“Boys,” by Rick Moody

9 Feb

One needn’t read too far into “Boys” to see why it would appear in a class devoted to the formal aspects of fiction. And yet, a fairly traditional story–coming of age–emerges from the technical smoke and mirrors here. Please consider the following questions and discuss.

What’s the most apparent–to you–formal oddity of this story? How does this unusual feature affect the basic narrative? What’s its narrative function?

Moody likes to alter prose rhythm by varying sentence lengths and patterns. He writes longer sentences than most contemporary American writers. Find a long sentence, dissect it, and tell us what you think.

At what point do the twins start to distinguish themselves from one another? Can you briefly describe the basic difference between the two?

What “happens” in the story? Try to pinpoint each moment of change. Does the story have a conventional “plot”? If not, how would you describe the shape?

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255 Responses to ““Boys,” by Rick Moody”

  1. Kelly Daniels February 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    Hey All. I’m writing this from a hotel business center. I’ll do my best to join your conversation. If I can’t be there as you go at it, I’ll certainly read over what you write and add my comments later.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      There a lot of long sentences, but here is one: “On a Sunday, in May, a day one might nearly describe as perfect, an ice cream truck comes slowly down the lane, chimes inducing salivation, and children run after it, not long after which boys dig a hole in the backyard and bury their sister’s dolls two feet down, so that she will never find these dolls and these dolls will rot in hell, after which the boys enter the house.”

      Literally, this means on a Sunday in May, the two boys (as do the rest of the children) run after the ice cream truck. After their delicious treat/failure to catch the truck, the two naughty boys dig a two feet deep hole and bury their sister’s dolls before going inside the house. The unnamed boys are still children and do things with a child’s logic. This day in May is “perfect” because it is [almost] summer. They believe the dolls will “rot in hell” because, to a child, two feet is deep; they probably think it is as deep as they can go before reaching hell.

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:15 am #

        Moody goes out of his way to vary sentence lengths, more for the music and rhythm of the language than simply meaning.

  2. tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    I enjoyed reading the differences between the two boys. It starts out earlier stating the two boys’ hair color, brown and blond, then what they have in common. Later, one boy is wearing baseball clothes while the other wears a sweatshirt, then one is bleeding and needs stitches, while the other watches. This eventually develops into the two boys mocking each other as “Neckless Thug” and “Theater Fag”. It then goes on to more common things between the two. The “Neckless Thug” seems to have shorter hair, and supports a “Moaist insurgency”, while the other has longer hair, and supports working within the government to change it.

    That was all I recall seeing about the boys in the basic differences.

    • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      I found it interesting that the only times when the two are described in similar ways is if they are ashamed of the aspect or when there is a serious family matter (the sister getting cancer, and the father dying)

      • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

        Very true! I also thought it was fun how they were seemingly one person as children, but then grew apart in different ways as they grew, and eventually left the home together again at the end, becoming men that leave the house. Nice cyclical motion.

        • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

          I definitely agree with this. I really liked reading the shift of the boys as a unit to individuals: “Boys enter the house carrying skates…One boy enters the house sporting basketball clothes, the other wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.” Starting there, I really began to see each “boy” character grow as an individual.

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      Towards the end of the story, I was actually a little confused about which boy was which. The differences you mention do appear pretty early–one boy is the “jock” and the other boy is the “intellectual.” But when we got to Maoist insurgencies and crypto-fascists, I couldn’t always tell which one was which.
      I was also particularly interested in seeing which boy missed his brother horribly, a version of his brother that never existed.

      • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

        I completely agree Ruki. They kind of became muddled to me by the end.
        I was also interested by that one-sided mourning from one brother for the other and wanted to know what that was.

      • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

        I actually had that problem as well. I was hoping I got their political alignments right, because I wasn’t positive on which one was which. It would be hard (in my opinion) to distinguish between the boys in this list style, but it could be easier than it is now. Or maybe the lack of distinction is intentional?

        • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

          Maybe it is intentional. Are we just supposed to see them as one character, in a way?

          • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

            I think that would interesting, especially since they exit “into the world” together, rather than separate. They have their falling out at times, but they’re brothers, they can’t change who their family is.

      • Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

        I also had a hard time keeping up with who was who as they grew older. Once the author separated them into the jock and the non-jock I thought it was going to be a very stereotypical story, but in reality he really blended the two together, and I wanted to know which boy was the nostalgic one!

        • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

          I wondered with this nostalgia whether both brothers felt this way or not. The narrator’s POV seems to suggest that they would tell us if they both felt this way, but they seem so together and the same all the time that I find it hard to imagine that they didn’t both miss one another, especially since the story ends with them together.

        • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

          I really wanted to know which boy was which as well, but I feel like the author did that intentionally. I felt like Moody was trying to trying to give readers a sense of the boys’ similarity while still being different from each other too. Also, I feel like this reflects what growing up is really like; people change and can go from being interested in one kind of thing to something that is completely opposite.

          • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:21 am #

            It’s one of the experimental aspects of this story, this kind of cloudy characterization. I think it works fine here, but you wouldn’t want to read a longer piece without knowing who is whom. Here the language carries the story more than character or setting or really even plot.

      • Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

        Agreed. The one thing that caught me up most of the time. I know that introducing names would have ruined the illusion, but I wanted some other way to make it really clear which boy was which towards the end.

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:18 am #

        Nicely put. Me too. They start the same, grow distinct, and then morph into more complicated people that resist categorization. They’re also not that far apart politically by the end, though they argue.

    • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      On page 245, the story delves into the nostalgia one boy feels for the other: “One boy misses his brother horribly, misses the past….the other boy avoids all mention of that time.” I think this is definitely a point that distinguishes the boys from one another—one who looks on the past, their childhood with longing and nostalgia while the other seems to just wants to forget it ever happened.

    • SarahStory February 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      The boys start to distinguish themselves naturally as they grow, through their clothes, “one sporting basketball clothes, the other wearing jeans and a sweatshirt,” and injuries such as a black eye and needing stitches. However, it’s not until after their sister’s death that the distinction makes itself obvious in their choice of physical appearance and political beliefs.

  3. Laura Seeber February 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    It may not be the first time the boys distinguish themselves, however the most vivid point of the difference between the two is when one boy is drunk comes into the house being carried by all of his friends after receiving a DUI. I believe this is after the wedding. While the other brother is missing the “old times” they had together and is filled with nostalgia. In this spot, I felt a real sense of difference in the two.

    • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      I agree, following this it is mentioned they only return home at prearranged dates and times, and have false memories of how great the old days were. This really shows how the two brothers are growing apart as they grow up

    • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      Hadn’t thought of that but you’re right.

  4. Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I found the fact that there was a plot in such an unconventional story interesting. At first the plot is just following the boys as they grow older, as they admire their father, play sports (or decide to watch instead), sexually mature etc, then when their sister gets sick I really felt like the plot solidified, there was emotional turmoil, they learned to love and grow apart, and there was real conflict between them because of their different outlooks on life, a lot of which I felt had to deal with the sisters death.

    • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      I loved this story for this reason. It seems like it would be so difficult to create a complete and fulfilling picture of two lives, two genuine characters, in a story that is comprised of a list. But this author did it in a way that really tugged at the heart strings.

      • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

        Especially since the characters didn’t have names. Normally we need their name, description, and thoughts to feel connected, but here we get only the descriptions needed, and it is through their actions and sparse words that we get to know the two brothers and their story.

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      I agree. I was impressed by how much movement there was in the plot, in spite of the form.

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:26 am #

        I wonder if this plot were written as a standard story it would have had the same effect. If you think about it, nothing particularly unusual happens. We read stories about cancer all the time, and often shield ourselves from caring too much. Same with the father dying. I think the music of the language wrests the emotion from us, just like music can and does even though the lyrics are pretty stupid when you read them without the music.

    • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      I also found that the point where the sister gets sick is where it felt more like a story to me. The beginning part with it’s constant, heavy repetition of phrases sounds more poetic. He still uses the same phrases, “boys enter the house” “Two boys, one (this) one (that)” but more spread out as the story progresses.

      • Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

        I totally agree it got a little less prosey as it went on-even though it still was. I seriously surprised myself when I got a little teary-eyed at the part where the sister gets sick, who knew a list could make me cry?

        • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

          I was initially a bit annoyed with the story, I felt like it was trying too much to be a poem, but it completely changed my mind by that section. I was so upset when the sister got sick too and I felt a connection to these unnamed characters.

          • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:28 am #

            Thanks for your honesty! I like the story, but I feel its pretty gimmicky. I felt a little manipulated, tricked even into caring about these characters.

    • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      At first I found the shape of the story a bit difficult to initially get into. But once I really got into the “story”/plot of these boys and children growing up I really appreciated how the author was able to encompass so many different themes and moments of their lives in a seemingly short span of words.

      • SarahStory February 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

        Agree. The plot is really a coming of age, and it’s amazing how many years of their life, how many little specific moments came be covered without having to go into detail about them because the mere mention of those moments are enough for the reader.

