Beautiful Children

Beautiful Children

by Charles Bock


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The New York Times bestseller by the author of the forthcoming novel Alice & Oliver | Winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters | A New York Times Notable Book
“One word: bravo.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Truly powerful . . . Beautiful Children dazzles its readers on almost every page. . . . [Charles Bock] knows how to tug at your heart, and he knows how to make you laugh out loud, often on the same page, sometimes in the same sentence.”—Newsweek

One Saturday night in Las Vegas, twelve-year-old Newell Ewing goes out with a friend and doesn’t come home. In the aftermath of his disappearance, his mother, Lorraine, makes daily pilgrimages to her son’s room and tortures herself with memories. Equally distraught, the boy’s father, Lincoln, finds himself wanting to comfort his wife even as he yearns for solace, a loving touch, any kind of intimacy.

As the Ewings navigate the mystery of what’s become of their son, the circumstances surrounding Newell’s vanishing and other events on that same night reverberate through the lives of seemingly disconnected strangers: a comic book illustrator in town for a weekend of debauchery; a painfully shy and possibly disturbed young artist; a stripper who imagines moments from her life as if they were movie scenes; a bubbly teenage wiccan anarchist; a dangerous and scheming gutter punk; a band of misfit runaways. The people of Beautiful Children are “urban nomads,” each with a past to hide and a pain to nurture, every one of them searching for salvation and barreling toward destruction, weaving their way through a neon underworld of sex, drugs, and the spinning wheels of chance.

In this masterly debut novel, Charles Bock mixes incandescent prose with devious humor to capture Las Vegas with unprecedented scope and nuance and to provide a glimpse into a microcosm of modern America. Beautiful Children is an odyssey of heartache and redemption heralding the arrival of a major new writer.

Praise for Beautiful Children
“Exceptional . . . This novel deserves to be read more than once because of the extraordinary importance of its subject matter.”The Washington Post Book World
“Magnificent . . . a hugely ambitious novel that succeeds . . . Beautiful Children manages to feel completely of its moment while remaining unaffected by literary trends. . . . Charles Bock is the real thing.”The New Republic
“A wildly satisfying and disturbing literary journey, led by an author of blazing talent.”The Dallas Morning News
“Wholly original—dirty, fast, and hypnotic. The sentences flicker and skip and whirl.”Esquire
“An anxious, angry, honest first novel filled with compassion and clarity . . . The language has a rhythm wholly its own—at moments it is stunning, near genius.”—A. M. Homes
“From start to finish, Bock never stops tantalizing the reader.”San Francisco Chronicle
“Rich and compelling . . . captures the hallucinogenic setting like a fever dream.”Los Angeles Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812977967
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/13/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.93(d)

About the Author

Charles Bock was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has an MFA from Bennington College and has received fellowships from Yaddo, UCross, and the Vermont Studio Center. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


4–6:30 P.M.


The lens zooms in, then draws back. The images are shaky: a celebration, that much is clear; children in bright orange jerseys and matching baseball caps, some worn backward, or with bills to the side. They chatter and jibe, passing pitchers of soda, reaching for slices with favorite toppings. Chins shine with grease. Smiles glow as if smeared with lipstick. One boy sits a bit away from the rest, toward the end of the table. He is pretty much the same size as everyone else—pudgier than some, smaller than others. He’s not wearing a cap, though, and the poor resolution of the camcorder makes it look as if the top of his skull might be consumed in flame. But no. Another second shows nothing more dangerous than a mass of bright red hair. The child leans forward now, his jersey bunching around his shoulders. Attempting to convince the nearest teammate to unscrew the top of a salt shaker, his freckled face is animated, lively. Dude, we can hear him say. Come on. Come on, dude. A punch to the shoulder answers him. He squeals, though not unhappily. Dick.

The camcorder’s microphone catches the tail end of a reprimand from an unseen adult. It catches the boy’s protest, It wasn’t me! By this time, though, focus is shifting, swinging toward the middle of the table, where coaches and other adults subdue a slap fight. After a few seconds, a semblance of decorum is reached; the presentation of the next trophy begins, and the camera pans down the length of the table, showing children in varying states of interest. And here judicious use of the fast-forward cues a final appearance by the redheaded boy, for just a few seconds, a short sequence—he directs a sneering remark toward the action; when his neighbor does not respond, the boy sinks into his chair. The flesh of his cheeks lengthens, goes slack. Small eyes cloud, turn dark.

