waiting list, to a whole array of libraries, a list of libraries that outdoes Borges, and this book is arguably coming close to something I did not think anyone would come close to, even if I had first envisaged it as something to actually aim at! You only know there is something to attain once you have attained it, almost by accidental ricochet.

  17. We teach our sons of crime and of self-preservation by falling hindsight into glaciers.
    Crime and Cryology.
    This book evokes thoughts other books can’t evoke. Unless it is the Book of Days. Still amazed at the mutual synergy of these two books being co-read.

  18. “We’re teaching our sons about what happens when you get struck by lightning.”

    “….after surviving seven separate lightning strikes in thirty-five years, he killed himself over an unrequited love affair at the age of seventy-one.”

    I am seventy-one.
    And so is Stephen King.

  19. More Temmish slants on the poignancy of Fathers and their sons as the former go away on an old friends’ break in the mountains,,,,I strongly believe however that OB has never read Tem, nor vice versa. They otherwise live in different worlds, literally and literarily, I feel.

  20. THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE

    “, which contains the most devastating last line we’ve ever read.”

    …although it is not quoted.
    These entries are getting more and difficult to negotiate as to perceived meaning and unknown intent.
    This is good, though, not bad, for the reader. The book is becoming utterly tantalising. Especially in the context of my other chance-synchronous reading.

  21. “Etc.”

    OB is today teaching our sons about monsters, like zombies, vampires, werewolves. He is really now being sucked into Tem territory (here just now today). Two books not only in independently mutual synergy but also now becoming two interacting vampires, two monster metaphors.

  22. ROMANCE

    “‘But still …’ we say.
    But still, we’re trying desperately to keep the romance alive between ourselves and the mothers of our sons.“

    With set pieces involving specially imported volcanic sand?
    Do layered ironies become honest truths? This well-written book is perhaps unique in attempting such an experiment.

  23. NOSTALGIA

    “‘Those were the days,’ our sons say.
    And we can’t argue with that.”

    A most effective portrait of nostalgia and the need for some sort of real-time version of it, not living in the past or the future. Past to future is an agonising spectrum we would otherwise travel along. This book is often very revelatory, if you can use ‘very’ with ‘reVElatoRY’.

  24. “Just to have been of use.”

    Now we teach our sons practical life-skills, and they teach us how to act like Jacques Tati or Laurel & Hardy.
    As well as this book presenting the neoironic, we also learn much about poignancy in tandem with it as a literary art form.

  25. “We’re teaching our sons about teenage girls.”

    In their habitat, and as guarded by their own fathers, and I wonder what they teach them.
    A bit of a giggle. Only to disarm some worries I am increasingly having about this book. That it is somehow disarming me. Brainwashing me?
    Owen Booth is beginning to sound like the name of someone who should be famous. Or, possibly, infamous, at best.

  26. THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN

    The wet footprint was always there. It was just that we noticed it today. How we muffled our own furies when we were the sons of fathers and now merely watch as our own sons steal our unexpended thunder.

  27. VIOLENCE

    “Somewhere along the way, we realise, there’s been a terrible mistake. Possibly a sequence of terrible mistakes, stretching right back to the Stone Age.”

    And the audit trail of fathers teaching sons teaching fathers teaching sons… is part of that brutal process.
    The Child is Father of the Man – Wordsworth
    I perhaps understand that line now for the first time.
    And someone on Dateline London on BBC News earlier today specifically blamed men for all the pending world violence. Men per se. Fathers and Sons.

  28. RITES OF PASSAGE

    “We’re learning about walkabouts and vision quests…”

    I can’t quite grasp how I managed to pick up this book at the same time as reviewing the Book of Days by Tem. It is sheer preternatural instinct, I am sure. They are so utterly in mutual synergy, two way filters to each other, and forming complementary composite metaphors, yet I simply KNOW 100% that one writer will not have yet read the other. It’s a matter of time, though.
    Tem has a longer hinterland, while OB, a potential upstart, I guess, but so different to Tem in genre and feel, is becoming a Venn diagram, or vice versa.

  29. VIKINGS

    “We have been accused of being over-cautious, of worrying unduly about things that are unlikely to happen. There are more important things to focus on, we’re told, than the likelihood of invasion by a culture that largely died out at the end of the eleventh century.”

    Anxiety transcended, except our sons man the guns in case,…

    *

    Then the next entry, about HOSPITALS, to match the Tem entries read today…

    “About the vast and holy silence that fills a hospital at three in the morning.
    We don’t tell them about going home alone in the early hours of the morning, again and again, to houses and flats that would not be filled with life and noise. About trying to pick things up and put things back together over the next days and weeks and months.”

    There is really a singular experience to be had with this book that no single part of me predicted before starting it.

  30. ‘We’re teaching our sons about the war against the potato beetle.”

    “They eat your eyes first.”

    This is getting more obliquely powerful by the day. Each entry seems now to talk of bigger things that are at first not obvious. A series of Swiftian modest proposals. Here the beetles are metaphors for plagues and brexits everywhere. Even possibly Ebola Gay. Or was that Enola before it was auto-corrected by my computer?