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      I fully agree. i enjoyed how much you could discern from the very straightforward and short sentences, such as her diagnosis, but then there were the segments such as the concoction that the boys attempted to feed to their sister, which were longer but helped to feed the depictions of the boys in their younger years. Another thing I noticed was that the boys relationship with the house changes over time as well (they begin to enter the house through the mail slot, instead of entering as boys after their father’s death they exit as men). The story was very clear in it’s non-descriptiveness, if that makes any sense.

      • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

        This really struck me too. There isn’t any overt description, but tiny things like one boy’s use of the terms “crypto-fascist” and “ethics and morals” compared with the other saying he’s going to “beat the living shit out of the other” (p. 243) created so much character and plot.

  5. Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    I believe that the author begins to distinguish between the two when he describes their “blond and brown locks (Respectively)”, but I don’t believe that the boys really distinguish between themselves until they both carry controlled substances into the house because up until this point they shared everything with each other, and this was a decision to leave the other twin out of the loop purposefully.

  6. Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    I really think that adolescence, but especially after the diagnosis of the little sister, is when the boys start becoming different from each other and growing apart. Even in the end, before the DUI, when they seem closer, the distance is a tension that is very palpable.

    • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      I agree. I saw the diagnosis and death of the little sister as something that really brought them close together and then following that tragedy they seem to be breaking farther and farther apart from each other. I think perhaps that event was an instigator in how they really begin to distinguish themselves.

      • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

        It also seemed like the first time the boys regretted something they had done and went to dig up their sister’s dolls they had buried as children.

  7. Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    “What’s the most apparent–to you–formal oddity of this story? How does this unusual feature affect the basic narrative? What’s its narrative function?”

    OK, I’m going to try to tackle this question. The most apparent formal oddity is the repetition, specifically (but not limited to at times) the repetition of “Boys” this and that. At first, I thought that there was no way a plot could exist within the tangle of the repetition, but after awhile I found that it sort of weaves everything together. The tangle, to some extent, I think is the point.

    • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      The style definitely struck me as odd when I first saw it. “How can a story come from this?” “Dang, those sentences are long!” But as Carrie (I believe) mentioned, the actions and differences of the boys really makes it a true story, and the fact that this can be all seen through the “tangle” amazes me.

    • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      I felt the same way. I was so unsure about this story at first. But soon enough, I was hooked and by the end, I felt like a part of their lives. Weird. I know.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      Was I the only one to get confused to how much the “boys” were aging? I kept thinking they were still their twenties.

  8. jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I was so in love with this piece. Moody was able to take a story that covers (what like 30 or 40 years of life) and transform his characters in 10 or 15 minutes. It reminded me of the Disney move “Up,” when they have that love story montage. So many feels, guys! Anyways, the repetitive nature at the beginning of each sentence [ Boys enter the house or Boys…] created a swift/comfortable flow that made the story fly by you. Which, interestingly is much like the nature of life.

    • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      The boys can’t control these feels.

      “Which, interestingly is much like the nature of life.” Whoa. You blew my mind with that one. It’s so true! Sometimes life just feels like it’s on repeat, but it’s those interesting moments inside the repeating that makes life so special and defining!

    • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

      I really like the repetition of “Boys enter the house” throughout the piece. I think the list shape really made the story successful. Each time the boys entered the house you could see how they were changing, growing up, growing apart. Just the repetition of that simple phrase perfectly signaled to me while I read the passing of time.

  9. Laura Seeber February 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    One of the longer sentences I picked out was, “Boys don’t enter the house, at all except as ghostly afterimages of younger selves, fleeting images of sneakers dashing up a staircase; soggy towels on the floor of the bathroom; blue jeans coiled like asps in the basin of the washing machine; boys as an absence of boys, blissful at first, you put a thing down on a spot, put this book down, come back later, it’s still there; you buy a box of cookies, eat three, later three are missing”. (p 244). Here I the writer is describing boys at an age where they never really are part of their home. They are ghosts in their own home, they are there for the necessity of eating, and cleaning themselves, however they are there for such a short time it is really like they forget they were there at all. I might be totally wrong but that is how I interpreted it.

    • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

      I really liked that section too. At that point in the story, it felt like the narrator was describing the feeling of the mother/parents. They had been so used to having children around at all times and having things like cookies go missing or messes appear, but now that no longer happens. It calls to the reader’s attention the feeling that I assume many/most parents have after their children leave home. Things that used to bother them when the kids were around are things that they almost miss.

  10. RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    As for the reason for the form, my best guess is that it makes it easier to relate to the story. A lot of what the boys do towards the beginning–as babies, the sports, fighting, being uncomfortable in Sunday clothes–are typical “boys will be boys” kind of stuff.
    The form also seemed to capture, to me, the tumultuousness of raising rambunctious boys. I know a couple with twin boys and they’re on the go all the time!

  11. Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    This story seems to have the common coming of age story for the two twin brothers. We as the reader see them connected in childhood but then separate and create many different “selves” through adolescence and into their college years. The times where the characters grow are tragedies, their sister’s sickness, their father’s death. And in the end “Boys, no longer, boys, exit” They have fulfilled their coming of age story and no longer enter the house and but are ready to enter the world.

    • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      “They have fulfilled their coming of age story and no longer enter the house, but are ready to enter the world.” Dude. That’s a great way of putting it! And it’s weird to imagine that coming up, us seniors will be doing the exact same thing. *shutter*

      • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

        I’m with Tyler. I hadn’t actually thought of that idea on my own. The house to world transition I mean. At the same time, as the father dies, they are there to fulfill that “father” role. In that way, the cycle continues and if these boys become fathers, they too will bring boys into the home. Ya dig?

  12. Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    This is obviously a coming of age story, but with the twist that it is about two boys rather than one. Moody takes what is essentially one single starting character (when the boys are young and virtually the same) and tracks the different paths that character might follow. He also makes an interesting statement by making them reconcile with each other at the end. At that point it is harder to tell who each boy actually is. Almost like it doesn’t matter how different their journeys seemed, they both end up at the same place. This made the story almost seem like a meta narrative – commenting on “coming of age” sorties in general.

    • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      I agree that there’s a twist in this coming of age story, but as far as coming of age stories go, I think the biggest twist is that there is no sense that the boys have come to a “good” place as they’ve grown. There’s really no part where they burst through and suddenly understand life. In a lot of ways, they remain boys throughout the whole story…just sort of stumbling around instead of following some sort of clear cut arch. In fact, we could even wonder if they “went” anywhere, because the setting is always the same house and the things that are different are their opinions more than their actions—which always seem to be destructive or sort of not good. I think that makes it more realistic this way, personally.

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:34 am #

        Love it. As if the death of the father forces boys to become men, regardless of whether or not they’re “mature.” It’s an outside force that compels us into adulthood, and has really nothing to do with us. Kind of a scary idea.

    • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      It felt like- to me- like it was less about where they ended up and more about why they ended up there… the journey. Even though they had different journeys, family was the most important thing, the binding factor and the reason that they set aside their differences in the end. I suppose that is basically what you are saying here, though. By place, you could mean place in life (mental OR physical place). Did you like that they reconciled or do you think it would have been better if they hadn’t?

      • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

        Jessica, I think that a reconciliation would have been a little “neat” for my tastes. I like it better with the distance between the boys, because I feel like it better represents the reality of complex family relationships and how sometimes the past sits in the back of your mind whether or not you’d like it to. I don’t think they necessarily hate each other, I just think that the distance is something that keeps growing as the age, and I don’t think it will stop growing based on that.

        • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

          Ali, can’t you consider that they reconcile and still have regrets of all the years and time they did waste? Many reconciliations are still messy. Especially after having lost their father… which would have inevitably reminded them of the pain in losing their sister. They wouldn’t want to suffer any more loss after that. Atleast, I wouldn’t. At that point, it would seem to me like you’d need to hold on to and cherish what family you had left. You know?

          • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

            I agree with that! I just think that these particular two boys didn’t really have a reconciliation. I don’t know, I just felt like there was so much distance that it’d be hard to bridge. That doesn’t make them any less of brothers, though! I think that all families have some sort of distance in them after awhile.

            • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

              Oh ok! I see what you’re saying now. That’s a valid point.

        • Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

          I agree with All, I like that the story doesn’t have a “neat” ending, and I didn’t feel like the boys disliked each other by the end of the story. I’m a twin, so felt I could relate to the boys growing apart. Growing up, we had pretty much all the same friends, classes and experience as each other, but as we started to live our own separate lives we’ve become pretty different people. It’s easy to be nostalgic for a time when you felt like there’s someone else on the exact same wavelength as you are.

  13. Laura Seeber February 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    In the beginning I agree it was difficult to really understand the shape of the story, The style felt a little like Gertrude Stein to me at first with the repetition. However how the story grows beyond just the typical coming of age when it is thrown off just that shape when the death of the sister happens.

  14. SarahStory February 10, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    A long sentence on 240 starts with the boys going to the kitchen and much of the sentence length comes from listing a long string of ingredients the boy mix together, half of which aren’t even edible. Due to the randomness and unexpected combination of those ingredients, the sentence holds the reader’s attention. Had it been a regular recipe, the length would have been too long. Following a semicolon, the second half of the sentence continues to describe the boys breaking family heirlooms, and their punishment, which seems far too lax for the crime(s). Including extra information between parentheses lengthens this sentence. Even though this single sentence takes a third of the page, commas break up the sentence into short phrases and ideas that fit together.

    • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      I loved this part of the story. The list seems to be random, but at the same time, I can imagine young boys just grabbing them and throwing them in. I thought it was kinda funny too that the sentence structure seems so intelligent (afterwards transferring the contents of this saucepan into a Pyrex lasagna dish, baking the Pyrex lasagna dish in the oven for nineteen minutes…) like instructions in a baking guide, but then they immediately try to feed it to their sister.

      Poor little sister. Dealing with these two, and then, boom, cancer.

    • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      To me it was due to the interesting and bizarre details that made long sentences like this work really well for the piece. I highlighted this section specifically during my reading because it really held my attention and interested me. The author seems to cram so much information and detail into such a small amount of space but I think it is the specificity and often the bizarrness of details that makes it all flow into a coherent story.

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      This was a great sentence, I agree, but it was one that made me mad at the boys. I think it comes pretty soon after they talk about burying their sister’s dolls in hell. These two facts really made me dislike the boys for being so cruel to their sister.
      Which, I guess, is interesting because I was completely sympathetic towards them by the end of the story.

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      This was the long quote that stood out to me too. There was something about the recipe that really stood out to me. I would never try to feed this to another person, but I can see myself trying to create something like this back when I was younger, so I could relate to the action of mixing random things together in order to create something. I think That this quote is really put there to show the strange things boys tend to do when they are younger, and also that for some reason most people may remember the obscure details in life because in those moments you’re really taking everything in and enjoying the bizarre moments that make up life.

  15. Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    What I find kind of interesting also is that I never really fully knew what age the boys were at, I mean I could guess, when they are making concoctions, and playing sports, but as they get older I dont really have any idea how fast the story is actually progressing. It says that one boy has a sweetheart (which is kind of a childish name), and they are obviously not coming around as much but what does that mean in terms of age, it could be anywhere from 20 to 40. Not to mention he always refers to them as boys.

    • SarahStory February 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

      I think age in unnecessary because as Alli said, the boys don’t go anywhere. Therefore no need to distinguish a specific year’s maturity from the next.

      • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

        I honestly felt like it was distinguished. You don’t have to tell me how old a boy is. Based on their physical appearances (acne, etc) or their actions you know how old they are. I never felt confused or thrown off by the lack of a physical number.

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      I felt that the “boys” have grown up, but I took the ending to mean that they may be adults, however until their father died and was carried out of the house they were not considered “men”. That’s why I feel the author chose to leave age out of the story. It gives the story a better sense of timelessness.

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:38 am #

        In this version, we may not become men until we’re, say, seventy. Interesting.

  16. Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    I don’t think that because the characters fail to complete their journey is necessarily a twist on the form of a journey story. I just think it’s the type of story where the protagonists don’t actually “learn the lesson” they were meant too.

    • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      I don’t think they failed…and I don’t think there was any lesson to be learned. It’s just life, and it’s not always neat and wrapped up like a story. That’s what I took from it, at least.

  17. Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    “Boys enter the house having masturbated in train station bathrooms, in forests, in beach houses, in football bleachers at night under the stars, in cars (under a blanket), in the shower, backstage, on a plane, the boys masturbate constantly, identically, three times a day in some cases, desire like a madness upon them, at the mere sound of certain
    words that sound like other words, interrogative re- minding them of intercourse, beast reminding them of breast, sects reminding them of sex, and so forth, the boys are not very smart yet, and, as they enter the house, they feel, as always, immense shame at the scale of this self-abusive cog- itation, seeing a classmate, seeing a billboard, seeing a fire hydrant, seeing things that should not induce thoughts of· masturbation (their sister, e.g.) and then thinking of mas- turbation anyway.” (Page 242) Is the long sentence that stuck out to me.

    As someone who has a background in poetry, I absolutely love the rhythm here. This could be a poem almost all on its own. This is like a list inside of the list shape, and so what’s repeated is the rhythm of the list. I also love the stream-of-consciousness that this sentence takes on. We jump from places that the boys masturbate, to words that make them think about masturbating, and immediately into specific words and then inappropriate situations that randomly make them masturbate. I don’t know why, but the humor in there seems like it could be relatable to other boys (I can’t really personally comment on that, but I can speculate haha) and it’s so generic while being so incredibly specific. It blows my mind that this is a sentence, but it doesn’t feel insane when you’re reading it, it just feels like a thought process.

    • jperpich10 February 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

      I agree! The rhythm of this section really flowed nicely. And reading it I was constantly thinking that it took on a stream of consciousness writing style. I found it humorous, relatable and a quirky, interesting way to look at adolescence and sexual maturation.

    • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

      Ali… the whole time that I read this all I could do was “OOOO” and “AWWW” with the rhythm. I agree 100% with what you have said here. Good stuff.

    • Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      I think the rhythm of the repeated “Boys enter the house…” really helped the reader move through the story and be pulled in. Without that repetition, I don’t know if I could have read an 8-page story with no paragraph breaks whatsoever.

      • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

        Definitely didn’t notice until right now that there were no paragraph breaks. Which shows how great the flow was!

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:41 am #

        Nice catch. The single paragraph was a formal characteristic I was hoping someone would mention. Makes it harder to read,which is an interesting thing to do as a writer. I suppose running everything together better matches the flow of life, as it were.

  18. Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    also, I don’t like my randomly assigned square icon. I don’t feel it adequately represents the entirety of my identity.

    • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Should have signed in with Facebook, bro. Haha

    • Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      I think Tyler needs to have a randomly assigned icon (no offense, Tyler!)

      • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

        I totally do! It just looks like… a really bright pink or something. I feel insulted by Dr. Daniel’s blog and it’s choice of color scheme. 😛

    • tylerspellious February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Yeah, and y’all get color and mine is like… grey. Or some snowflake. (At least to me.)

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

      Best post of the class award goes to Padraic

    • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      Mine is so similar to Ruki’s that I keep getting confused of which comments are mine when I scroll through! haha. We match.

    • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:42 am #

      I do believe you can post a picture. Don’t remember how though.

  19. Laura Seeber February 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    I liked this story because of the style and the story. I think I am going to have a hard time creating a story like this one though.

    • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

      I agree, Moody does a great job at creating plot in a list form that flows smoothly from one event to the next. It will be hard to change my thinking of lists as just being bullet points.

      • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

        I tried looking up the “List Shape”, but I didn’t find much. I’m just going to take what I know about poetry’s List form and try to roll with it. I started by writing bullet points and then tried to blend them into a story. For the record, though, I couldn’t hack the repetition so I dropped it. Moody is just too good.

        • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:43 am #

          Calling it a list-shaped story is my description. I bet if you put “lists in fiction” you might find something on google.

    • Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Lol I agree this story was basically art, I mean c’mon a story made out of a list? I actually expected to hate it at first, I didn’t even enjoy it at the beginning, but once I realized that the story was growing I liked it. I wonder if it would still be as compelling a story without tragedy though? For me the parts where I felt like I was invested were those sad parts, where emotion crept in. If it was just a story about these guys growing up and there sister never died I don’t know if I would care.

      • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

        I cried. This story actually made me cry. But for a story to reflect and try to capture life, it would be unrealistic for it to put in points of tragedy.

  20. RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Any thoughts on who the narrator of this might be? The voice was pretty omniscient, but I somehow got the feeling that it was a parent. Not necessarily the boys’ parent, but a parent in general. I think what particularly gave me that impression was the sentence that Laura quoted up above from page 240: “Boys don’t enter the house…later three are missing.” Those seem like the kind of details a parent would notice and value.

    • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      To be honest, I’m not sure. That’s a good question. I stopped at “omniscient”, but I suppose it could be a parent. I feel like the narrator didn’t have any distinguishing characteristics beyond the fact that it felt like the narrator did care about the boys, in some way.

    • Carrie February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Perhaps the narrator is the mother. She is hardly mentioned but we have to assume she is still there in the house. Especially at the end when it says “here are the scuffmarks from when boys were on the wrong side of the door demanding, here’s where there were once milk bottles for the milkman….” its easy to insert “my” and have it say “from when “my” boys were on the wrong side of the door demanding” A mother is often the one that is nostalgic about her children growing up and no longer needing her.

      • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

        Carrie, that’s an interesting idea. I didn’t even realize that the mother is so far removed until now. I know she’s sort of mentioned a few times earlier on, but as the story progresses she sort of fades out.

      • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

        That’s totally possible, and something I considered, but it would make the ending so sad! “Boys, no longer boys, exit.” That has such a ring of finality to it, and I’m now picturing the poor mother left all alone in her house!

        • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

          In a sense, they seem so self-absorbed that that’s a definite option! As sad as it is 😦

          • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

            Also, you know that whole idea that “Mothers know all”…as creepy as that idea is in this story since there’s such an emphasis on masturbation and sex at one point…well, the narrator does mention that the boys aren’t very smart yet about that…..it could be possible. I think it’s a stretch without more evidence, though.

            • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

              I guess I wasn’t surprised that the mother was so absent because the story is titled “Boys,” and is quite literally ALL about the boys of this family. Granted the sister makes an appearance, but she is killed off. So it really is interesting to consider her place in the story. Narrator? Maybe, but it’s to difficult to tell–for me anyways.

      • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

        The mother being the narrator totally fits this story! I hadn’t thought of that. It works really well, especially toward the end when we get images of the empty house that evoke some sadness because of the boys’ absence: “…when boys next enter the house, which they ultimately must do, it’s a relief, even if it’s only in preparation for weddings of acquaintances from boyhood…” (Moody 244). That, to me, is something a mother missing her children would say. I think most people can relate to seeing how much their parents or grandparents enjoy just having their children around again for the holidays or whatever school break comes up.

    • SarahStory February 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

      Interesting. It could be a parent or at least someone aware of adolescent stages and mindsets. However, the narrator knows too many private details, such as the words that remind them of sex, or how they held their sister’s hands when she was sick, for me to really believe it.

    • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      The narrator seems too smart ass to be either parent, too distanced, even bitter toward the boys. I see it more as one of the boys now grown up and a writer, looking back with a certain condemnation of his former self.

  21. Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    I agree that the story had an almost poetic feel to it. The author really has a great understanding of the cadence words have and how to fit them together. I think this is why so many of us found it so enjoyable to read.

  22. Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    hmmm, I’m not sure. I got the feeling that this narrator was not supposed to have a specific identity. I see what you’re saying about the details but I think that caring about tiny details is every author’s job.

    • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

      I think caring enough to add the details is the author’s job, yes. But having a compassionate, watchful voice as the narrator seems different to me.

      • Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

        fair enough. parts of it make me think this voice just couldn’t be a parent though. like the section you referenced that talked in detail about how they masturbate all the time. that just doesn’t seem like something a parent would say. (hopefully)

        • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

          (refer upwards, we had a bit of a conversation about that specifically up there, too!)

      • Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

        maybe one of the boys is the narrator. I would buy this as a person telling their own growing up story in a fond, bitter-sweet, nostalgic way.

        • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

          I don’t think either of of the boys have enough perspective to say all of that at the end.

  23. Laura Seeber February 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    I agree with Alli, I don’t think the story is supposed to wrap up neatly in the sense it makes it more realistic for me that they learned a lesson.

  24. Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    “…here’s where the boys are standing, as that beloved man is carried out. Boys, no longer boys, exit.”

    I think it is interesting that the boys are no longer “boys” once the father has died (at least that is my interpretation), not when they first experienced death [i.e. their sister’s].

    • Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      Maybe it has something to do with the fact that now they are the men of the house.

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      True. It makes me wonder if they now have to fulfill the role of “men” now that the man in their life is no longer around.

      • jessicasiverly February 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

        The story is a circle. Meaning it begins with their birth (right?) and ends with the father’s death. It is the circle of life–literally. The form seems to lend to this idea as well. I never felt boxed in by the prose. It was constantly moving. In some ways it reminds me of that short story “Once more to the Lake.” I’m not sure why, but it does.

    • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      I agree! It feels like, with the loss of their father, they no longer have an excuse to be “boys,” they must now be men and perhaps take care of their mother. It calls into question what defines a man too: is it attitude, responsibility level, a job, living on your own, or something else entirely?

      • Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

        Thats very true, whats interesting is that we don’t really know any of these things about these twins, all we really know is that their beloved Dad is gone now, and somehow that event has made them men.

    • Padraic Price February 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

      well there has always been a relationship between the death of a boy’s father and him truly becoming a man (hence the psychological concept of metaphorically kill your father). The idea is that the boy now takes his father’s place in the world. I think that is connected to what Maggie said about them now being the men of the house. Also, there is something very specific about the death of either parent that simply ends the state of childhood. The loss of the sister is tragic but as children their reality is defined by their parents. traditionally a person becomes an adult when they leave their parents behind. If a parent dies, it forces that transition immediately.

  25. alexandrapalmisano11 February 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    This piece outlined the life of two twin boys. As they grew, they experienced the similarities of each other but they both end up growing into there own identity. We are able to see this through subtle changes, like the changes of there clothing. Other things distinguished the difference such as one was more athletic and the other strayed from the typical jock scene. I thought it was a little difficult to tell the difference between who was who exactly.Together, they both experience just about all aspects of life as they grow up from picking on there sister, to her illness, all the way to masturbation and girls, and ending with the death of there father when they turn into men. Moody used the repetitive line of “Boys entered the house.” I thought that the repetition of this line was odd yet it added to the story to show that even though all these events take place in ones life you’re not completely grown up until you actually are on your own and must take the place of your father. However, as I think about it more, I think that what is more odd is the house. Moody uses it as almost like an incubator for the boys. They always come back to the house and are protected. I thought that the concept of the house was really interesting and unique.

    I really liked the last line two sentences of the piece. “Boys hold open the threshold, awesome threshold that has welcomed them when they haven’t even been able to welcome themselves, that threshold which welcomed them when they had to be taken in, here is its tarnished knocker, here is its euphonious bell, here’s where the boys had to sand the door down because it never would hang right in the frame, here are the scuff marks from when boys were on the wrong side of the door demanding, here’s where there were once milk bottles for the milkman, here’s where the newspaper always landed, here’s the mail slot, here’s the light on the front steps, illuminated, here’s where the boys are standing, as that beloved man is carried out. Boys, no longer boys, exit.”

    I thought that these sentences really captured the house and how the boys were transformed within the house. It shows that the door of the house was always opened for them even when they didn’t feel like they belonged. It also seems to show that it was a burier if the boys did not agree with there parents. But most of all it shows how the house was always there for them to come back to. The last sentence makes it seem like they walked out of the house without its support to rely on and they were finally on there own and considered men.

    • Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      Yeah, I thought that “awesome threshold” line was pretty striking, and it immediately calls to mind the “liminal” aspect of a coming-of-age story. The stories are always about crossing some boundary into adulthood. I think someone else mentioned earlier how for the whole story the boys are “entering the house,” but at the end they “exit” into the world. I think it’s neat how the threshold is there in the story the whole time, but I didn’t really take notice of it until the story directly mentions it.

      • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:48 am #

        Kudos for using “liminal.” You’re officially ready for graduate school.

  26. Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Did anyone else think the boys were twins? I got that they were brothers for sure, but they came across to me as twins specifically. I think that if they are twins, that gives the story even more depth. It adds the element of twins experiencing this need to be the same/similar or even better than their twin, and shows how each boy develops and matures in his own way. I can’t speak from experience, as I’ve never had a twin, but this is something that I’ve witnessed among friends who have a twin.

    • alexandrapalmisano11 February 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Yes, I thought they were twins. I feel like twins are usually grouped together especially when they are younger and the story gave that feeling and then finally at around the third page started to distinguish the differences between them.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Yeah, I understood them to be twins. They both are “wound into hospital packaging, boys of infant pattern baldness…” And later I think it even states “twin boys…”

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      It says they’re twins on the first page: “Twin boys, kettles on the boil, boys in hideous vinyl knapsacks….”
      And yes, this does add a whole dimension to the story, which wouldn’t exist if they were just brothers.

      • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

        Gotcha. I must have missed that it said outright that they were twins. Still, it really does seem to add something to the story. As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed reading about each of them finding his own way and developing his own personality, separate from that of his brother’s.

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 10, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      I definitely read it as twins. I hadn’t even considered the option that they weren’t twins actually. They just have this twin vibe. They grow up doing everything together, and despite a few differences have a very connected and coherent childhood. They part as the story goes on, but I feel that is just typical of life. Reading the story as them not being twins would definitely change my perspective of things, because it was almost more emotional to me that twins would grow so far apart rather than brothers who are not twins.

  27. Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Some people have mentioned how it’s neat that the list form was able to have such an emotional impact.There’s hardly any dialogue or many classical elements of a story, but occasional lines such as “The boys are ugly, they are failures, they will never be loved, they enter the house,” really make you sympathize with them. Are there any lines that really struck you all as you were reading?

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      Definitely “knapsacks coated with baby saliva and staphylococcus and milk vomit.” Just a portion of a line, I know, but we have a tendency to only think of babies in terms of cuteness and ignore the fact that they can often be pretty gross too.

    • Alli February 10, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      To be honest, the entire last page and a half struck me and made me feel for them. It was the sense of finality, I think.

    • SarahStory February 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      A line that stuck out to me: “one boy writes home and thereby enters the house only through a mail slot…” This was such an unexpected way of thinking of a person entering a house. Yet it’s true. The presence of person is carried in their writing, especially in letters sent home.

      • Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

        I really loved that line, it definitely stood out to me too. I hadn’t thought of someone entering the house in that way either, but it makes perfect sense. Especially nowadays when people will rely on email, texting or Facebook instead of letters. Someone’s handwriting is so personal and is a part of them, and a letter is obviously a person’s thoughts as well. This was such a beautiful way of describing a person’s presence.

      • Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

        Yeah, I liked that line a lot too. I thought it was a creative way of showing how the boy was still tied to the house but his attachment to it was breaking off. Also it’s an odd way to think about a letter, that when what you wrote enters the house, your presence does too. It’s a pretty interesting idea packed into just a few words.