This sequence, these scant seconds, are why the Ewings tracked down that videotape. Because recent photos were supposed to work best, were supposed to give a potential witness the best chance at identification. So Lincoln and Lorraine would stand at the front door of a nice couple whose names they had memorized on the ride over. Nodding soberly, the Ewings would thank the couple for all their help. They would try to make small talk. The delighted shrieks of children would interrupt, breaking out from upstairs, bodies tramping, at play. Then designer sunglasses would not be able to hide Lorraine’s tears. And then Lincoln would take his wife into his arms. Gently he would stroke her hair and gently he would guide her back down the walkway, her face staying buried in his shoulder, her mascara running, just a bit, onto his suit’s lapel. No words between them, just his arm delicate around her waist, their long, twisted shadow slipping diagonally through the trim, open yard. And yes, that black cassette, it would be Lincoln’s possession: in his opposite hand, as far from Lorraine as possible.

In a short amount of time that section of videotape would be transformed into a series of stills, frames scanned into a computer. A single frame would be enlarged, then Photoshopped, resulting in the image of a slouching, unexpressive child. This image would be circulated in e-mail attachments, faxes, and flyers; it would be posted in arcades and student unions and youth hostels; in post offices and convenience stores and drop-in centers for the homeless and indigent. And at some point fairly early on in this process, Lincoln Ewing would be reminded of the damndest piece of information. A drop of conventional wisdom that, honestly, Lincoln had no clue where he’d picked up. It concerned Native Americans. Supposedly, when photography was invented, they believed each picture from the white man’s magic machine removed a piece of the subject’s soul.

This was precisely the kind of thing Lincoln didn’t need in his head. Yet, just as a tongue cannot resist probing the sensitive area of a cracked tooth, Lincoln would find himself returning to that god-awful piece of information: gnawing on it when a police officer misread his son’s birth certificate, causing the boy’s middle name to fall by the wayside, becoming as forgotten as the great-grandfather who had inspired it. And when mention of the boy’s twelve years of age was replaced by his date of birth—this distinction small, but especially painful, however pragmatic; done, it was explained, as a matter of protocol, to acknowledge a grim reality: nobody can say how long a child will be missing.

Lincoln would watch the police spokesman squinting in front of a phalanx of floodlights and tripods, stumbling through a prepared statement that asked for the public’s help; he’d watch the vacuous broadcasters with their melodramatic pronouncements. He would gather up the stuffed-animal bouquets, attend the candlelight vigils. Lincoln would offer rewards and set up 1-800 hotlines. Steps taken for a righteous purpose, in the ostensible hope of solving this tragedy; steps that placed more and more distance between the flesh and blood of Newell Ewing and the cautionary tale his name would come to signify, between the child from that pizza party and the embodiment of every parent’s worst nightmare.

And when that soulless stare had been reproduced hundreds of times; when thousands of Xeroxes had been made off hundreds of copies, most of them done on machines perpetually low on toner; when another copy of a copied copy had created further blurring, new smudges; after all this, Lincoln Ewing would be left to wonder. What was left of his son? What did he have?

This would be later.


A hundred and five outside for the ninety-ninth straight day. That dry desert heat, a wall that hit the moment you stepped outside, then pounded relentlessly. To get local fanboys away from their liquid crystal screens, out of their air-conditioned living rooms, and into their air-conditioned cars, management at Amazin’ Stories had been importing the biggest names in the fantasy game. Every Saturday afternoon, there were free meet and greets, autographs, happily personalized little doodles, and, sure, loads of stock for sale. So long as nobody went crazy and wheelbarrowed in every comic an artist had done, collectors could even bring their own back issues to be signed. It was a pretty sweet deal, and an effective one, so much so that each weekend, men in their early to middle twenties shuffled self-consciously into the store, half-embarrassed but also nervous, wired, as if the warm spots they possessed for their childhood heroes were stains of gum they’d stepped into and now were unable to free themselves from, the hard and powerful colors pulling, urging them to revisit the ritual of standing inside a store of illustrated books; of reading; of fantasizing and being swept away.

