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The Instructions by Adam Levin

The Instructions (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Adam Levin

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4091626,011 (4.14)16
Title:The Instructions
Authors:Adam Levin
Info:McSweeney's (2011), Edition: First Trade Paper Edition, Paperback, 1026 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

The Instructions by Adam Levin (2010)

  1. 10
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (hairball)
    hairball: If you liked Infinite Jest, you will like The Instructions, but even if you didn't like IJ, you should try it.
  2. 00
    Call it Sleep by Henry Roth (hairball)

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And it took less than three months! ( )
  dtn620 | May 22, 2014 |
I know this much is true.

Or I think this. Suspect this. Realize this.

I know that this is the childhood of Infinite Jest before it was exposed to its titular component. I know that nothing is sacred, least of all childhood, which suffers on its sanctified pedestal. I know ideology and theology and coprology and the razors they stretch tight around the skin. I know how the blades slip into the throat in childhood, and how the ability to spit them at another screams itself out in adulthood. I know that ability, to harness your damage to your own purposes, to be the true determination of being an adult.

I know that if you act like a child, you will be treated as a child. I know that if you are a child, and act like an adult, you will be disregarded as a child. I know that if you are a child, you will be hit as an adult. I know that if you are a child, you will be molested as an adult. I know that if you are a child, you will be beaten as an adult. I know that if you are a child, you will be raped as an adult. I know that if you are a child, you will be blamed for the actions of the father as an adult, you will be blamed for the beliefs of your mother as an adult, and you will be condemned for your skin and your creed and your being. As an adult.

I know that if you are a child, and act like an adult, you will be feared beyond belief.

I know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I know that the road to hell is the path of least resistance. I know that the road to life is the path of most conviction, the path of least analysis, the path of tropes and logos and prejudices shortchanged into social slogans that lubricate your lifestyle and damage everything in its wake.

I know that WE DAMAGE WE is tennis.

I know that life is beautiful and love is beautiful. I know that a sound mind in a sound body is beautiful. I know that knowledge is beautiful, and that conviction is beautiful, and that reasoning is beautiful. I know that appreciation of and willingness towards these qualities is beautiful.

I know that misguided praise of all this is as equally damaging as condemnation.

I know that a child is not empty. I know that an adult is not full. I know that no one can truly say where one ends and the other begins, and anyone who uses age as reasoning confuses the length of life experience with humanity. Anyone who uses cooperation with a ideological system, which grinds and grinds and grinds, as reasoning confuses mirroring the crowd with humanity. Anyone who uses might as reasoning does not know humanity. In other words, fuck them. They know nothing.

I know that we try, and we try, and we try. I know that we bleed, I know that we fall, I know that we suffer. I know that we are objectified. I know that we objectify. I know that we make others suffer, we make others fall, we make others bleed. I know that we try, and we try, and we try.

I do not know the ending. No one does. Perhaps it will all be for something. Perhaps not. Does it matter, truly? Does closure really matter that much to you?

Who am I kidding. Of course it does. We would not be having this conversation otherwise. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Apr 8, 2013 |
Okay so Cait totally splooshes over this and it gets, y'know, all the attention and all. I could try it out.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
A song so appropriate it was referenced in the book: You And Whose Army

I don't think that I will ever be able to properly review this book. I'm definitely unable to muster up enough energy to try doing so now. I'm a strange mix of exhausted and exhilarated - maybe exhausted because of my exhilaration? 200 pages of Damage Proper will do that to you. All I know is that I'm exhausted and exhilarated and bleary eyed and heartbroken. And I love this book. No it is not a perfect book, not by a long shot, but I love it despite its imperfections. Everything good here is so damn good that it made any and all flaws trivial in comparison, even the abruptness of the ending, which would probably be my biggest complaint if I felt inclined to complain about the book. But I don't, so I won't. The characters though? They were the best freaking part. See, my chest got all tight just thinking about them again...

ETA: I should also add that the first 300 or so pages took me a month to read due to very limited reading time. The next 700 pages took me about 4 days. Once I was able to settle in to the story, I found it read insanely fast. I would blink my eyes and somehow another 100 pages had flown by. If anything is going to deter you from reading this, don't let it be its size. ( )
1 vote cait815 | Apr 1, 2013 |
I finished this awhile ago but I couldn't wrap my head around the ending and before I knew it was on a trip to Portland and just wasn't thinking of it.