    • Maggie February 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      I actually really liked that line as well, it called to mind the conception that boys aren’t as worried about appearances as girls are, and I feel like that line really went inside the growing boys mind, because they are self-conscious, and having a hard time with adolescence just like girls.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      I like how there is the line about how both of them bring home girls and fail to get the girls into their [boys’] shared bedroom, and then the next line “Boys enter house, go to separate bedrooms.”

    • alexandrapalmisano11 February 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      “Boys, two of them, wound into hospital packaging, boys with infant pattern baldness, slung in the arms of parents, boys dreaming of breasts, enter the house.” I really liked this line because it’s the first time they mention the boys entering the house and it gives a really good visual of the parents bringing them home.

      • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

        I think I actually stopped reading for a second here to marvel at the “dreaming of breasts” bit. That was so clever! It could just be babies dreaming of breasts and therefore food. But it also points forward to adolescence and the boys becoming aware of their sexuality.

    • Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      And that’s their own point of view, filtered through the narrator.

  28. Kristel_E February 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I already mentioned that I agree with Carrie’s idea of the narrator being the mother, and I think that fits extremely well. The other thought I had was of the narrator possibly being the house they grew up in, I think this is something that could work as well.

  29. Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    One of the discussion questions asks about the “moment of change” in the story. For me, it was the sister’s illness and death. That “scene” is longer than the others, almost an entire page it devoted to it, while the other snapshots of the boys lives typically only have a few sentences. After that, the boys seem to grow apart in a more permanent way than ever before in the story, it’s kind of the “point of no return” for them.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 10, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      At first glance, I thought the moment when the boys split off from each other was “One boy enters the house sporting basketball clothes, the other wearing jeans and a sweatshirt,” but I remembered only a few sentences earlier, when the boys are in baseball gear, that “(only one of the boys can hit).” It could be possible that in that moment, the boys realized that they were different.

      • alexandrapalmisano11 February 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

        I agree. I think that was when most of the differences between the two boys began to come up.

        • Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

          Well, I think that the boys began to develop their own identities when they were much younger, but they are still always together. Soon after the sister’s death, however, they seem to be more uneasy with each others company, and begin to lose the closeness that they’ve had throughout the story.

    • RukiG February 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      I’d argue that there are two main ones. This is the first, but I think the father’s death is another. Broadly, the sister’s death leads to the boys growing apart, but the father’s death really brings them together again. We a lot of “one boy (this) and the other boy (that)” between the sister’s death and the father’s, but every sentence after the father dies begins with boys. They’re always a collective unit after his death.
      So, I guess I’d say (in response to another question up above) that the story doesn’t really have a typical shape. There are multiple moments of conflict rather than one and I’m not sure anything is really “resolved” at the end.

      • Caitlin Lawler February 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

        That’s an interesting observation, that the sister’s death separates the boys, but the father’s fishing trip & death ends up bringing them together. The fishing trip was a kind of surface-level way of trying to repair the distance that had strained the boys’ relationship, and it ends up uniting them in a much more fundamental way; grieving over the father’s death.

  30. Kelly Daniels February 11, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    You guys are GREAT. Love this discussion thread and wish I’d have been there for it!

  31. Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    Hey class. You guys around?

  32. Laurens van Kessel January 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    First?

  33. Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    To me, the biggest “formal oddity” was how for the most part, every sentence started with the word “boys.” In typical writing, you’re expected to give a variety in your sentences, and to not start every paragraph with the same words. I guess Moody didn’t have to worry about that quite as much because the whole story is just one giant paragraph. It’s like an information dump, but it also flows into a story that I really enjoyed reading.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

      Yes, he definitely breaks rules here, but he follows other rules. The sentences often start with the same word, but they vary greatly in terms of length and structure. It reads quite musically in the head.

      • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

        I loved the way the word ‘boys’ was so central to the work and I also enjoyed the musicality it lent to the story. The ongoing, almost rambling nature of the narrative pleased me as well because I think that’s the way we think, in long, sometimes unorganized sentences that run into one another and intersect each other. The stream of consciousnesses format can be hard to follow, but in this story I found it fit well.

    • Laurens van Kessel January 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

      True! The first few sentences I didn’t know what Moody was going for, but soon the opposite was happening. The ultra-focus on the boys made me very curious about their development.

  34. Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    Something I found really interesting about this story was the way in which it was a ‘coming of age’ tale. It most certainly is a story about that – I don’t think that’s hard to see – but the way in which it becomes that story is what’s interesting to me. I think that in most coming of age stories, the person will have come of age at an age younger much than these boys in the story. Through all of their experiences, both good and bad, they enter and leave this house, their childhood home, and grow and change accordingly. But it isn’t until they are older – until, it seems, they both no longer live in this house, and one of them is married – and their father dies, that they finally seem to come of age. It isn’t until this major event happens, this tragedy that brings them together and into the house once more, that these boys become men. The atypical nature of this coming of age drew me in, and made me wonder why all of these other events that changed them somehow weren’t grand enough to make them into men.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

      You’ll likely learn that we don’t ever quite manage to “come of age.” You always have more lessons to learn, even at the end. That said, I agree. Moody is saying boys don’t become men until their father’s die. My father is still alive, by the way, which may explain some things about me.

    • Laurens van Kessel January 14, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      Also, the obviousness and almost bluntness of describing them coming of age really created some hilarious (couple of) sentences!

    • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      It’s also interesting that when all of this stuff happens, when they start to come of age is when they start to develop their own personalities. During their childhood, they are one and the same–they do everything together, like causing trouble in the neighborhood and messing with their sister. It seems to me like they were that kind of identical twins that people couldn’t tell apart. A package deal. Then when they’re teenagers, they do the same things, except they do them on their own, like when they start to bring girls home. When they come of age is when they drift apart. There are certain characteristics about each boy, like that one shaved a part of his hair and the other had long hair and wore tie-die. We don’t know who they are, though. We don’t know which brother was the one who got a DUI. Because at the same time, while they’ve become different, they’re still kind of the same.

      • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

        That’s interesting- I never thought of the possibility of them being twins, although I did assume they were close in age since they did so much stuff together growing up. But now that you said that, I see it making a lot of sense. And even if they aren’t twins – and I guess it doesn’t really change the story if they are or aren’t twins – you’re right in saying that even when they drift from one another and change, they are ‘still kind of the same’. We read the whole story grouping them together, these two ‘boys’, who are essentially the same until they eventually begin to grow apart, but the ending sees them together once more and helps the reader realize that they concept of the ‘boys’ has them acting as maybe a larger metaphor for boys just in general.

  35. Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

    What stood out the most to me about “Boys” was the initial usage of the third person plural. I’ve previously read some stories that experimented with the first person plural, but the effect was rather different. To me the third person plural worked to create a great unity between the brother’s, which in turn made the impact of their divide greater later on. In example pretty much every sentence started with “Boys…” or “The boys…” until the sentence starting with “One boy…” (243) appeared.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

      Nice point.

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      This was a cool technique. It almost made the boys universal, like anyone could go through the same experience they did. Or that we all, in some way are the boys or their family.

      • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

        I noticed that, too. While everything that happened to the boys was specific and true to them, it also seemed like that could be the story of any boy, or most boys. While they fit the stereotypes of rowdy twin boys, it also felt extremely personal. Like as if through following expectations, we really got to know these boys as individuals.

  36. jessicaiam221 January 14, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    The most apparent formal oddity of this story for me was the way it told a story though a list. Also, the way in which the list was very simple at first. I could actually picture the boys growing up each time they walked through the door way, which for me, was a different way to look at a list. I wasn’t aware that it could actually tell a story.

    • Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      That’s a really cool point. Particularly how, as you mentioned, the items on the list parallels their lives by becoming more complex as they grow older and as their lives becomes harder.

  37. Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    One of the aspects of this story that I found so intriguing was that none of the characters were named, yet the reader was able to discern all the characters from each other and connect to them all. We learn about and relate to the boys as a pair, and then as individuals as they grow up and change. We feel bad for the sister that they antagonize, and connect with the family as they go through her sickness. We understand the mother and the father as more than simply stock characters, but as detailed persons. The fact that the author was able to bring that all across without the use of any proper names (whether characters or places) is very interesting.

    • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

      This fact intrigued me as well, and I didn’t really notice that it did until I just read your post! It’s weird that we’re used to reading stories that for the most part give us names of characters, and so when we don’t get that, it can be unnerving. But as you’re saying, I didn’t feel like that detracted from the intimacy of the story at all. I really felt like I knew these boys – whoever they were – and their family, despite not knowing their first names. I think it’s a nod to the success of this story that the author achieved this level of intimacy and didn’t have to name his characters in order to do so.

      • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

        You make a good point here about how intimate the story is. I grieved with the family over the sister’s illness and the father’s death. I felt really connected to them. I think this may be because of the nameless characters. It makes them more universal – allowing the reader to connect in a variety of ways.

        • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

          I find this so interesting. You say you grieved with them, and felt connected to them – I totally did too, and it seems so strange that we could both feel this way even without knowing them names, a fact that could potentially disconnect us from them, not make us feel things for them. And you’re right about this making them more of a general, universal idea – as if these boys and their family could be anyone, really, having these sorts of experiences. Like they could be our next door neighbors.