All of twelve years old, Newell was in the bloom of his enchantment. Except for a few times when his parents had made him clip on his tie and go out to brunch with them, he’d spent most of his Saturday afternoons in Amazin’ Stories, squirming through the larger, taller bodies for a better view of the autograph table, hanging on every spoken word from the makeshift lectern, laughing on cue with everyone else. When the iconic septuagenarian had good-naturedly regaled the overflow audience with golden-age reminiscences for a good hour longer than scheduled, Newell had had a primo view. And when the year’s hottest illustrator had repeatedly checked his watch, deflected most questions as “irrelevant,” and repeatedly referred to his upcoming Vanity Fair photo spread, Newell had been on hand for that, too. After a summer of insider tales and celebrity name- dropping, honestly, it wasn’t exactly easy to get jazzed about Bing Beiderbixxe.

From the looks of things, Newell wasn’t alone in this opinion. The store was largely empty, just a few underclassman types solemnly wandering the new arrivals racks, and three or four guys standing at a respectful distance from the autograph table, nodding and listening, but seeming unconvinced, reluctant to come in any closer. Newell couldn’t blame them. Why the illustrator and creative mind behind Wendy Whitebread, Undercover Slut had been booked, he had no clue. Beiderbixxe’s comic was this cheapo deal, printed on rough paper, published by some rinky-dink outfit. Word of mouth claimed the bizarre name had been lifted from an obscure porno comic, and if that was true, Newell had to admit, it was pretty fresh. Too bad the rest of Whitebread bit so hard. The ditzy blond policewoman with the badge over her crotch never did anything fresh. Every single panel had been ripped off from some way-better comic. Every pose was a pose of a pose. Newell had complained about it to Kenny, who was older and knew a lot more about this stuff. They must not have been able to get anyone else to come, Newell had said, referring to Bing as Bonerbite. Bonerbite sucks goat balls. The hairs from goat balls get stuck between his teeth and Bonerbite walks around sucking on them, getting all the taste he can. Kenny had listened, and after a few moments, in that halting and unconvinced way of his, had admitted he didn’t completely understand, either. He’d taken his time, negotiating and making order of his thoughts, starting over a few times, correcting himself a few more, and finally, Kenny had said the references in Wendy Whitebread were some sort of map, he guessed, and the books were a kind of tribute, he thought, but like a commentary, too. “It’s supposed to be funny. But in a serious way. You know, where not giving away the humor is part of the joke?”

Today, while waiting around, in deference to his friend, Newell had given Wendy Whitebread another chance, examining some of the panels, paying attention to the connection each might have with its source material, trying to figure out, as Kenny had suggested, why Bing might have chosen that specific panel for inspiration, what the changes might have meant. Bing’s logic remained a shelf Newell could not reach, no matter how he strained from the top of his mental tiptoes. Still, the boy had gained enough appreciation for the guy’s work that, presently, from his vantage point, about halfway in the store, he watched the comic book artist with more than a middling interest: Beiderbixxe, hefty and balding, his face large and fleshy, pale and pinkish. Behind boxy black eyeglasses, he appeared intelligent, welcoming even; busily weaving some sort of tale, trying like hell to appeal to each of his few audience members. “In the fifties,” he was saying, “these two, they’d end up beats or novelists or something. In the sixties, they’d be, what, hippy rock stars, Warhol figures. The seventies they become filmmakers. The eighties they get into rap or maybe indie rock. The nineties, that’s easy, they’re hacking the World Bank’s source code.”

Newell half-listened, but was a step behind the story, unable to follow along, and, truth be told, not all that interested. Bing’s meaty left hand wasn’t helping—it kept making this rolling motion, as if this would spin the guy toward his point more quickly. Newell got distracted by the hand, and then his eyes wandered some more, toward the table, near the artist’s elbow, where a plastic bottle was mostly empty, a sluice of fluorescent liquid along the bottom.

“Just putting it out there,” Bing said. “Is it at all possible that these bad kids are the latest installment of avant-garde, that two killers just might be nothing less than evolutionary forerunners?”

