||December 7, 2010
Novelized Memoir/Coming of age story. Set on the outskirts of Los Angeles in the 80's
'Becoming Johnny Nova' is author David Kupisiewicz's only slightly heated up account of his late adolescent years on the outskirts of L.A., navigating his taste for danger around beer, bikes, songs-and-bongs and attempted dating, with the encouragement of his mostly reprobate friends, and in the face of the stoic resistance of his archetypically disapproving parents. What lifts this book way above being merely a series of insidiously suspenseful tales of teenage rebellion told by a naturally gripping story-teller are the scrupulously recalled living portraits of those he interacted with, from Disappearing John to Reappearing Tony, from full-of-shit Frank to female-buddy Dianne, from rock 'n' roll perk Sweet Ass and Treacherous Sister to Drummer Andy, Arnie, Rocky and Jeff. If you can put this book down, you have never used a Frisbee as a pinch tray, never street-raced a Kawasaki 750, never sung in a rock 'n' roll band, never dived off a neck-breaking cliff just for the rush, and never fought for good against evil in the Battle of Chantry Flats with baseball bats and tire irons.
It was a dark and stormy night.
I’ve heard it said that there is a defining moment in everyone’s life, a moment where everything falls into place.
I don’t think that’s true.
For me, life didn’t change suddenly; there was no one moment where it all became clear.
There was however, a period in my life where I challenged and overcame the things that left me feeling stagnant and overwhelmed. It was a series of events that shaped who I would become.
This is how it happened for me…
I started the car and followed Arnie out of the gas station. Frank handed me a beer as I tried to keep up with Arnie on the freeway. We were weaving in and out of traffic when I saw the red and blue lights about five cars behind us.
The cassette player was at full volume, so I hadn’t heard the sirens I couldn’t get pulled over. It wouldn’t be just a speeding ticket. I wasn’t old enough to drink; we were both carrying weed, had a bong, and were driving a car that we had kinda stolen. If I were hauled in, it would mean at least one night in jail, huge fines, and death by grounding. I’d be grounded so long my friends would all be married by the time I got out of the house again.
The cop was almost behind me when I saw the freeway sign. It was a quarter of a mile to the next exit. Waiting till the last second, I gritted my teeth and whipped across two lanes of traffic onto the exit ramp. Well, almost onto it. I hit the curb and took some vegetation along for the ride.
The adventures and misadventures of becoming Johnny Nova,
If you were a teenager in the 80s, David Kupisiewicz's coming of age novelized memoir will probably bring back a lot of memories. As T. Hewston Le Roux says in his review, the author has "captured the life of a late teenager in a certain place (LA) at a certain moment in history, and you can smell the night, and the weed and probably David besides." Kupisiewicz's writing style pulls you right into the story and keeps you there through the ups-and-downs, raw emotions, drugs, sex, music, parties, insanity and dreams that were so much a part of being a teenager in Los Angeles (and many other places) in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Even an old guy like me for whom "bong" is the sound a bell makes can enjoy the book. I did.
that warm and fuzzy nostalgic feeling I so adore
That's what 'Becoming Johnny Nova' gave me.
From page one, David Kupisiewicz pulls you in with a giant bear hug, making you a part of the story. You are there in the car with him and his friends. Just the shy, quiet type, sitting there watching everyone else, but still present.
Some things David did, I've done and so I could relate -- and I was in awe with how he made me relive those moments. Experiences he'd had but I haven't ... I still was able to pretend I had. I walked away from the book thinking, "Hmmm, maybe I did that in high school or college and just don't remember."
I'm a bit biased as I adore books like this one, but it must be said that I have a definite Top 5 of all time ('Cherry' by Mary Karr being one of those five), and 'BJN' gave me the same feeling 'Cherry' did. Not to mention the great writing.
Some say writing a book is all about telling a story, which is true, but if the writing's not up there with the quality of storytelling, I'm not impressed.
'Becoming Johnny Nova' impressed me.
Oh David David David,
Never thought I'd carry around a book I couldn't put down but was afraid to go on to the next chapter. Punchy, witty, tongue-in-cheek, this was a fun read. Dave's tale of growing up in suburbia is a trip down memory lane. I've been to these places and I can show the same scars, even the ones that aren't on the outside. David's ode to becoming Johnny Nova aka "a man" gave me goosebumps, made me cry and of course laugh many times. His characters leaped of the pages and followed me around whether in my head or in the next chapter I have yet to dive into. Growing up is not easy for anyone. Dave and his friends showed how wild it can be growing up in Cali. I'm looking forward to your next rendition Dave and say hi for me to your sister, you know the treacherous one.
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