Although I haven’t had time to read the book, I’ve heard such brilliant things about The Former Boy Wonder by Robert Graham, that I simply had to invite him onto Linda’s Book Bag. Luckily Robert agreed to share a guest post with us all today. I’m not a parent but my goodness Robert’s words sound like the sons of my friends!
The Former Boy Wonder is available for purchase here.
The Former Boy Wonder
The Former Boy Wonder is a bittersweet comedy that takes a sidelong look at first love, fathers and sons, and fidelity. With an irresistible plot and an impeccable sense of place and time, Robert Graham asks if it’s ever too late to grow up.
It’s a rainy August in Manchester and music writer Peter Duffy’s life is falling apart. He’s knocking on fifty, his career is flatlining, his marriage is failing, and his teenage son barely speaks to him. And then a friend from university days invites him to a party at the manor house where he met his first love, the dazzling Sanchia Page.
All the old gang are going to be there, and although it’s a long shot, maybe she will, too, which wouldn’t be helpful. Or would it?
You and Your Son: A Guide For Fathers
- An Adventure In The Big Wide World
Say your son is 4 and you invite him on an adventure in the big wide world. He will turn away, flee to his mother and hug her legs. His mother will look at you and shrug – a this-is-the-way-the-world-works shrug. Your feelings will be hurt. Man up.
- Cycling For Sons
Maybe your son is 5. Think about offering to teach him to ride a bicycle. It is possible he will say no. You might have to persuade him. Plan to not bring him back bruised and bleeding. His mother might not like that. Ask him if he would like to learn how to ride a bicycle. He will say, ‘No.’
- The Lure of the Multiplex
Your son is 6. Lower your sights and offer to take him on a trip to the cinema. Suggest Frozen. He will snort like a horse. Ask him instead if he would like to see Avengers: Endgame. He will say he would. His mother will say he would not. You will ask her why. She will look at you as if you are an idiot. Prepare to be an idiot. If not now, then soon.
- The Mystery of the Xbox
Now your son is 12. Buy him an Xbox. Make sure he keeps it downstairs and not in his bedroom. He will sit on the sofa wearing a headset and talking to himself. You do not know what is going on. Ask your wife. He is playing a game with his friend, she will explain, who is sitting on a sofa in his home, apparently talking to himself, too. You sort of understand this. He is playing a zombie game. You are not quite sure what a zombie is. You will ask your son if he would like to play a FIFA game with you. He would not. You win him round, but soon realise that you have made a horrible mistake because a) you are not as quick-witted as you imagine you used to be and b) your fingers and thumbs are as much use to you as uncooked sausages. The game will quickly end. He will emit one of his speciality groans: The Despairing Moose.
- Everything You Need to Know About Zombies
Perhaps your son is 13. Now he likes The Walking Dead. You still don’t know what a zombie is. You ask him. He releases another signature groan: The Recently Crippled Hyena. If he is in bed one night, and your wife is out with a friend, do some research: watch an episode of The Waking Dead. It will not take long to know enough about zombies.
- Death Comes To Us All
You have been told that 14 is a difficult age, Even so, you hope for the best. Your father dies. With your son and his mother, you are driving to the funeral. You broach the subject of death. You say to your son that losing a loved one is hard. He will ask you when you are going to die. Release the authentic moan of the zombie. You have earned it.
- The Problem With Punk Rock
You buy your 15-year-old son an electric guitar. You forget that he will need an amplifier, which could go badly. You buy him the amplifier anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? One of the worst things that will happen is that he will play “Pretty Vacant”. About a hundred times a day, not necessarily in time, not necessarily using the right chords. Blame yourself: you were the one who bought him the guitar – and the amplifier. Complain to his mother about the noise. She will blame you: you were the one who played him records by the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash. And all those other punk bands. Remember the wise words in one of your books on bringing up boys: your son needs to see you fail. You have failed. Feel good!
- You Are An Idiot
Your son could well be 17. He may be thinking about going to university – and doing a degree in Star Trek Studies. Say other options are available. History, for example. He will ask you if you are an idiot; what good would a degree in history be? You could tell him, but do not. He will say he is also looking at a course in Theme Park Management. You will ask him if he would be interested in an apprenticeship. He will emit the sound of The Expiring Chainsaw and tell you you are an idiot.
- Return to the Multiplex
Your son is 17, almost a grown-up. You think you should ask him if he wants to go and see a grown-up film with you. He gives you The Death Stare. You suggest a film. You say it is for grown-ups. You think this will flatter him into coming. Your conversation may go like this. Son: Is it about relationships? You: It is, but it’s funny. Son: So it’s a romcom. You: It’s funny but also sad. There’s a word for it. Son: Pathetic?
- The Power Of A Father’s Words
In your study of your role, you have learned that affirmation is key. The power of a father’s words to his child is immense: you can speak positive truths into your son’s life and give him confidence in who he is. You will say, ‘I’m always so proud of you, you know. ’He will say, ‘Shut up. ’You will remember the wise words of Spider-man’s Uncle Ben: With great power comes great responsibility. Be responsible. Instead of verbally abusing him, laugh as if you think what he said was funny. None of this is funny. Contemplate your mortality.
Isn’t that just brilliant? It’s made me even more determined to read The Former Boy Wonder just as soon as I can!
About Robert Graham
Robert Graham is the author of the novel Holy Joe; the short story collections The Only Living Boy and When You Were a Mod, I Was A Rocker; and the novella A Man Walks Into A Kitchen. His play about fans of The Smiths, If You Have Five Seconds To Spare, was staged by Contact Theatre, Manchester.
He is co-author, with Keith Baty, of Elvis – The Novel, a spoof biography; and, with Julie Armstrong, Heather Leach, Helen Newall et al, of The Road To Somewhere: A Creative Writing Companion; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Creative Writing; and How To Write A Short Story (And Think About It).
Robert grew up in Northern Ireland and for most of his adult life has lived in Manchester. He teaches Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University.