Published August 13th by Knopf first published January 1st Toronto, Ontario Canada Madrid Spain. Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Going Home Again , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Oct 17, Friederike Knabe rated it liked it Shelves: Dennis Bock's Going Home Again intrigued me by its title, suggesting a topic that I relate to in more ways than one. It also sounded like a very different novel from his earlier ones, The Ash Garden and The Communist's Daughter that are both anchored in a historical context and that I liked very much.
Going Home Again then is a contemporary story as much as a timeless private and even intimate story about love and loss, winning and losing, and making choices. The story follows the journey - phys Dennis Bock's Going Home Again intrigued me by its title, suggesting a topic that I relate to in more ways than one. The story follows the journey - physical and especially emotional - of Charlie Bellerose, the narrator, who flees Canada for Europe in an effort to distance himself from the recent and not so recent tragedies and upheavals in his life.
Now, twenty years later, the middle-aged, successful and confident father of an adored daughter, returns to Toronto, hoping to restart his life back "home". Bock's writing is affecting and personable as he follows the ups and downs of his hero's journey and inner struggles. We see the world through the eyes of Charlie, including his friends, his past and present lovers, and, last but not least, his brother Nate.
His depiction of places, such as Montreal, Toronto or Madrid, where he eventually establishes himself in Europe, is lively and colourful. It is often said that you have to leave home before you appreciate it fully. For Charlie his journey home is much more complex and difficult than that. He and his brother Nate, orphans since a young age, grow up into very different individuals and, not surprisingly, clash in ways that lead to emotional tension and separation.
Will reconciliation be possible upon his return? In Europe, Charlie has strived to live "in the moment" but he is not really the type of person to succeed in this endeavor: Personally, I was in two minds about my views of the novel. On the one hand, it reads very well and I for one felt engaged with the story and enjoyed the way Bock unravels his protagonist's character, some dramatic twists as well as the backstory over time.
On the other hand I felt not totally satisfied with the story and several narrative strands that were left underdeveloped. Sep 09, John Braden rated it it was ok. A lot of possibilities in this book to start and the writing is very good, but the threads don't lead anywhere. The protagonist is kind of a schmuck but not a compelling one. The reasons for Charlie's marital malaise let alone its eventual resolution are never satisfactorily explained and this pattern of promise and disappointment occurs throughout the novel making a tough go at times despite the book's brevity.
Potentially interesting characters are introduced but rarely achieve three dimension A lot of possibilities in this book to start and the writing is very good, but the threads don't lead anywhere. Potentially interesting characters are introduced but rarely achieve three dimensions. Occasionally there is a glimmer of real potential, such as the menace that Charlie's brother Nate lends to the preceedings, or when Charlie, angered by his estranged wife's Xmas plans with their daughter in Paris and her lover, flies to Paris.
But then just as quickly, the potential for conflict and character development is slotted away as quickly as possible into inconsequence,as if Bock were afraid to go for the really good bits. Considering the violence--real, lateral, considered, etc. Ultimately,this is a thin book focused on the petite bourgeois concerns of a hapless middle-aged man who just seems to be drifting about--ho-hum.
Oct 26, Greg rated it it was ok. Almost pages to say "gosh, choices are HARD! Other than some well crafted phrases, could someone tell me why I should care? Sep 02, Kyle rated it liked it. I didn't find this novel particularly compelling or eloquent. I felt that this novel had a much more masculine tone to it than the author's previous works, and I felt blocked by that tone as a reader; I just couldn't relate to the "maleness" of these characters.
Entitled, wealthy, bored men. Left me thinking, "So what? Like a bag of chips, once it's opened, you keep eating and eating until they're all gone. You c I didn't find this novel particularly compelling or eloquent. You can think about how they tasted later. Jun 18, Christina McLain rated it really liked it. I know the author of this book as he taught a class in creative writing I took several years ago.
I thought this novel was very interesting as it deals with what it is like to be a father today from a man's point of view, in this case a father separated from his beloved daughter and painfully estranged from his wife. The main character Charlie, a fortyish fairly successful language school owner, has come back home to Toronto after years of spending his adult life in Spain as his Full disclosure: The main character Charlie, a fortyish fairly successful language school owner, has come back home to Toronto after years of spending his adult life in Spain as his marriage has failed and he is looking for a fresh start.