  38. nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    I think the oddity in the story is that you don’t get names of any of the characters. All your get is Boys, mom, dad, sister, but they aren’t called like Marshall or Suzie or anything. As to how it affects the narrative, it has a poem-esque feel because of the repetition of Boys do … Boys enter … It makes the reader focus on the action of the boys and what they are doing. So I guess the narrative function is that the focus never leaves the Boys. Everything is told about their actions and sometimes the repercussions of those actions. It tells the story through them.

    • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

      I really liked the fact that nobody was named because it made it feel more universal. We don’t have a name, or a place to tie them down to. They could be anywhere, and it’d still feel right. This story is like a beautiful way to explain the mundane.

      • Tyler Greene January 14, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

        I also agree. I have a younger brother, and by leaving the names blank, Moody let’s the audience superimpose whatever they want into the characters. For me, some of the things these two did remind me of things I did with my brother when we were younger. Moody’s story of growing up as brothers really hit home for me.

  39. writerandrea13 January 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    (Andrea Grubaugh) Question one: Formal oddity, how does it effect the basic function, what is it’s narrative function.

    I agree with Renee, in that the biggest and most obvious formal oddity in the story is how nearly every sentence starts with the word ‘boys’. Not only does it sound strange, since it sort of sounds like bad grammar, or the kind of thing you would see in a poem rather than a story, but it also grabs your attention. The concept of names and ‘identity’ (or at least the way we think of identity) is thrown out and neither boy is given a name, yet we still see them both develop into full characters. It’s narrative function is to simply point out the main characters – as well as the main theme, which is growing up with a sibling – of the story over and over again. It’s strange, but it never gets too distracting or repetitive, and it actually helps the story flow.

  40. Dan O'leary January 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    I agree with Renée. The story has a kind of anaphora the way it starts most of the sentences with “boys,” “the boys,” or some variation. This unusual technique maintains the focus on the two boys, everything in the story is about them and how they interact with the house/family. For me the repetition sped up how the story read.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      Kudos for using “anaphora.” Computer says that word’s misspelled cuz the computer isn’t smart enough to know it.

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

      The repetition does speed up the reading, and the author did a great job of controlling the rhythm by varying the length of the sentences. That way the story didn’t run away without us leaving the reader lost, and the repetition didn’t get redundant or boring.

      • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

        Consider how much time passes, how much “story” is told, is so few pages. That’s this story’s great achievement, I think. Speed and economy.

        • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

          And even though the story is told in so few pages, I don’t feel like I missed anything significant in their lives. At the end of the story, I still feel like I know all the characters and got the “whole story” in such a short time.

          • Dan O'leary January 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

            Right, in spite of it’s length, there is an appropriate distance between the narrator and the boys, as well as the events. It never goes in too close to whats happening so the plot is constantly moving. Even the more significant parts of the story, where the sister dies, where the father dies, are given about as much time, as other pieces of the narrative, their early terrorizing tendencies and male masturbation.

        • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

          I agree. I feel like if the author did expand any more the whole feel and pace of the story would fall flat. There’s just something so satisfying about such a quick passage of time. Without getting too descriptive about it, you’re still able to see how past events influenced the boys, but it just keeps going on as time does.

  41. Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    The term “sentence rhythm” is quite important to Moody. You can tap your foot to this story. It swings, in a way.

    • writerandrea13 January 14, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

      Yeah. He never really tries to be too fancy either. It seems to me like he would rather have it sound nice than try to paint an overly descriptive picture. He could’ve described the concoction the boys made and make it sound as disgusting as possible, but that wouldn’t have been necessary since he already listed the ingredients. You also feel like when he does use a word that’s a bit more descriptive, it isn’t out of place, and it’s never too long when compared to the simpler words. Everything just seems to fit.

  42. nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    Also, one of the things that struck me was how very cruel the boys were growing up. I know boys can be mean, but I found it disturbing when they made this whole concoction of deadly oils and stuff and they not only cooked it perfectly to perfection, but they tried to make their sister drink it. Then right after that, they smash some heirlooms. It made me wonder where the parents were during the story and what reasons they had for why the boys were such a destructive force.

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

      This shocked me too, but the story is told in so few pages that maybe these are just the big things that happened. Maybe the boys were sweet a lot of the time, or punished for what they did, but those points didn’t make it into the story that’s told. They weren’t what the author chose to focus on in their lives.

      • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

        You need conflict in fiction, and if these guys weren’t horrible, at least part of the time, or if horrible things didn’t happen, I just don’t see a story like this working. But yeah, I wasn’t on these boys’ side for the most part.

      • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

        That is kind of interesting to think about what the author didn’t capture. If that is true, couldn’t the author just be knit-picking moments to show that the boys are good, divisive, and bad? What if the author decided to only show the good moments, where they maybe reconciled with their actions when they were younger or when they treated their sister poorly?

  43. writerandrea13 January 14, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Question 2: Find a long sentence, dissect it, and tell us what you think.

    One of the longest sentences is on page 240, where the boys enter the house and decide to mix together several different foods and ingredients, cook it, try to get their sister to eat it, smash some heirlooms, and get sent to their room. The first thing to note about this sentence is the length he goes to describe all fourteen ingredients the boys mix together. This helps with the physical description, since he doesn’t bother to add any gross or disgusting adjectives to make the image clearer – he simply lets the list do it. Having just a list also helps with the flow of the sentence, since none of the words seem too long or too short when compared to each other, making it easy to read. Combining two acts into the same sentence also helps us see just how mischievous and troublesome the boys are, especially since the sentence makes it seem like they did these things back to back. Even without adjectives or a ton of description, Moody is able to perfect capture what an afternoon is like with two kid terrors.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

      Nicely put.

    • Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

      The aspect of story chronology is rather interesting. I also choose this passage for the second question, but didn’t look into the time of it. And as you say, having all that happen in one sentence assures the reader that it all happens in a relatively quick succession, and by doing so it increases the pacing slightly of this passage

  44. Tyler Greene January 14, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    To start, the formal oddity of this story would have to be the repetition of “Boys enter” to begin a new description of what the boys are doing. Moody uses this repetition to paint little vignettes of two twin boys and how they grow into men, together, from their birth to their father’s death from the point of view of the house that they live in. Moody starts the story with “Boys enter the house,” and continues writing choppy sentences, painting very small pictures of the boys in their infancy. The audience is only shown more of the boys as they mature through snapshots of them entering the house in various states. This is used to show time passing.

    As the boys grow in the story, the sentences begin to grow as well. For example, “Two boys, one striking the other with a rubberized hot dog, enter the house,” occurs just a couple sentences into the story. Later on, presumably when the boys are in grade school, Moody explains, “boys enter the house at the end of term carrying report cards, sneak around the house like spies of foreign nationality, looking for a place to hide the report cards for the time being (under a toaster? in a medicine cabinet?).” Their maturity continues to grow using sentence length, as well as content matter (Maoist insurgency views, weddings of friends) until they reach the climax of the story, where their father dies. Moody writes “here’s where the boys are standing, as that beloved man is carried out. Boys, no longer boys, exit.” The boys exiting the house, no longer boys, but men, marks the end of this coming-of-age story.

    • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

      “Their maturity continues to grow using sentence length” – that is an interesting thought to consider, one that I didn’t notice until you just pointed it out. This is exactly what happens though, doesn’t it? That as we get older our thoughts become better formed, longer, hopefully more intelligent, and begin to contain more information because we’ve been learning. But our lives – just like this story – are bookended by short, concise happenings. We’re born, and we die. The story beings “boys enter the house, boys enter the house” and ends with “Boys, no longer boys, exit”. No matter what happens in between, or what maturing and lengthening occurs, we will always come back – just as Moody’s story does – to the beginning, full circle.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

      Love this connection between the sentence mechanics and the characters.

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

      I think you’ve grabbed on to something here that’s really crucial to the story – that the main story is told in the entrance to the house. The story is all about who enters it and, in the end, who leaves it. This gives the story a much different feel than if it had been all about what went on inside the house (though we get a little of this too). Having an entrance as a center point to a story opens it up to a lot of possibilities.

    • Dan O'leary January 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

      I didn’t notice that about sentence length but you’re completely right.

  45. Dan O'leary January 14, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    I think we begin to see the twins distinguish themselves and separate once they experience the tragedy of their sister(243). After she dies we see the boys have differing political views, personal choices, and we see them forming their own characters. I liked this choice by Moody. Although I don’t have a twin, I have a brother, and we used to much more similar than we are now, things changed as we grew up. I think Moody is showing here that no matter how similar people are, even twins, everyone may handle grief and adversity differently. This difference may have caused a chasm in their relationship as they realized they aren’t as similar as they thought.

  46. Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    As the second question indicates, Moody writes long sentences now and then, and I think this was a way for him to create some variation in his story, despite having most sentences start with the same words. In example on page 240, there is a sentence that starts on line 7 and goes through line 21, so about half of the page. It narrates the boys attempt at making a rather nasty, possibly lethal, lasagna and feeding it to their sister. In some ways this was a way for Moody to cheat his own rules for this story, since it created variation in the story and I almost forgot the “Boys…” pattern.

    • jessicaiam221 January 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

      I agree with this. Without the variation the longer sentences gave, it would have sounded very monotone and not as interesting. Even though he did write a lot of sentences starting with “Boys….” it didn’t seem to be too much at any one point.

