11 July 2014

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade by Kevin Brockmeier

What an interesting read.  I came across Filmstrip in an issue of Entertainment Weekly, if memory serves.  Seventh Grade was an interesting school year for me - one of my best, and one of my worst - and it stands out in my mind as the year that really kindled my love of writing.

Indeed, the silly stories my friends and I wrote in our school’s “IBM Writing Lab” (an after-school activity that put to use a bunch of old DOS machines with 2-color orange-and-black monitors) live on in memory and in practice, as the basis of the serialized story I am writing for my own personal amusement.

Filmstrip was nothing like I expected it to be, except this: it did, in fact, capture what Seventh Grade was like.  But the story was indeed a memoir, though one with the air of a dream: plot elements came and went, subconscious mixed with conscious, and there was even a bizarre existential crisis at one point.

The prose was so beautiful, at once rough as coal and polished as a diamond.  Does that make sense?  It was perfect in its imperfection.

My own Seventh Srade experience was different than Kevin’s; when I was in school, we had a dedicated middle school for Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grades, whereas Kevin went to a school for Seventh through Twelfth Grades.  So while he was at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole, I was in the middle of mine.

My year was overshadowed rather completely by a severe bout with depression, and so I could sympathize with Kevin, who struggles with his own feelings and tendency to cry a lot.  I was never weepy, but I definitely struggled.

I was fortunate in my friends: I entered Seventh Grade with the same close friends I left it with.  I never had the sort of epic falling-out that Kevin did.  Indeed, most of the friends I’ve lost throughout life have simply faded away, not exploded.  But I really felt for Kevin.  I went through plenty of bullying myself.

I think what Kevin captured so well is just how it felt to be a Seventh Grader.  On the cusp of being a teenager.  Not a kid anymore, but you’ve yet to hit that high school rebellious phase.

I’ve heard it said no one ever really leaves high school; maybe no one ever stops being in Seventh Grade, either.