He has to contend with the pain of divorce and separation from his daughter as well as the adjustment to life in a country he has not lived in for a long time. The story revolves around a year in Charlie's life where he is forced to confront the truth about his first love Holly, his youthful escape from her and subsequent travels in Europe; as well he has to deal with unhappy visits to Spain with his now estranged wife and daughter and with his rocky relationship with his volatile, increasingly destructive older brother Nick.
I think what Bock is trying to say is what it feels like to be a man in our modern era. Charlie appears to be a fairly affable character in contrast with his brother who never seems able to come to terms with the death of their parents or his wife leaving him and who in contrast with Charlie, ends up in a very bad situation.
This sounds like psychobabble but what Bock shows us is a man willing to try to come to terms with his life not avoid it. Oct 17, Daniel rated it it was ok Shelves: I could practically feel his hand reaching up through the page. If someone else could know and write so well about what I was feeling, I wasn't losing my mind after all. As with the character's impression of Hesse, this book too is about the torment of "I sat in a lounge chair overlooking the Catalan hills and discovered Herman Hesse, whose writing reminded me of the torment of my own soul.
As with the character's impression of Hesse, this book too is about the torment of the soul. Instead of feeling the writer's hand reaching up through the page, though, I found myself completely unable to sympathize with the largely self-inflicted crises in the novel. Without any emotional grounding, the stream of almost rhetorical existential questions began to feel ponderous rather than profound. I wasn't that intrigued by the summary to begin with, but I enjoyed Bock's The Ash Garden enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. While there are some truly profound observations about coming to terms with one's past, I just found myself unable to get past the emotional miasma that to my mind could have been so easily avoided with some simple communication.
Apr 05, Saddington rated it it was amazing. Read in one sitting, long into the night, with utter disregard for all other obligations. Nov 03, Shirley Schwartz rated it really liked it Shelves: This book is a fitting nomination for the pretigious Giller Prize in Canada. I really enjoyed it. It's not a long book, but a lot happens in it. Charlie Bellerose is the main character and this book is his story. It flips from when he was a young college student to present day where he is married with a thirteen year old daughter. Charlie has lead an interesting life.
He was born in Canada Toronto to be exact , and went to university in Montreal. He then travelled the world and ended up settlin This book is a fitting nomination for the pretigious Giller Prize in Canada. He then travelled the world and ended up settling down in Madrid. Madrid is where he met his wife Isabelle and where they had their daughter Ava.
When we meet up with Charlie at the beginning of the book he is going back to Canada to set up a new English language school, and reeling from a breakup with his wife. He and his brother Nate, who lives in Canada, get together in Toronto. Nate was always a gadabout and getting in and out of scrapes, but Charlie thinks he must have grown up bynow since he has two young sons and he also is suffering from a broken marriage. This book is beautifully written.
It's a love story in its own way but two tragic events one from the past and one in the present link Charlie's past and present together and force him to take a long hard look at himself, and also force him to decide where he's going to go with his life. Brock's prose is so beautifully written and so simply and clearly phrased that I found that I began to care deeply about what Charlie would do as well. Aug 16, David rated it liked it Shelves: So why only three stars? Well, whilst the novel is full of thoughts and insight and it flows beautifully with a convincing and consistent narrative voice, it isn't without its flaws.
Not only does it feature one maybe even two of those children peculiar to fiction who are both wise and able to articulate that wisdom in a manner far beyond their years, but in Nate Charles the This was the first time I've read Dennis Bock, and on the strength of it I've just ordered 'The Communist's Daughter'.
Not only does it feature one maybe even two of those children peculiar to fiction who are both wise and able to articulate that wisdom in a manner far beyond their years, but in Nate Charles the narrator's brother , Bock gives us a wholly unsympathetic character and expects the reader to care about his 'disappearance' which is used to bookend the main story. Not only did I not care what had become of him, but that whole aspect of the plot feels both contrived and unnecessary: Still, the novel is excellent on ideas of family and on what constitutes 'home'.