The boy gave up now, turning away, looking through the glass door and picture window at the shopping plaza, still and dead, the rows of parked cars, nobody coming or going. The day outside was bright and oppressive, and the boy’s face felt warm. He reached for the vinyl case, which hung from the side belt loop of his jean shorts, and withdrew a small silver device. The tip of his tongue peeked out of the corner of his mouth; his fingers danced a familiar pattern. He listened for three rings but did not leave a message, instead quickly pressing the button in the upper right corner of the pad. More punching now, each digit entered with increasing force. The phone went back to his ear; a longing swelled through him. For a moment he resented the universe for all the things he did not understand. He listened for a time, managed to keep from stomping his foot, and then looked once more to the store’s entrance, a longer, harder look this time, one that concentrated and focused his building energies. Impulses pulsed through Newell, telling him to whirl around, throw his phone at Beiderbixxe, mute that stupid droning voice. Instead the boy pressed a control button on his phone, switching modes.

His high score on the phone game was 730 million, and Newell was on his way to clearing the first screen when a stray missile infiltrated his defense system, obliterating his home base. He snorted a vulgarity, swung his leg as if to punt away the small silver box, and corkscrewed in place. Newell had an impulse to scream at some guy who might have been looking at him. Then his shoulders sagged. The boy sulked and fumed and desultorily hit the reset button on his phone. He was about to start the game over when, from the front of the store, the jingle and clank of small metal bells sounded.

Prodding the door with his shoulder came an odd collection of lines and angles. Gangly, wiry, a little weird-looking, even for this place. Hair was spackled to his forehead in darkish streaks. More hair fell over his eyes, covering his ears, winding down in oily tendrils toward his shoulders. Arms white and thin, like limp strands of uncooked spaghetti, stuck out from a used and faded T-shirt, itself damp, clingy. He wore the same jeans he always did, the only person Newell knew who wore jeans in a hundred-and-ten-degree weather.

“FINALLY, NIGGA. Where the fuck you been, Kenny?”

With unteachable comic timing, the odd lines folded upon themselves, collapsing with an uncoordinated ferocity. Kenny did this strange, desperate wingy deal with his other arm, to no avail—the sheets continued their descent, slipping out from beneath the crook of his arm that had held them.

“Whoa . . . Hey—”

Newell arrived in time to grab the diner place mat. “I got it,” he said, easing a crumpled yellow flyer from the inside of Kenny’s underarm.

“YO, KENNY,” he said. “You made it! My MAN.”

Kenny’s body unclenched; he exhaled, allowed the boy to take the papers, said “Thanks.” Stepping into the store, he raised his head, let the air-conditioning run over him. Newell saw cheeks flushed to the shade of a ripe plum and sparkling with sweat, the bony surface of Kenny’s features appearing raw, irritated.

“Dude. I was fuckin’ bugging. I thought for sure you’d wuss out again.”

Reading Group Guide

1. Literature has no shortage of difficult central characters or difficult child characters (Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree is one example; William Gaddis’s JR is another). Why do you think Charles Bock, the author of Beautiful Children, made Newell Ewing such a difficult character?

2. What role does the city of Las Vegas play in Beautiful Children? Would the book have worked if it took place in any other city? What does Las Vegas have to do with the idea of the American Dream? How about the idea of the American appetite?

3. Chapter 3 mentions “the conspiracy of human frailty” (page 105). What does this phrase mean in Beautiful Children? How does it apply to the major characters?

4. Let’s face it: This novel is full of graphic violence, drug use, and explicit sex. Do you think a book can delve into such subjects without sensationalizing them? Does Beautiful Children avoid sensationalism, or is its purpose merely exploitative? If you feel the author did attempt to explore adult materials without sensationalizing them, how successful do you think he was in his attempt?

5. Along those lines, Bock has said that he feels there is a direct line running from the American Dream to pop culture through pornography to teen runaways. Do you think this is true? What are the connective tissues?

6. The novel starts with a videotape, and, in fact, two types of videotapes move through the novel. Discuss the role of videotapes and what they represent. What is the significance of the scene on pages 259—260.

7. Discuss whether Kenny is a sympathetic character. Discuss whether it is possible to feel empathy for a character who does what Kenny has done.

8. Did the structure of the novel work? Other novels ranging from William Faulkner’s Light in August to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections have used similar structures. The author has claimed that he always hoped the sum of the book would be greater than any single part. Why did you or didn’t you find this to be true?

