Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Ben Marcus's "Cold Little Bird" was originally published in the October 19, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

October 19, 2015Ben Marcus is a semi-regular in the fiction pages of The New Yorker. Earlier this year, we got his “The Grow-Light Blues,” which got a mixed-to-negative response in the discussion here. His three others to have been discussed on this site were more favorably received: he first appeared with “Rollingwood” (discussed here), then “What Have You Done” (discussed here), and “The Dark Arts” (discussed here). From what I can see in the comments, Marcus is a welcome presence most of the time — is he wearing out that welcome? I’m anxious to see what you all think of “Cold Little Bird.”

Join in the conversation in the comments below!

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By | 2015-10-12T11:46:48+00:00 October 12th, 2015|Categories: Ben Marcus, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. jboscarino October 15, 2015 at 9:36 am

    This story kept me wanting to read to see how this thing would turn out. There’s a brief interview with Ben Marcus on newyorker.com, which I read after reading “Cold Little Bird”. Based on what Marcus said he was looking to achieve, how he describes Jonah’s transformation as having “agency” and how he was “most interested in the moments when it’s unclear how bad the situation is”, I’d say he was successful. So successful in fact that I found myself getting mad at Martin, the father in the story. Not so much for his temper tantrums, but for his refusal to accept his son’s requests to not be touched or to not want to be treated like a little boy. Which if you think about it is a little crazy. The way that Marcus has Jonah explain himself to his father, however, comes across as such effective logic that it was hard not to see Jonah’s requests and feelings as legitimate. This of course is all anathema to the feelings of any parent who might be in that situation. I’m not sure whether one can say Jonah’s behavior is justified, it just is, which adds to the chilling effect of the story.

    I almost was hoping for an ending that would provide me with more of an explanation or a resolution one way or the other. But that’s the point isn’t. That even a child, your very own child, has a mind of his own that may one day be unknowable. Coincidentally, or maybe purposefully by the editors, there is an article in this same issue by Malcolm Gladwell, “Thresholds of Violence” about the growing prevalence of school shootings and in that piece there are excerpts from an interview with a high school age boy who was (fortunately) caught by police before he could carry out his planned attack. The tone and manner of the fictional Jonah and that of the real life kid described by Gladwell in the piece seemed strikingly similar. Especially in their use of cold hard dispassionate logic and their coolness when questioned. Now that I think of it at the start of Marcus’ story I was half expecting it to maybe lead to a school shooting. But maybe that’s because I had read Gladwell ‘s piece prior.

    I don’t know if this is a great story, but it was definitely a good one. Good enough to hold me and not let go til the end.

  2. Adrienne October 15, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I have not been so stunned and haunted by a short story since I read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in high school.

    And I mean that in a good way – in a “falling over and dripping with inexpressible words of praise” kind of way.

    Wow.

    Read it AND listen to it on SoundCloud.

    Wow.

    A story with no real resolution at the end (amazing Chekhovian style!), and a possibility of hope, but that even that possibility isn’t solid. The only solid thing here is hurt. It is the only thing that is tangible and seemingly immovable.

    This story is not “inventive” – who said that fiction is more honest than truth? “Cold Little Bird” is realistic with spot-on dialogue, eerie insight into the mind of the male protagonist, and a truthful examination of the affects a child’s troubles can have on a marriage, a family.

    A husband and wife and their two sons. One very normal. One very not – or is he just “sarcastic” or “acting out” because of his parents’ tensions?

    Martin and Rachel respond to Jonah differently – and that is to be expected. One parent is a man and the other is a woman. And their reactions to each other’s response is completely understandable. The influence we have on those we love is fantastically deeper than we can imagine.

    “Grow-Light Blues” is the only other Ben Marcus story I have read… but I am convinced of his power as a story-teller. His tales are timely and well-crafted, touching uncomfortable topics in a unique way…

  3. Roger October 15, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I bet there are many parents of teenagers, or former teenagers, who can connect with this story. One of the things that makes it so effective is that it takes a real-life phenomenon — children growing up into beings no longer suitable for bedtime cuddling etc. — and exaggerates it by giving us a ten-year-old and having him suddenly become stone cold to his parents. The story is funny, scary, and moving all at the same time. The static ending disappointed me, and I think it’s interesting that in the interview, we learn that the ending resulted from a back-and-forth between Marcus and the New Yorker. I wonder how Marcus originally intended to end it.

  4. Trixxs October 15, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I felt as though the author took adolescence, thrust it upon a child, added some creepy factors, such as the 911 thing, and his behavior towards his brother, so that there does seem to be some agency behind it, and this hooks your interest. And then he drops the story completely with hardly an ending. There’s no story, then. Also, I just didn’t quite believe Jonah or his behavior. What is really good is the reaction of both parents, especially Martin. His humor and his humanity, his take on life.

  5. jboscarino October 16, 2015 at 3:38 am

    I’m glad to see a few readers who also felt a bit let down by the ending or lack thereof. But again, as I mentioned in my first post, I suppose this was done to heighten the sense of “unknowingness” that is this ten year old kid.