Feb 20, Chuk rated it liked it. I picked this up in a library binding at work so it had very little information about the book on the cover. It mentioned that it was a Giller Prize finalist and I thought that would be good enough. It's a fairly standard literary tale of an almost middle-aged man having a relationship crisis, plus some red herrings and some serious issues with his brother.
A big chunk of it is told out of order, but the language also made me feel like I was at one or two removes from the main charact I picked this up in a library binding at work so it had very little information about the book on the cover. A big chunk of it is told out of order, but the language also made me feel like I was at one or two removes from the main character even in first person , even though the story felt like it would be better suited to a more intimate telling.
It's not horrible and there's lots of local colour for Toronto, Montreal, and some cities in Europe. Oct 23, Camille Gilliam rated it it was amazing. By the end of the book, I realized you have to give up on things in order to return home. A difficult lesson of life. Sep 20, Carolyn rated it liked it. I enjoyed this book. I liked reading Charlie's journey from events in his past to the present and how he tried to root for his brother who was written as an unredeemable character. Dec 03, Larry H rated it really liked it. Basically, though I really like just going fast and doing long ollies and powerslides, carving around and being smooth.
That just gives you a feeling that no technical tricks can, at least not in my case.
I need to go fast and ollie more. Just push down the street and ollie the paint marks at a cross walk or something. Just see how far you can go. I could spend the whole day doing them and be happy. I remember being on that little patio in my backyard. Just popping up on my tail over and over.
Until eventually I could go up a curb. It looks like magic.ftwyfz.com/wp-content/plugins/acunetix/map7.php
Going Home Again by Dennis Bock
That is like the single greatest innovation in skateboarding history. The flat ground ollie. And it was a true innovation, figuring that out for the first time. There are a lot of older guys I see that can rip the bowl but struggle to ollie. You do it a hundred times and you are only getting like two inches off of the ground. You have to learn the alphabet again. One thing that is nice about New York City is that it is so large that there is almost always going to be someone else about my age there when I go out skating.
That must be a great feeling. You can talk about the same references. I skate with kids that are between 12 and I want the one with the skull and the snake! The people that invented skateboarding are still alive. Alva can still rip a pool and he was one of the inventors of pool skating.
They just re-did the photograph on the Animal Chin ramp and they are in their 50s now. Skateboarding is a young thing. This thing that happened that has reverberated in culture ever since. How long do you think you will skate? How long is this sustainable? I know those guys. Tony Alva is still out there, he is Right there it means it can be done. The day after I skate I do feel it. I feel pretty good too. My body feels better than it did in my 30s. So when I started skating again, it had a huge impact. In the beginning I was in pain all the time. Now, after two years, my body has caught up with that.
I hate running, I hate going to the gym, and my bike has had a flat tire for two years. So for me it really satisfies two needs. I need that physical release, the exercise that comes with it and the mental space it offers. It fills this need that nothing else quite fills. Nothing else has given me what skateboarding gives me. The older you get the cooler you are too, right? In celebration, here is a short montage of my skating from the past year, at age The only thing not included is some bigger bowl footage but all I really did was go in circles and do some axle stalls in those so no one is going to miss that.
I was asked about an update, so here it is. After a month or two of trying them which is shorter than it seems, it was less than an hour per week I actually did land a few. Those were in the grass and sketchy though. Doing them while moving and on pavement… no way. My kickflips are rocket flipping, back foot catches with the front foot missing or touching down early most times. After hours of minor adjustments and no significant improvements I realized I was stuck and gave up. Much like my kickflip attempts, kind of sucked.
Skateboarding can be both incredibly rewarding and insanely frustrating and this past year leaned much more towards the frustrating end of the spectrum. For most of the year I felt like I had plateau-ed or was even actively regressing. So while I generally still had fun hanging out, the skateboarding itself was often also somewhat disheartening as nothing seemed to come easy. I began skating again the summer of That year was spent re-learning the basics, my goal being to roll around the skate park and look like I knew what I was doing.
By I had surpassed that and had relearned quite a lot. I had goals and regularly put in the work at Owls Head and Chelsea to learn tricks. I had no goals for I liked that approach and decided to follow it. By just skateboarding I may have made the most progress yet. A large part of that was due to the mini ramp at Hoboken. I learned and relearned quite a number of tricks there because that ramp is so small and forgiving.