9. What moments in Lincoln’s life foreshadow Newell’s disappearance. How complicit are his parents in Newell’s final decision?

10. Ponyboy and Cheri are obvious references to characters from the S. E. Hinton novel The Outsiders. But each character is very different from his or her counterpart in the Hinton book. Why do you think the author did this? In fact, Beautiful Children recycles a number of objects from The Outsiders and uses them for purposes that are in opposition to their original function (an ice-cream truck, for example). Discuss this motif and why it might pertain to Las Vegas in particular.

11. Contrast Newell’s personality with that of the girl with the shaved head. When they meet at the end of the novel, what does it represent for each character? What is the author saying through what happens. Or is he saying anything at all?

12. What do you think happens to Newell? Why do you think the book ends the way it does?

Customer Reviews

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Beautiful Children 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Granger More than 1 year ago
This book deserves its distinction as one of The New York Times Best Books of 2008. It is well-written and organized in such a way that readers understand these characters as people and not as caricatures. Not only that, but Charles Bock has a keen eye for social critique and many of his characters provide insightful commentary about society as well as a developing sense of their own reasons behind their actions. For example, Lestat appears earlier in the novel and the reader is repelled by him, but later on Bock allows the narrative to pick up Lestat's voice and the inner workings of his mind and suddenly the reader is given a new perspective on this character: "The sane sober businessman does not walk down the street talking out loud to himself, but the crazy homeless man does...Over time Lestat had also grown to understand how the former becomes the latter. How all your thoughts and frustrations can inch closer and closer toward one uninterrupted rant. How the chasm between a person and the world around him can grow, a shell forming between the life you once had and the life you are living." This situation is true for the characters in the novel. Each one is dealing with a chasm that either developed while he/she was consciously or unconsciously oblivious or is coming to terms with the fact that the chasm is developing at that moment, based on a particular decision that needs to be made. This, for me, is the best part of the book--that the philosophy and vision behind it are so satisfying. Who hasn't at times felt like Kenny on the side of the road, raising our hands in the air and wondering "What am I supposed to do now?". I like the nun's answer in this novel: You must question how you might be more than you are. Like Rilke writes in his poem "The Archaic Torso of Apollo," You must change your life. I agree. You must also read this book.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
Have you ever wondered what happens to the rejects from the Jerry Springer show? The damaged, the destroyed, the sad, the failed folks who couldn't even cut it with America's sleaze fighting show? Neither have I. But Charles Bock has and he doesn't believe that what happens in Vegas stays there, and we're lucky for that. Otherwise we might have missed his brilliant writing, his elegant portrayal, the irony of beautiful children being written about as if they were something other than that. It's a tour of Las Vegas like you will hopefully never see, but if you believe Bock, we are all on that same bus, and it's not always a pretty ride, but one you wouldn't want to miss.
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The eclectic mix of characters in this gritty novel is only trumped by Bock's ability to make the players so real. I'm not usually a big fan of books that attempt to weave in several storylines. But "Beautiful Children" kept my interest right to the end. Some reviewers have described the author's style as choppy and uneven. I disagree. I think he effectively captured the internal chaos that faced many of the characters.
ChazzW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nearing the end of Charles Bock¿s ten-year-in-the-making first novel Beautiful Children, would be graphic novelist Bing Beiderbixxe makes notes for the novel he¿d like to write:When he couldn¿t avoid it any longer, he opened a word processing file. Bing typed in a stream of consciousness, without bothering to read what he was entering, without correcting his errors, leaving alone phrases that he knew were false starts. It was more important to get it all out, get it down.¿Bing made a column for each character, and in this way, slowly started shaping their traits, developing ideas for them. He had some thoughts about making the stories and lives and interests intersect, and typed these out as well, under a different heading.This is a novel I really did want to like. Reading Beiderbixxe¿s plan, it¿s not a leap to read into this Bock¿s own early starting point and intentions. One has to wonder if, over the years, it just got away from him. If the intent to bring it all together just got overwhelming. This has all the earmarks of a novel whose writing stretches out over a period of a writer¿s true maturation. In the end, I think he¿s given us a series of character studies that of varying degrees of success.The grieving mother and ex-show girl Lorraine Ewing turns out to be the most successful of them all - and close behind her husband Lincoln. The ways in which they both deal with the disappearance of their 12-year old son Newell, the effect on their marriage, may border on cliche - but some cliches mirror the truth.The mix of street people, runaways, hustlers, strippers, pornographers, and comic book geeks all set down in the glitz of Las Vegas has the potential to shout out loud truths about 21st Century America. Someone may still write a great novel about our careening culture as played out in the naturally metaphorical setting of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, this misses the mark.