    I’d like to ask Adrienne, as I am like many I suppose, a big Chekhov fan, what it was about the story that you felt was Chekhovian? Do you see some similarity in writing style or ideas to Chekhov or was it just the unresolved ending? Chekhov being well known of course for not only breaking off a story without a definite resolution, but also starting a story that appears as if we were dropped somewhere in the middle.

    The story does indeed have the feel of being “more honest than truth” and now I must take your recommendation and listen on SoundCloud.

  6. jboscarino October 16, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Trixxs…I’m with you on Martin, his humanity and take on life which is, I suppose, what made me empathize with him. I can see how you may question how realistic Jonah came across. His use of the word “precocious” for instance really struck me as beyond something a ten year old might say, but at the same time made me laugh inside. Then again in real life a kid with that intellectual ability and adult like temperament is not outside the realm of possibility. Maybe he’s possessed and it’s just a matter of time before he’s speaking English backwards and French fluently?

  7. jonathanfranzen foreva October 16, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I did not read this week’s NYer fiction by Mr. Marcus. I listened to the audio file on soundcloud. Marcus’s somewhat uneven yet clear voice kept me focused while my hands were occupied in drab manual work. Marcus I knew before as the guy who wrote that 20 page essay on Harpers defending, rightly so, experimental fiction.

    There wasn’t much experimenting going on this story, though; even the premise (“There is Something Wrong With my Kid Oh My”) isn’t exactly entirely new. But that isn’t to say Mr. Marcus “failed” here. He didn’t.

    “Cold Little Bird” is about a boy who grows cold and doesn’t feel the need to be “loved” anymore. He acts normal in school but at home he’s changed. He doesn’t respond to hugs, tells his parents to not touch him and goes about being a grown up to his little brother. Meanwhile he’s dad is getting frustrated with his behavior. It gets to a point where the boy’s saying the Jews orchestrated 9/11 (it seems only to spite his father).

    Kids are hard to write about. Whether it’s a condescending portrayal of pure innocence or a mismatched depiction of precocious thinking, getting the kids right takes effort and Marcus managed to pull that off.

    The paranoia of the father is sensibly structured. If his reactions were botched, this entire story would have fallen apart; thankfully they weren’t.

    Marcus’s story, also, came with some mighty nice “totemic evidences” or in this case, flashes of snippets outlining some behavior or thought process of a character that related us (and in this case, me) so much we wanna kiss Marcus’s head. The dad’s thought processes of getting the mom on his side and making up was cool. Made me wanna kiss his head.

    This story was an impressively written story that was very enjoyable and though didn’t show us any conflict, just the “beginning” of the dilemma, it still worked as a standalone story. Good job?

    RATING: 8/10
    BLOG: http://newyorkerfictionreviews.tumblr.com/

  8. Michelle October 17, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Can anyone tell me if this short story is all there is or if a full length book is coming from it?

  9. Joe October 17, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Wow. Excellent story. Another one to put in my ‘scary evil child’ folder. Not realistic at all, as far as the kid’s general take and verbiage and outlook. Not one bit. If he was three or four years older, maybe, but this was just far beyond what kids his age do and say. He was too articulate in his desires and the 9/11 book purchase and his subsequent religious argument (the depth, not the substance) was nothing a boy his age would engage in. All that said, I found it captivating and I think this kid’s story in 20 years will be told from a prison cell wherein he justifies his string of serial murders of what he feels are unsavory members of society.

    Creepy. As. Hell.

  10. Joe October 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Oh, one more thing. The kid’s threat alone is what sent me over the edge. What kind of psychopathic little dark and damaged evil litte monster would concoct that. Oh my goodness. This story reminded me very quickly of the great Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” with the memorable genius evil kid who kills with his mental powers. The tension in this story reminded me of the tension in scenes from the show like this.

    Anthony Fremont: No kids came over to play with me today, not a single one, and I wanted someone to play with!

    Mr. Fremont: Well, Anthony, you remember the last time some kids came over to play. The little Fredricks boy and his sister.

    Anthony Fremont: I had a real good time.

    Mr. Fremont: Oh, sure you did, you had a real good time, and it’s good that you had a good time, it’s real good. It’s, uh, just that…

    Anthony Fremont: Just that what?

    Mr. Fremont: Well, Anthony, you, uh, you wished them away into the cornfield. Their mommy and daddy were real upset.

    Wow.

    This story gave me the same feeling.

  11. M.spencer October 18, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Where can I buy this book

  12. Trevor Berrett October 19, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Michell — from what I can tell, it’s a short story and not an excerpt from any forthcoming novel.

    M.Spencer — the story (there is no book) is available only in this issue of The New Yorker.

  13. Adrienne October 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Sorry jboscarino – I am a mommy first and foremost and it was definitely a 24/7 week! But I felt this story was reminiscent of Chekhov not just because it was unresolved, but because it posed a problem requiring the engagement of the morals of the reader, whatever those morals may be. And I love that in stories – an examination of a life situation that is not neat and tidy, and the many angles it can be approached from. Makes me think, feel, and gives me an opportunity to feel a sense of connection, or at least preparedness, if I should come upon something similar someday in real life.