My bigger bowl skating also markedly improved and I was skating near the top of my ability coming in to , before I broke my wrist. As I said in my previous post, I was off of the board for just around two months and then slowly got back in to skating in May, on the Hoboken mini. Chelsea also remained a regular spot, of course, but on bigger terrain I now had much more fear of falling. The only way to learn things is to commit. With the commit can come the slam but it is often the hesitation that can really injure you.
Post injury I was much more reticent to try things. The one place that really stands out was the mini bowl in Long Beach. We rented a car and took a day trip to skate the park there. That day was one of the most frustrating. I struggled to do anything besides axle stall in the mini bowl. I got a second chance at Long Beach the following weekend because I was there on vacation, but I was alone and it was horribly hot so I half assed it once again.
Another place was Fargo, ND. It is the kind of park that, given time, I could learn a lot at, but instead I struggled with the basics and ignored large portions of it out of fear of falling. Otherwise, I spent the rest of the hottest part of the summer mostly skating Owls Head early in the morning, as some of it at least has some shade. Then the year picked up. I took me almost seven months from when I broke my wrist, to really get back up to speed. Here are some of the highlights:.
Chelsea was locked the morning of Old Man Jam because the drains were not working. Stuck outside, we skated a curb for about two hours before I got tired of waiting and went to Owls Head. The rest of the guys eventually got in to the park but I think I had more fun skating that curb than I would have the bowl.
That was probably my first legit curb session in something close to twenty five years. I only skated it for a few minutes but it stands out because it was so unexpected. I went to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving and met up with two friends from college to skate the next morning. What made it so amazing was hanging out with Roy and Jesse. I felt like a teenager again. True to my promise I finally started wearing a helmet and pads to skate the bigger stuff and it had an immediate effect. After two weeks of starting to get tricks back at the Owls Head bowl I then skated Chelsea twice.
By C old Man Jam I was pushing my axle stalls into s in the shallow. That may not seem like a lot but it was a major step forward for me. Pads helped me get over the fear of the bowls I had developed and I now feel uncomfortable skating anything large without them. After a year of delays this highly anticipated park in Brooklyn finally opened. Designed by Steve Rodriguez it shares many features with , which he was also involved in. Many of the elements are too tight, oddly shaped and hard to skate. The brick banks to sticking out marble tops is an obvious point of comparison.
Also like , it is already incredibly filthy, thanks to the roosting pigeons and dust from the BQE on-ramp bridge above it. This may make it sound bad, but its the exact opposite. It was frustrating at first but once I figured it out it became something I have very high hopes for. I moved from Sunset Park to Crown Heights right around the time this park opened and I am pretty sure it will become my new go to spot, now that I am no longer near Owls Head.
I just felt smooth and confident on the skateboard. I only got one or two new things, one of those being small frontside grinds. Again, that may not seem like much, but as with the s at Chelsea, this represents a major breakthrough for me. I think the lesson learned is to not set goals but to also continue to step outside of my comfort zone. That has been very humbling. As I said in my last post , I was off of the board for almost exactly two months. I was supposed to wait three, so I eased back in to it during May with a few easy sessions at the mini ramp in Hoboken. By June I was back to skating once or twice a week.
Your author at Hoboken, June Even though my wrist is healed I have been wearing a wrist guard, more as a protective totem than anything else. I only do certain tricks in certain spots. I rock to fakie on one side of the Hoboken mini and smith grind on the other.
- See a Problem?;
- 35 Sonnets;
- 500 Miles High.
I can ollie up the Owls Head euro but not the Chelsea one. If I take a bad slam on something, I avoid doing that trick in that spot again. The spot, not the trick, feels cursed. I was afraid of it because that is where I broke my wrist. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but before I hurt myself I was starting to learn some of my mini ramp tricks in the shallow end of the Owls Head bowl.
It is frustrating to now have to contend with extreme anxiety even carving a bowl, much less trying lip tricks. I get extremely nervous now. At the start of a session I get jittery and dizzy, with an increased heart rate and it takes a good half hour or so before it goes away and I can start to skate normally. If I ever want to learn tricks on bigger transition again, I think the only solution is pads, so my plan for this fall is to pad up for the bowls.
