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Thumbsucker by Walter Kirn


by Walter Kirn

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What a great train wreck of a story! I picked it up mid morning and finished it by evening. Characters are all so wonderfully flawed you can't help but empathize with even the ones you don't especially like. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Feb 20, 2015 |
This kept my attention but I didn't like it as much as his short story collection My Hard Bargain. I still might watch the movie, though. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
A novel of a teenage boy and various stories about his youth. Quite entertaining and comical in spots. The premise for the title is that he sucks his thumb well into early adolescence-until the dentist cures him through hypnosis. His stories kind of explain what he does to replace this habit, but alas, nothing can! ( )
  camplakejewel | Oct 29, 2013 |
Don't read this book just because you loved the movie, because it might as well be two different worlds with characters with the same names. A book in the vein of Catcher in the Rye, the author explores adolesence, lust, and addiction in ways that are definitely relevant. I thought it was often a little too convenient or contrived feeling, but overall, a good read. ( )
  emmylee04 | Sep 10, 2010 |
I absolutely love this book. Justin Cobb has a problem with sucking his thumb and after visiting his dentist who hypnotizes him, Justin develops new obsessions to replace thumbsucking. He experiments with sex and drugs, joins the debate team, becomes a Mormon, fly fishes, just about anything. Also central to the story is Justin's dysfunctional family.
The novel is endearing and engaging. Also the basis for the movie of the same name, starring Lou Pucci. Loved the movie, but as usual, the book reigns supreme. ( )
  AlbinoRhino | Sep 3, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385497091, Paperback)

New York magazine's witty, cheeky book critic Walter Kirn rides high in his exhilarating second novel, and so does his protagonist, Minnesota teen dweeb Justin Cobb. Justin's hippie dentist may have hypnotized him out of his socially perilous thumbsucking habit, but he can't suppress the boy's "oral gift." Justin's mouth just won't quit: beer, decongestants, nitrous oxide, cough syrup, Midol, and Ritalin go in, and out spritzes hilarious commentary on his eccentric yet authentic life and times. Our hero's mood larks and plunges erratically, but Kirn's prose is alert, artful, under control. The debate coach's skin is "the neutral hue of turkey meat." One of Justin's realistically inconclusive crushes is a redhead "with freckles the color of new pennies." Her dad is a Limbaughesque columnist who calls welfare recipients "food tramps." Meanwhile, Justin's dad, Mike, is "the Führer of fly-fishing," an ex-gridiron hero obsessed with deer hunting (and eating). He's also prone to spouting his vile old coach's preposterous apothegms ("Until you're broken, you don't know what you're made of"). Mike is funny and poignant--a tricky note to hit.

Like a mucked-up modern Huck Finn plying his own stream of consciousness, Justin drifts into weird scenes: a job at a gas station fated for torching, a visit by his mad Winnebago vagabond grandparents, a kidnapping caper to rescue a pothead infant from sinister hick parents, Grit and Munch. Chapter 4, about a Chippewa City debate meet and rather chaste orgy, is dazzling teen satire. Not that Thumbsucker is flawless: Justin's nurse mom is a vague character, his more vivid kid brother is inexplicably ignored, the satire of the Hazelden celeb rehab is lame, and, like Huck's, Justin's adventures sort of peter out instead of leading up to a slam-bang finale. The family's conversion to Mormonism seems arbitrary, though richly detailed, since Kirn was a small-town Mormon kid.

Flaws, schmaws. Thumbsucker is the truest book about adolescence I've read since This Boy's Life, and Kirn is some kind of comic genius. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A comedy on a 14-year-old boy who still sucks his thumb. Cured of the habit by his dentist, he finds himself deprived of a relaxant and the novel describes his search for a substitute in sex, drink and smoking.

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