  47. jessicaiam221 January 14, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    One of the first times the twins start to distinguish themselves from one another is when, on page 6, one boy comes in wearing basketball clothes, the other wears jeans and a sweatshirt. One has to get stiches, the other just watches. One brings home a sweetheart while the other is only distant and withdrawn. One has a beard, the other has side burns, one wears khakis and the other wears jeans and a tie-dye shirt. The basic difference seems to be that one of the boys is more outgoing and likes to play sports and be adventurous while the other one likes to be more withdrawn and watch from the side lines.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

      Good analysis.

    • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

      When this began to happen in the story, I definitely related and was saddened by it. I think anyone who grows up with a sibling, not just a twin, experiences this drifting at some point. As the boys that were once almost thought of as a singular entity begin to become different from one another, the style of writing changes, as a lot of people have pointed out above. This is so true to how these things actually work in real life, I think. Attitudes change, and circumstances shift, because growing up is a tricky business and everyone handles it differently, especially these two boys.

    • Laurens van Kessel January 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

      I felt like maybe the differences the boys had not necessarily contributed to the way the boys specifically were different from each other, but also to the universal part of the story. Family is for everyone. Family is a thing that brings the outgoing type as well as the withholding type together.

  48. Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    The house is a character of its own, as well. It seems as though it’s the house that makes the boys come back. There’s never a line that says, “The boys came back to visit their mother.” It always starts with, “Boys enter the house.” The house has its own personality, and is also the secret keeper of everyone within the house. Even though the boys move out, it’s always the house they go back to. Even when their father dies, they enter the house to take the dad out. I really liked the last few lines when it says, “Boys hold open the threshold, awesome threshold that has welcomed them when they haven’t even been able to welcome themselves.” It’s the house that let them grow up, that hold all of their memories and it’s the house that helps them become men.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

      Yes!

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

      I really loved that line too. I think it’s powerful – how a house and a past can welcome you always. That’s what home is supposed to be, right? A place where you are always welcome, even if you can’t welcome yourself.

    • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

      Which I found strange because they never really visit the house other than to come back for emergencies or to pop in and show they are alive.

    • Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

      That’s a nice point. I kind of wonder if Moody was going for having the house be a bit like family, as a representation of sorts. It’s something that ties them together, and even if they don’t visit it at the same time at some points of the story. It’s something they simply can’t abandon and that they keep coming back to.

      (We could probably also make an argument for what a home is, uniting, etc.)

    • Dan O'leary January 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

      I love how Moody frames the boys in the end. How they started as these destructive monsters that I don’t think any reader would like, but by the end, we see their matured personas in place, reflecting on the “awesome” house that raised them and gave them a multitude of memories.

    • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

      Yes! I was thinking something along the same lines as this. I loved that line at the end as well, and the idea Jamie pointed out that a home really is supposed to be that, a place that will welcome you back when you can’t welcome yourself. A line earlier on that reminds me of this is “The boys are ugly, they are failures, they will never be loved, they enter the house.” And yet inside the house they aren’t unloved, and they aren’t ugly, because they house is a welcoming haven from these thoughts, and though the boys might not see this at a young age, they come to realize it as adults and regret not appreciating it more.

  49. nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    As for question 3: I noticed the boys started splitting apart right after their sister’s death, when one boy shaves part of his head and one has super long hair. The divide increases when they argue about politics, an act that is mostly reserved for grown-ups, and when one brings home a sweetheart, but then their differences become similarities as they don’t enter the house for a long time. I think the difference is that one is more about doing anything to attain freedom while the other is trying to change things from the inside, as seen from their discussion on the Maoist insurgency debate they had.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

      One is punk, the other hippie. Does that sound right? I don’t have the text in front of me now.

      • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

        Yeah that sounds about right since the one with the long hair wore a tie-dye shirt and the other wearing a dark colored shirt

        • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

          If not punk, then a kind of artist look.

        • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

          But while I was looking at that, I noticed that the word “uncharacteristically” was put before the tie-dye shirt, insinuating that the long hair boy wasn’t a hippie.

  50. jessicaiam221 January 14, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    The story is the telling of the boys lives. I think the moment of change is when the boys find out their sister has cancer. Before this, the boys seem very much like young boys; terrorizing their sister by hiding her dolls in the yard, etc. Then, after they find out about the tragedy, they seem to mature as if the event has made them grow up faster. This can be seen when they go out and try to find the dolls they hid years before without luck. Then, after their father dies, it seems like they have to grow up more and that this is what breaks the boys apart a little. Because after this event, they seem to enter the house at different times and it seems that they don’t speak to each other as often. Death and tragedy definitely has a huge influence in this story.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

      And they pay for their cruelty to their sister big time. Talk about guilt. Part of growing up is learning about consequences, and learning that you can’t take things back. Once you do something, it’s done.

    • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

      I saw them grow up a lot too when this happened. I saw this particularly in the line: “boys enter the house, embarrassed, silent, anguished, keening, afflicted, angry, woeful, griefstricken.” A huge mix of emotions that are very adult, very potent, and it’s sad that these boys must bear them at their age, and bear the tragedy of their sister having cancer. This tragic event matures them, and I think leads them to their eventual coming of age when their father dies, and I think that’s very true to what happens in real life. Events like that shape a person, and these boys are most certainly being molded by things that go on around them.

      • Tyler Greene January 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

        I’m interested to see where the two men go from after their father’s death. When their sister died, it started to mark the point where the two split down two different paths. They both probably had to deal with it in different ways, possibly leading to the rocky relationship for a couple years. Now that they have been brought back together again, how are they going to handle their father’s death, no longer as boys, but as men?

    • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

      I liked this part a lot because I feel like it’s the little brother’s job of some sort to be mean to their sisters. At least that’s the kind of expectation you get in books and movies. We are supposed to know that even though they do all these horrible things to her, that they really do love her. It’s just hard for them that they realize it only when she’s gone. While we don’t get as much insight to how the boys interacted with their dad, like we do with the sister, I think it might be more or less the same thing. With their bad behavior as kids, they probably also gave their dad hell. And then they don’t realize how much they love him until he’s gone. They forget to appreciate what they had until it’s too late.

      • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

        Maybe that’s part of what makes them men instead of boys. They begin to realize how short life is and how their actions affect their lives and the lives of those around them.

  51. writerandrea13 January 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    Question 3: At what point do the twins start to distinguish themselves from one another? Can you briefly describe the basic difference between the two?

    They start to distinguish themselves as early on as the third page of the story, where it’s briefly mentioned that only one of the boys can hit the ball. Before this point, the boys did everything together and shared the same thoughts, so even something as small as one of them not being good at a sport is enough to be noticeable. The next big distinguishing moment is when it’s mentioned that they come in wearing different clothes – one in a basketball uniform and the other just in a sweatshirt. Again, something as small as a difference in outfits is made so much more significant because of the previous pages and how indistinguishable the boys used to be. We still see them doing things together, but it’s from this point on that we start getting to see them as two different people rather than two boys that are the same.

    The basic difference is that one boy is stronger and good at sports, while the other is weaker (and gets picked on a lot because of it) and enjoys theater. When they get older, they adapt different styles (one bit even describes them as one wearing a tie-dye shirt and the other wearing dark colors) and develop different political views. Later on, one becomes more outgoing while the other becomes more withdrawn. We never know who changes into what, but that isn’t the point. The big theme here seems to be opposites and growing apart, despite being so similar while they were younger – and even sharing the same experiences when they were older, such as smoking, drinking and masturbation.

    • Laurens van Kessel January 14, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

      I felt like maybe the differences the boys have not only contributes to the way the boys specifically are different from each other, but also to the universal part of the story. Family is for everyone. Family is a thing that (in the end) can bring the outgoing type as well as the withholding type together.

  52. Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    When the boys separate, they still stay universal which is interesting in terms of the story as a whole. One is sporty while another is more quiet. One is more business-like and conservative while the other is more outspoken in terms of ethics and morals of business. These are almost stereotypical dividing lines in siblings and families, and this allows the universality of the story to continue.

    • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

      I agree. There’s almost no way for a family to agree with everything all the time, especially when everyone gets older. Even though I don’t have a twin, I feel like this divide is relatable to most people.

  53. Tyler Greene January 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    “At what point do the twins start to distinguish themselves from one another? Can you briefly describe the basic difference between the two?”

    The boys begin to distinguish themselves from one another, in my opinion, is when they begin to play sports. The sentence, “Boys enter the house in baseball gear (only one of the boys can hit),” marks the first point where the boys aren’t always doing things together, at the same time. In later sentences, the boys continue to do things together such as smoke cigarettes, feel shame over their actions while going through puberty, but they split again once they go away to college. Moody describes one boy wearing dark colors and shaving a portion of their head and the other having grown his hair out longish and wearing a tye-dyed t-shirt. In my reading of this, it sounds like one is more of a jock, and the other is more of a hippy type. The boy more like a hippy is most likely the one mentioned earlier, who didn’t play sports as well.