Due to frequent snow and frigid temperatures, the roads were icy and the parks were buried until mid March. We took two trips that February to Garden Sk8, a now closed indoor park in New Jersey, but that was about it. The first time back skating Chelsea that spring was amazing, everyone was so happy to be outside.
Those months off took their toll though. I was so unsteady on the board I slammed a few times just doing basic things and I lost a few tricks that winter that I have yet to get back. During the winter of , thanks to the indoor bowls at 2 nd Nature and Black Bear Bar, I managed to skate just enough to not really lose anything. I picked up right where I had left off in March of and had enjoyed slow and steady progress since. It was the 2 nd Nature bowl that helped me learn figure 8 lines, which greatly improved my skating in the bigger bowls at Chelsea and Owls Head. Unlike the previous few years, this past winter in New York was surprisingly mild.
We fortuitously had planned a two night Woodward trip for the weekend of the blizzard and then skated the indoor park at 2 nd Nature on another freezing weekend. Otherwise, I managed to skate outdoors the rest of the weekends. Chelsea was snowed in for a while after the blizzard but the Owls Head locals shoveled out parts of that park almost immediately. Last fall and this past winter I had been skating Owls Head much more. Chelsea had lost some of its luster for me. It felt kind of sterile. Owls Head, not officially open but unlocked this year, had a Wild West feel to it.
It reminded me of Lansdowne. During the off season, it is dirty, has no rules and the skaters take care of it. It is also never crowded and slightly smaller all around than Chelsea so it was the ideal place to work on taking the tricks I had learned at Hoboken to bigger transition. So I was looking forward to this spring, where, instead of spending a month just remembering how to skateboard again, I could continue to improve. Instead, at the end of February, I broke my wrist.
It happened in the stupidest way possible. I had met a few friends at Owls Head on a Sunday morning. After they left a crew of guys I knew in passing showed up and they spent almost an hour sweeping out the bowls. We had just started a fun bowl session when I fell. I was warmed up and skating near the top of my ability. Even though they are automatic for me on things four foot and under, on bigger transition I hit a mental block. I was squirrely but still balanced when I hit a wood chip going back in to the deep end and was thrown forward.
The vast majority of the time that fall would have just been a tweaked or sprained wrist. Instead I broke two bones in my left wrist and needed surgery. I picked up the wood chip and threw it out of anger and then picked up my board and climbed out of the bowl. I sat on the bench and smoked a cigarette until the nausea passed and then had one of the guys drive me to the nearby hospital.
By the time this is posted it will have been about two months since my injury. After the emergency room it was one week until surgery, one week post surgery, two weeks in a cast, and a month in a removable brace. That is three months off of the board. I skated the day before I posted this, the first time in two months.
I was surprisingly not sketchy. I met my friends at Hoboken and kick turned on the larger ramp and did all of my basic tricks on the smaller one. I had to seriously restrain myself from trying anything and from skating for too long. My plan is to put on my wrist guard and skate gently an hour or so a week for the next month. Just this minor in the scheme of things injury took a toll on me, not only physically but personally, professionally and financially.
Ed broke his wrist his first day skating again. Ray horrifically broke his arm on the bigger Hoboken mini. This woman Kathy broke her wrist the same way as mine when someone dropped in on her in the old House of Vans bowl. Andrew broke his elbow at Chelsea. Steve broke his wrist. There were also a myriad of other less dramatic muscle, tendon and ligament injuries that were just as debilitating. The kids heal fast. The adults… sometimes they will be gone for almost a year. In some ways it was inevitable that this would happen to me but I never thought it would. I slowly worked tricks from tiny to medium sized and never tried anything complicated on anything big.
In fact, some of my friends joked that they never saw me fall. That is an exaggeration but I normally only took one tumble a session, if that. My worries were that I was going to pull something in my knee or lower back, something that would make skating uncomfortable and force me to stretch and do yoga or other exercises.
I never thought I would break something. I never even broke anything as a kid, jumping down stairs.
"Going Home Again"
The piper will have to be paid. It may be minor but it may be something major, something that at our age could limit you physically for the rest of your life. We are almost the same age and I used a teenage picture of him as a surrogate for me in one of my earliest blog posts. He retired from skateboarding when he broke his leg. If that had happened to me I think I may have quit too. In fact I believe the opposite. Its not a comfortable thought, being made to confront the reality of aging, but at some point I know I am not going to be able to do this any longer. Skateboarding has its claws deep in me.