Ok, so basically this chronicles a very short time in the life of a young Jewish teenager in a Chicago suburb who thinks he might be (and wishes to be) the Messiah. A matter of days turns into over 1000 pages so you can imagine the depth of his philosophies. He's incredibly intellectual, is really obsessed with Philip Roth, and is held as a Rabbi by all of his school mates at various schools, private Jewish and public schools for his intellectual prowess and his advanced insightful take on many stories in the Torah.

In alot of ways, his advanced thinking is completely unbelievable but rather intoxicating nonetheless. His level of analysis is something to behold and wrap your head around over and over again.

The unfortunate thing is that he's witnessed some acts of violence against his people (he wouldn't call them fellow Jews, though, they are to him Israelites which are elevated from mere people of the Jewish faith) In any case, these acts of violence have scarred him a bit, causing him to issue a violent ulpan about creating homeade weapons to all of his Israelite disciples. His violent nature, however misunderstood, has caused him to be placed in a higher security school prison for delinquents and those with cognitive impairments called THE CAGE. Of course, that sort of treatment isn't going to work at all for someone like him and rebellion can be very ugly indeed.

Gurion also struggles with the sense of love for his father who seems to turn his back on his people to fight for the rights of Non-Israelite freedom of speech, which causes discord in the community and within his family unit.

Oh yeah, and Gurion (this intellectual protagonist) is in love with a non -Israelite girl but Adonai wouldn't let him fall in love with a non Israelite of course so he can just convert her.

So, I'm going to talk a little bit about the ending here. If you'd like to read it for yourself, please skip the rest. You have been warned. No whining!

I have tried to wrap my head around this ending which is extremely violent. I work in Chicago Public Schools so this kind of scene is a bit traumatic for me in that way. It's fantastical, over the top, and literally caused me one of the most vivid nightmares of my life. Besides extreme violence, there's a miracle of sorts and alot of presuppositions which lead you to wonder which is really the truth and almost set up different choose your own adventure scenarios about what may have actually happened. There's also a sense of betrayal and keenness of revenge from non Israelite students..anyone who feels they have been wronged as in a violent sort of atonement.

This is my take on it, finally, after pondering it. You may choose not to agree with me and I don't know at all if this was what Levin was aiming for. But this is the only thing that makes sense to me. In some ways, I see Gurion and the ending as a sort of microcasm of what is happening between Israel and Palestine. In other words, violence has begotten violence and it has all turned a little ugly with no mensches in sight. What we have is something alarming and chaotic, completely indecipherable. Gurion feels that he and those he loves are being persecuted and that, as a chosen person, this is wrong. His mother also feels strongly this way. The conflict with his father probably only adds to the keen sense of his own inner persecution. Gurion feels he is in the fight of his life. He stops being rational, only seeing the wrongs and dividing those into the Israelites and non Israelites. Even within these categories, complexities exist such as his friend with a cognitive disability who in the middle of the utter violent turmoil ends up shouting the lyrics to Radiohead's "You and Whose Army?" It's a strange kind of apocalypse..the kind that happens more than the real one because life still continues whether it's been changed or, to use a more appropriate word for the novel, damaged.

There's some bits about property damage all throughout the book but the major theme of damage evolves as a concept into human damage, even world damage. I'm not sure the moral of the story needs to be anything but the very fact that any act of violence can lead to a much larger progression of events or can damage the human spirit. I think this in and of itself is a profound message. However, I'm still not ready to make complete sense of the ending the way it's written either. It's message becomes emotionalized and unclear within itself and perhaps that was the point. On the other hand, it still sticks out like a major flaw and makes the reader feel in a state of shock. ( )
  kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |
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It is a curious enigma that so great a mind would question the most obvious realities and object even to things scientifically demonstrated...while believing absolutely in his own fantastic explanations of the same phenomena.

-- Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman
For my parents, Lanny and Atara Levin.
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Levin creates a world driven equally by moral fervor and slapstick comedy. Expelled from multiple Jewish day-schools for acts of violence and backtalk, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity.… (more)

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