  54. jessicaiam221 January 14, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    A longer sentence in this story is, “Boys enter the house, starchy in pressed shirts and flannel pants that itch so bad, fresh from Sunday School instruction, blond and brown locks (respectively) plastered down, but even so with a number of cowlicks protruding at odd angles, disconsolate and humbles, uncertain of boyish things – such as shooting at the neighbor’s dog with a pump action bb gun and gagging the fat boy up the street with a bandana and showing their shriveled boy – penises to their younger sister – are exempted from the commandment to Love the Lord they God with all thy heart and with all they might, and they neighbor as thyself” on page 240-241. It seems that when Moody uses long sentences, they build as the sentence continues. This sentence starts out with “Boys enter the house” a phrase that we’ve read a lot by this point in the story, but then the list builds and builds until the crescendo one of the Ten Commandments and that seems to be the needle that pops this ever growing balloon of a sentence. Writing this way makes the story even more interesting and I think is a smart way of writing because I don’t think that if Moody had just written a list and left out the building sentences, that this story would be as exciting and interesting to read.

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

      I agree. The building sentences help divide up the repetition of “the boys” and create the flow that makes this piece fun to read.

      • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

        I agree too- the rhythm of the story is dependent on these changes, these ‘crescendos’ as you say. Like any piece of music, there are loud and soft parts, and parts that build to a climax. I think the success of the rhythm and flow that the author has obtained is owed to his variety of sentence structures, and how the repetition of ‘boys’ varies and isn’t always repeated in the same way.

    • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

      His longer sentences could be independent stories from the main story. It’s really cool how he can put year’s worth of personality into a few line’s worth of a list.

  55. Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

    I would kind of want to say that this story do have some plot, but perhaps not following traditional models. It’s common to divide a story into introduction, escalation, climax and resolution, but since this story narrates the life of two people with a certain realism, there won’t be only one introduction or one climax, since they change over time and have to be reintroduced and also because there are several dramatic events in their lives with climaxes of their own.

    In example the super-long sentence on 240, about the presumably poisonous lasagna, had me freak out a little bit (it’s climax) and then when the sister didn’t eat it, and didn’t die I had some kind of resolution to that one story arch in their lives.

  56. Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    Great discussion so far. Let’s devote about ten minutes more to the final question, about what “happens.” How would you graph this story into plot points?

    • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      I like what Victor had to say about the plot following less of a continual arch and following more of the realistic life pattern of a bunch of smaller plots – each with their own introduction, build, climax, resolution, and conclusion. There is the overarching plot of the boys becoming men, but that plot line is formed out of so many smaller (and in some ways more dramatic) plot lines of events in their past.

      • Renée Millette January 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

        The plot structure is more like that “connect-disconnect” structure we talked about on Tuesday, instead of a build-up, climax, resolution structure. They come together and wreak havoc as kids, but also disconnect to their sister. They still share a room, but start dressing differently. The sister dies, but they come together at the end. One finds love while the other doesn’t. Finally at the end, when the father dies, they connect, but also disconnect again.

        • Jamie Hochmuth January 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

          That’s a great way to put it. And maybe it’s not a bad thing that they disconnect – it’s a way for them to live their own individual lives.

    • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

      I would graph it like this

      /\ /\———-
      -/\——/ \—–/\——-/

      The first bump would be puberty, where they start to change from boys to men. The second bump is where their sister dies and where the boys start to really change and drift apart from one another, the third smaller, middle bump would be the boys arguments and their changes as they find love and don’t find love. Then the last upwards spiral is them getting back together after their drunk driving accident and then their father’s death. The end trails off as the boys become men.

      • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

        darnit the reply changed the graph that I made 😦

        • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

          I think I get it. Nice graph in any event!

        • nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

          ………../\……………/\——- This should be the original one
          —/\—/…\—-/\—-/

  57. nwendtblog January 14, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    One thing I found strange with the story was the father’s death. From what I felt, the father wasn’t much of a presence in the the book, save early on when the story talks about how the boys follow their father around like he is the “Second Goddamned Coming of Christ Goddamned Almighty.” The father isn’t mentioned again until his death at the end of the story, where the boys become men. I was just wondering that since the boys split up during their college years, if they did the same with their relationship with their Mom and Dad. It just seemed weird to me that if they weren’t as attached to their father as they were when they were kids that they would be heavily impacted by his death.

    • writerandrea13 January 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

      Well, even if they weren’t attached to him, they didn’t hate him either. Either way, the death of a parent is pretty much THE indicator that your childhood is far behind you, and that it really is up to you to run your life, not mom and dad. There’s also the old idea of ‘becoming the man of the house’ once the father is gone, so in there minds that could’ve been the official indicator that they were men, despite their age and all they had gone through. So that just makes the hit of their father’s death even harder for them.

      • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

        I was going to say the same thing. My father is still alive, but I’m told that no matter your relationship with him, the death of one’s father is a huge, unexplainable thing.

  58. writerandrea13 January 14, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    Question 4: What “happens” in the story? Try to pinpoint each moment of change. Does the story have a conventional “plot”? If not, how would you describe the shape?

    Basically, the story is about growing up, as well as the tragedy growing apart from your family. The plot itself is very conventional, being something you would see out of a coming-of-age story, and just being an idea that has been around for hundreds of years – the story of a boy becoming a man. But, because we have two boys instead of one, and because of the way the story is presented, it becomes more unique and different from the other ‘growing up’ stories, even when familiar conflicts like death, differing opinions and talents, and moving out enter the story.

    Because there are two boys, we are able to compare and contrast not only the people they grow into, but how they react to various situations. When their sister dies, the two boys become opposites – with one becoming punk/goth while the other becomes a hippie. They take up different lifestyles, with one being able to find a girlfriend and be more social while the other becomes more reclusive. We see them grow apart and do things that they used to do together apart, and while these things are small like just entering the house together, seeing so many instances of the boys doing this before make it that much powerful when they start doing it separately. You feel their pain and the harshness of reality, and you’re able to feel sorry for them despite the fact that they aren’t great people, or that we don’t even know their names.

    The shape of the story is one giant timeline put into a paragraph form, with no breaks whatsoever. This is a perfect reflection of what growing up can feel like – a rush of experiences that never really slow down, and before you know it your childhood is over. One event flows into the other, and years pass by in only a few sentences, yet you never feel like you’re missing anything significant. Had the story been separated into paragraphs, I feel like it would’ve lost some of it’s flow and impact. But how it is now, it feels perfect for this story.

    • Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

      A short comment here. I didn’t even realize that the story consists of a single paragraph, and the point about life never taking any breaks is great. It keeps going with or without us.

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

      Yes. Wonderfully articulated.

    • Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

      “This is a perfect reflection of what growing up can feel like – a rush of experiences that never really slow down, and before you know it your childhood is over” – you’re completely right. I think that’s why I liked the continuity of this story, the way it never seemed to pause, because that’s exactly what growing up is like. You blink, and it’s happened. This story really feels like that to me.

    • Tyler Greene January 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

      I really like how Moody didn’t break up the paragraphs as you said. I tried to imagine the story with breaks like that but it doesn’t have the same poignancy. So much time passes before you even realize it because of the way it’s written, and by the end you look back in a daze to try to remember those experiences that stood out to you, much like in our own lives.

  59. Emma Stough January 14, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    If I had to physically graph this story out, I would have the first page-ish as a line leading up to the mini-climax of the sister’s death, then growing again and perhaps dividing into two separate lines that map out the twins divergence from one another as they grow up. These lines would steadily grow apart until they abruptly unite for the wedding, then the graph would depress for the event of the DUI, then spike again to achieve the tragedy of their father’s death. I see this graph as being very chaotic, just as the story seemed to me.

  60. Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    Here’s my shot at the plot: boys are born, terrorize sister, sister dies of cancer, boys grow apart, father dies, boys grow up.

  61. Dan O'leary January 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    I think the story has a fairly conventional plot, it shows a great amount of character development. The boys start of reckless and destructive, which I thought was fitting, coming from a collection of stories called demonology. However by the end, we see them as these very human, hurting individuals. halfway through the story they begin to distinguish themselves. it shows individual maturity. Boys is a “coming of age” story, I realized that early on. The plot starts off with these devilish, extremely similar twins. It then moves to a major conflict, the illness and death of their sister, and their feelings towards how they treated her. The story continues as they grow apart in personality, but still take care of their mother as they return to the house. The coming of age story ends when the character(s) grow up. In this story it is explicitly stated after the death of their father. “Boys, no longer boys, exit.”

    • Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

      Well put, and with that, let’s call it a day.

  62. Kelly Daniels January 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    Great job, all! You guys are rock stars of blog commenting. Let’s call it a day and I’ll see you tonight at the reading hopefully. Cheers!

  63. Victor Wagstrom January 14, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    To list the plot points in the story I would probably also list the phases of the boys’ lives. They start young and innocent, but they soon become mischievous by stealing their sister’s doll, and the story is close to taking a turn for the much worse with their poisonous concoction. Here they could have seriously harmed their sister, but they didn’t and they become more harmlessly misbehaved kids (smoking, bad grades, and getting in fights, but at least without killing anyone).

    Then they are teenagers with all that includes, until their sister gets sick and they grow once more, get ideals and opinions. Then they are closer to being grown up. Then their father dies and their adults.

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