  31. RELATIVITY

    “And yet we can feel ourselves moving apart, like wandering moons being pulled into eccentric new orbits around the gigantic fact of our children–“

    Teaching relativity and not allowing any divide and rule by the children in the trajectories of mothers as well as fathers, or at least the ‘we fathers’ in this book say!

  32. We are now teaching our sons of PIRATES and HOTELS.

    Their mothers are becoming more involved in our thoughts, and how we can have extra-marital affairs, assuming we WANT to do so, especially when we are in the hotel with our sons. Dancing on board a Flying Dutchman sort of pirate ship, where men and women dance but not in time to the music. Seem strangely connected. But only books of such speculatively oblique prose as this one can make the unconnectable connectable. If only we want to do so.

  33. “Because what was there that anyone could say?”

    The Aftermath of Disasters, and what indeed can anyone say, beyond what is now already said here? ONLY here, should you pick up this book. By which means we are teaching not only our sons but also ourselves, by dint of this book’s perhaps random synergy with its readers, and its own preternatural booby trap upon itself.
    Sonkind as an ironic form of Mankind!

  34. DRINKING & THE POINTLESSNESS OF GUILT

    Read these two sections for yourself, without my accompaniment. This book is getting paradoxically stranger as well as truer. By quilted ironies. Mothers make quilts, I have found. Mothers, scapegoats.

    I have accidentally found today the most resonant image for this book. Chiming somehow with things we do not yet know need chiming with.

    AD2C0E34-947A-40FD-94CA-243266470172

  35. WAR

    “Our sons, of course, love the idea of war. The chaos. The weapons. The disruption of the everyday order of things. The abandoned tea time and bath time and bed time rules.”

    Having just watched the Gordonstoun episode in The Crown on Netflix, we have perhaps other things to teach our sons…

  36. We are today teaching them ‘The Fifteen Foolproof Approaches to Making Someone Fall in Love with You’…

    Listed here.
    Essential reading, for new fathers, I guess.
    Mention of the mothers now increase apace in this book…
    The most important lesson here, I think, is that sexual magnetism is nothing to do with the magnetism that our sons learn in Physics lessons.
    I grow in confidence and wisdom – even at my relatively advanced age – the more I read this increasingly confident and wise book.

  37. “We’re teaching our sons about the wonderful colours of the non-neurotypical spectrum.”

    Our wonderful, hilarious sons.
    The quilt of ironies now takes on even more revolutionary proportions. I would LOVE to read this chapter aloud to you. It is seminal, speechifying stuff. From Dungeons & Dragons to Fortnite.

  38. The next entry is one of the most striking entries in the whole book (seriously). Gives the whole flavour. Missed chances. Bifurcations of fate and free will. Let me quote it in full below, as a sample chapter from this book. To entice you to read it all.
    If this sample vanishes from here at any stage, it is because the author or publisher has complained…

    The Ones that Got Away

  39. “We’re teaching our sons about video games.
    We’re telling them how video games have helped get us through some of the most difficult times in our lives, and how they’ve made us miss out on some other times altogether.”

    And a new light is now given on this by dint of recent events concerning Fortnite, where our sons can become millionaires.

  40. “We’re teaching our sons about art.”

    The foibles and pretensions of modern art included.
    This book is its own happening or installation.
    Venn diagram of ironies as a ready-made.

  41. Teaching our sons about women AGAIN!

    “We don’t want our sons to be defined by their gender any more than we want women to be defined by theirs.”

    I sense we ought to stop digging our hole even deeper, but you know we know that you know that we are still digging this hole!

  42. The Importance of Good Posture and Looking After your Teeth

    The irony runs so utterly deep now in the fathers, vis à vis their sons’ mothers, and what they need to airbrush. Nothing works, in the end. The sons will do what the fathers once did at their age, I guess. Ignore their fathers. Humour their mothers. I guess.
    The irony is now so deep, I think, as reader, I shall become like that character in Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled and walk about permanently with an ironing-board under my arm!
    In fact that novel, now I’ve thought of it, is a fine complement for this book. And vice versa.

  43. “We’re teaching our sons about fatherhood.”

    Give them this book, I say.
    Climbing the same trees as we climbed, but these trees are different, by being bigger or weaker or older, though.
    I note each section seems to contain at least one straight-faced ‘dying fall’, in word-musical terms of its contextual meaning.

  44. Teaching our sons about DEATH

    “We’re accidentally ending up at the wrong funerals and nevertheless being invited to the wakes on account of our sons being so polite, so nicely dressed.”

    “…half the people we know have either got cancer or are thinking about it.”

    You know, these entries in this teaching manual get more and more resonant — with some hidden truths regarding humanity in our society — the further you progress into it.

  45. “Most days, we tell our sons, we can hardly move for all the ghosts.”

    Read the list of ghosts here, it is an eye-opener.

    And the final lesson:

    “The Ultimate Fate of the Universe” which ties up incredibly neatly in mutual synergy with Tem’s PASTEL read and reviewed just now here, before reading this.

    This is a book I am so pleased I picked up at a whim. A whim that has led to a unique experience of irony and absurdist wisdom. And a counterpane for Tem whose work I have been scrying for some while (still am).

    end

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