For my 42 nd birthday I treated myself to a cheap HD camcorder, fish eye lens and handle and started doing some filming, but that is a pale substitute for the real thing. I lay in bed at night imagining all the tricks I want to learn when I can start skating again. Yet, this is tempered by reality and I am not sure what to expect going forward.
Will I have lost a bunch of tricks? Will it all come back and I will continue to improve? Will I be afraid and much more cautious? Will I make the switch into fully padded old man bowl skating? Will I just mess around on small obstacles and skate street more? That all remains to be seen. Which means there will be at least one more blog post coming.
A number of different people have encouraged me to keep it going but, while I am not ruling out that possibility, I always envisioned this blog as a finite project. It was to be a personal history of the two phases of my skateboarding, as a teenager and as an adult. It has reached its conclusion, save for one final thing, which is contemporary video. What follows are a series of clips spanning the last two and half years.
Marc was one of my good friends in high school and a core member of my skate crew. He started skating again almost exactly one year ago. He now lives in Italy yet, despite the ocean between us, we talk nearly daily about skateboard related ephemera. He was the obvious choice when I decided that, instead of writing about it, I wanted to have a conversation about what it means to be an adult skateboarder.
It turned out better than I had hoped. A few posts ago I wrote about how watching skate videos inspired me to start skating again. Where did your desire to start again came from? I think I may have had a big influence on you. Skateboarding was always in the back of my mind, that is just what it is like when you skated. You walk down the street and your eye just roves towards possible spots. You see a set of stairs, you see a ledge, you see a bank and your mind skates it.
I think that has always been there for me, ever since I quit. It never went away. But all of this is probably a Facebook phenomenon. At some point, or , maybe even earlier, you were sending me videos. You sent me Cheese and Crackers , with Daewon and Haslam on the mini ramp…. For me, mini ramps were still Jeff B in Doing what they were doing [in Cheese and Crackers] was literally not on my radar at all. It blew me away. Where has it gone? I was really fascinated by where skateboarding had gone and it was exciting watching these videos.
You kept sending them I started searching them out myself. I had no idea who these people were but it was interesting and it just snowballed. I wanted to see if I could do it again. I got my board on November 16th of last year. I received it in the mail. I had no idea about sizes, wheels…. It was a 7. I went out the evening I got it. I was so psyched I took it to work. There is this little park near my office that is just flat. When I got off work, it was dark, I was in my business shirt and office shoes, and I took the skateboard out and just ran to the park and jumped on it and started rolling around.
Then I hit a pebble and I slammed. Now, I think about it, but that night I was just cruising around in the dark and I hit a pebble and went flying and slammed on my shoulder and elbow. I had a swellbow the next day. But still, I rode around and tried to ollie. I got about a 2cm ollie and I felt really cool. I did one of those things where your torso twists to stop yourself from falling and I had a rib bruise for a month. I went to Baltimore last year, for Christmas. Ed lives about two blocks from the new bowl they built there.
Going Home Again
He did an ollie or two, and then he wanted his own board. We went to the local skate shop, Vu , which is literally right next to the park, and he bought a board as well as a mini for his daughter. We decided to skate again the next morning. He carved the deep end of the bowl about three quarters of the way up, both frontside and backside. While walking through the streets of Ba Sing Se, Jin recognizes her old date "Lee", which is the name Zuko used on his night out with her. Apparently intrigued by this fantasy, Mai decides that she will demonstrate her skills for Jin by throwing a pointed icicle through a fish resting on Zuko's head, which she accomplishes.
When Mai offers for Jin to try it herself, she does so, but misses the intended mark and sends Zuko toppling into the Firelight Fountain. A heartfelt conversation makes it plain to Zuko and Mai that they have feelings for each other. They reminisce about old times before sharing a kiss. The next morning, Mai asks hopefully if Zuko will be returning with her to the Fire Nation.
To her request, Zuko almost declines, but Azula mentions how unfortunate Iroh is and that he may not survive the trip to the mainland. Upon hearing this, Zuko makes up his mind: Azula comments on how it was no one's decision but his own.
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