emitnick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're interested in the underbelly of Las Vegas (runaway teens, strippers, the porn industry, drugs, etc), then this is your book. Sleazy happenings but lush, intense prose. Hard to read and probably could have used more editing, but well worth it.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story of life on the streets, and on the underside, of Las Vegas was one that I found just okay at the beginning, but came to like more and more as I got deeper into the book. For those of you who have started and given up, try picking the book up again...I think you'll be glad you did.The central plot of this book is the story of 12 year old Newell, who runs away from an affluent home, what happens to him on the night he disappeared, and how his parents are coping (or not) with the loss of their only child. It's also the story of a collection of other characters -- Cheri Blossom, the stripper who loves her boyfriend Ponyboy despite his obvious faults; Bing, the graphic artist and writer; Kenny the misfit teenager; the girl with the shaved head; "Danger Prone" Daphney and her "vampire" guardian. All the interwoven stories come together to form a picture of what happens when your life doesn't follow the normal pattern -- when you need to escape your situation or yourself. The young people living on the streets, the people making and viewing pornography, the upper middle class parents whose lives are shattered by the loss of a child, the hyperactive kid. And, I'll be honest, it was partly voyeurism that drew me into this story of life on the edge. But it was also that all of us, at one time or another, feels or fears that we don't fit the normal pattern.The writing is solid, and there is the right balance for my taste between plot and character development. I feel I know some of the characters extremely well; others remain more of a mystery. That's life. And, while the interwoven stories come together to some extent, the author has resisted any temptation to bring every sub-plot to a full, clear resolution. Again, that's life.I think Mr. Bock has a lot of potential, and I will definitely look for his next novel.
sonyau on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think it's reprehensible to rate a book without finishing it, so I'll leave that to others who suffered all the way through to the bitter end of this terrible book. I'm throwing in the towel after reading about 1/4 of its pages filled with contrived, unconvincing dialogue and meager character development. No rating, but you can assume that it's less than one.
msf59 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me start out by saying, this is an author to watch! [Beautiful Children] is his debut and it shows a lot of promise. Much like Price's [Lush Life], the premise of the story is a simple one and in this story a child is missing from an affluent Las Vegas family and from here Bock builds a nightmarish world of runaways, strippers, grieving parents and a mix of other fringe-dwellers, some simply repellent. This is not an easy read, of course the subject matter is very disturbing but the author crams in to much detail at times and he could have used a bit more editing. There seems to be mixed feelings on this book, according to the reviews, but I've come out on the positive side and recommend it! I feel he may be a literary voice for the future!
efoltz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gave up about 100 pages in. I found the writing style choppy and unusual. It started out with a teenage boy's disappearance. His parents have a rocky relationship. His parents appear to start to get along after his disappearance. That is as much as I got out of the pages I read.
ilive2read on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hard to read but riveting! I loved the way Bock writes and especially his way of making so many characters so real - it seemed like every character was well known by the author. At the end of the book I was disappointed that it was over and diappointed that the story was such a downer but positive and excited about Bock's second book!
readingthruthenight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Have you ever watched the movie Happiness? It's a brilliant film, but one that I'm always reluctant to recommend because it is so unclean. Seriously. You kinda wanna take a shower after viewing it and wash away the emotional cringe factor of humanity.That's how I feel about Beautiful Children. I read it a couple of weeks go and couldn't decide how to review it, so I put it aside until something came to me. Well, weeks later, and still nothing. Nothing outside that unsettled feeling of devastation.Despair. That's how I would define this novel. And it's beautifully done. It leaves a feeling of despair.There are several lives that intersect in the hellish city of Las Vegas: a nerdy comic lovin' adolescent who has no friend (except), an awkward teenage artist who draws comics, a comic book illustrator who seems to have a problem with emotional connection and relies