Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Chbosky's idealistic portrayal of Charlie - a teenage boy, devourer of classic literature and listener of The Smiths - I found to be unconvincing, however I see his appeal. My sixteen year-old self pined for a boy with which I could discuss the canons, share a joint and count on to shower me with gifts such as poetry, mixed tapes and money with which to print the fanzine we publish together in colour. 

Charlie managed to soften my cynicism, enabling me to sympathise with all of the Tumblr users reblogging countless The Perks of being a Wallflower quotes typed out in Helvetica - or better yet - vintage typewriter font. However, I don't believe Charlie would exist as he was written, and if he did, he would not have had the experiences or acceptance of his fellow characters as Chbosky has written for him. This is not because Charlie is too good to be true, rather I lend this conclusion to my interpretation of Charlie's autism. I just can't see his peers accepting him, let alone raising their glasses to him at a high school party in celebration of his quirkiness.

When characters aren't Chbosky's unrealistic and idealistic teenage pseudo-intellectuals tackling gender archetypes and discussing Kurt Cobain, they're crying heavily. Everyone weeps, sobs, bawls. No one reacts like normal human beings, and if they're not hysterical they're on the brink.

I can see why each character is entitled to their own pity party. Each character is part of Chbosky's melting pot of misfits coming to terms with molestation, homosexuality, infidelities, teen pregnancy and abortion, suicide, domestic violence, mental illness, rejection and a slew of other issues synonymous with the schoolyard. Each poorly sketched archetype make their attempt to carve out an identity, ending up becoming parodies of themselves. Caricatures.

Having said all this, there were elements of the book I appreciated. The characters' relationships with each other left me feeling envious I didn't have the high school experience of a supportive group with which to take LSD and recite poetry to aloud without fear of ending up being pantsed (and not in the good way). This didn't come until my university days.

I enjoyed the vehicle with which the narration was delivered. I find letter format an interesting choice. Having the narrator be the one to pen the letters to an anonymous recipient may well be the undoing of my autism theory. Having the information supplied to the reader through the lens of the raconteur creates the potential of the unreliable narrator. Is Charlie putting his spin on things, embellishing, only giving over what he has deemed important and necessary to the story?

I have designs on watching the film adaptation, directed by the man who penned the novel, Stephen Chbosky. This is the medium I feel would suit this story best.