on lots of sex to counteract that, a stripper who plans on getting out (don't they all?), the stripper's boyfriend who is a dirty criminal (shocking, of course), and then a slew of homeless kids that come in and out of scenes.The story begins with Newell, the nerdy kid whose only friend is the awkward teenage artist, and I suppose you could say that he is the impetus of the novel for he goes missing. That's how the story opens; Newell is gone. The chapters are told in segments of time all leading up to the missing child. And everything else is a smorgasbord of what happens in Vegas in a night.Can I just tell you that there really aren't any likable characters? The closest would be Newell's parents, but that's mainly because they come across utterly wounded at the loss of their only child. How it affects their relationship with one and another and how each of them grieves are so real that I cannot help but feel pity for them.The author does a wonderful job at exploring street life for teens and for strippers. I might not have *liked* the characters but I felt they were real.If you are in a good place in your life then I would read this book. If you're already depressed with the world, move on please.
Bridget770 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The topic was pretty straightforward: a son goes missing from his middle-class family in Las Vegas. But the book was at times intense and disturbing (both in good ways). I loved the characters; they were flawed humans who I found to be very believable. I would read anything by this author.
opheliasdaisies on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bock's novel, Beautiful Children, is an unapologetic look at the dirty aspects of life and Las Vegas. This wonderfully researched book is raw and jagged at times. The back cover may make it sound like it could maybe be a romance novel, but it's anything but. It's more about people being torn apart than coming together.The book centers around Newell, a missing child. However, many other plot lines intersect his. The story is crafted in a style reminiscent of the movies Love Actually and Crash, with all of the many characters linked, however loosely. One of the real marvels of this work is that all of the characters whose stories we follow are beautifully developed. I never felt like any were being ignored. They're all fleshed out and grow throughout the story. We learn about them, and they are alive in the pages of the book.All of the characters have some hard-to-address aspect of their lives. Something about them that makes us uncomfortable on some level, at least according to social norms. A stripper who repeatedly sacrifices her dignity, a boy who thinks his girlfriend could be a porn star, parents who are grieving and torn apart over the disappearance of their child, a friend who crosses an unspeakable line. Bock is unafraid to delve into the harsh realities of strippers, runaways, and those in the porn industry. Sex plays a role in many of the storylines, but it falls short of being obscene.Bock's writing itself is phenomenal. The detail he portrays in each and every paragraph is hard to come by in a novel. It's vivid and alive, and only emphasizes the jagged edges of life. Despite it's incredible descriptiveness, he manages to keep his writing tasteful, no matter how coarse the subject matter. He's descriptive, but not overly graphic.I felt dragged into this story. I was invested in all of the characters. Whenever the plot turned to one, I was simultaneously drawn to that character and wondering what was happening to the others. Bock's final accomplishment is in what he didn't write. He knew just what to leave out to make his story continue to resonate, even after the last page was turned.
zmagic69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
outstanding book really good story!
oapostrophe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very much enjoyed the writing and the tone. Found the whole package very depressing and dark and would recommend very selectively. A horrid 12-year-old boy goes missing. I came around to having a tiny bit of feeling for this kid, but only for a moment or two. The other lives intertwined in the story are mostly pathetic and only somewhat sympathetic. There's the mom and dad; former failed baseball player, and mom; a beauty. Ponyboy; sad mohawked ,pierced, hustler runaway and boyfriend of Cheri Blossom; breast-implanted stripper. Bing Beiderbixxe low tier comic book artist. Kenny, friend of Newell (the boy who goes missing), he's 20ish and a wanna be artist with a sad life and not a scrap of confidence. I can't go on. The way it's written and constructed is pretty great, just the subject was too much for me.
PAPatrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not for the faint of heart. This New York Times Notable Book reads like the movies "Babel" or "Crash" unfold: a number of linking stories told on one day in Las Vegas, the day a 12-year-old boy from what appears to be a normal middle-class family disappears. But the book shows all levels of society, from porn peddlers and throwaway teenagers to a bad marriage unravelling. A downer but very powerful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got about 60 pages in and just couldnt stomach any more of this boring drawn out pointless grind of a book.
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I absolutly love this novel! It took me just a bit to really get into it, although, I can honestly say that this is not a novel to regret! Add me as a friend! z a r a t e . l u z 1 3 2 6 @ a t t . N e t
Anonymous More than 1 year ago