    I think that’s why I loved Choose Your Own Adventures as a kid – terrible writing, but oh, the options that spilled into MORE options!

    And Joe – there is something discordant about the age of the boy and the buying of the book on Amazon, but at the same time, I believed it! I am the parent of a boy that age and my husband is a fifth grade teacher. I can see it… I can see it.

  14. Sean H October 20, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Marcus unintentionally outs himself as an over-emotional and gutless coward of the most predictable stripe (gutless for making the hysterical parent the father because Marcus was terrified of being called “sexist” if he made the mother the delusional, insanely emotional, insecure, obsessive and abusive one). The older son, Jonah, is just mature and reasonable, rational, smart for his age. Read the Danish author Peter Hoeg, if you haven’t already, for a much better author’s take on how children are our most abused and rights-deprived minority (more than blacks, women, gays, Jews, etc.). Hoeg’s novel Borderliners is a great place to start although talk to almost any German, British, Dutch, Russian, Austrian or Scandinavian citizen/parent and you’d get a similar reaction. I recommend doing so mostly because Marcus also essentially, and once again almost certainly unintentionally, sadly exposes just how pathetically sentimental and narcissistic most younger generation Americans are. His shaved head or his wife’s (Heidi Julavits) ridiculously twee hipster costumes, I don’t know which is a worse indicator of the sad state of American adulthood (or lack thereof) and the sick, co-dependent sort of “love”- worshippers that are allowed to have children these days (to paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk, you need a permit for everything in America except for breeding).
    Here’s a couple of quotes from Hoeg’s best-known novel, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, to further elucidate my point on the mawkish and abusive nature of the parents in Marcus’s story and the self-pitying quality of Marcus as a person (I’m also reminded of George Carlin’s brilliant stand-up piece about how American parents have a “child fetish”; from 1999’s “You Are All Diseased” if you want to look it up on Youtube or whatnot):

    “There is a widespread notion that children are open, that the truth about their inner selves just seeps out of them. That’s all wrong. No one is more covert than a child, and no one has a greater need to be that way. It’s a response to a world that’s always using a can opener to open them up to see what’s inside, wondering whether it ought to be replaced with a more useful sort of preserves.”
    -Peter Hoeg

    “Falling in love has been greatly overrated. Falling in love consists of 45 percent fear of not being accepted and 45 percent manic hope that this time the fear will be put to shame, and a modest 10 percent frail awareness of the possibility of love…I haven’t fallen in love. I see things too clearly for that. Falling in love is a form of madness. Closely related to hatred, coldness, resentment, intoxication, suicide.”
    -Peter Hoeg

  15. jboscarino October 21, 2015 at 10:47 am

    No problem Adrienne, I appreciate your response. The story definitely was effective in that way. Chekhov was nothing I think if not a writer who really made you think about the moral ambiguities in life through the multiple layers in his stories. His style may have been different, partly considering when he was writing I think, but I surely see what you’re getting at and it’s an interesting lens to examine Marcus’ story through.

    One of the best things, as you say, is to be able to relate a story to a real life situation. Sometimes it just happens that you read a good story and it can’t help but have an impact on how you look at life. Good stuff.

  16. jboscarino October 21, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Sean H….I think there’s validity to that point of view. As I stated in my initial post I found myself getting mad at the father character for being a self centered individual who couldn’t accept his son’s desire to not be infantilized. I’ve heard of Hoeg, but never read him. I think I probably, despite the fact that in my gut I felt Jonah was right, was influenced by these ideas that Hoeg talks about in the quote you provided (the false notion that kids are “open”). There are children out there who are that smart and that closed off in letting the world know who they are.

  17. Adrienne October 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Sean H – wow! You are refreshingly blunt! :-)

    I think is why there are SO many different stories – they affect us all differently because of where we have been, what our life’s curriculum has been. And authors? S/he is either to tell it as they’ve experienced it, as they’ve seen others experience it, or create a response based on their own schemas. I did not know that Marcus was afraid to make the mother the more “emotional” one. Was that in the interview in The New Yorker (I admit to being purely a skimmer some days)? It is interesting to think how about how this story would be different if it had been from the mother’s perspective – she, as the “worrier”.

    I don’t know that I care about his hair or his wife’s outfits to help me form opinions about the story, but you are right that parenthood is a different “occupation” than it used to be. And I think this story examined that- not because the darkness of being a child is responded to differently in literature and society today, but because it examined one parent, in one situation. I can’t lean on one story as a statement for a generation. (One song doesn’t win me over for an album either!) But it brings up topics for conversation – it addresses themes of importance to folks on both sides of the fence.

    And what resonated with me here was that this father loved his son – and when confronted with something he doesn’t understand (the desire to not be treated as a child?), it hurts. And when we hurt, we all tend to be a bit narcissistic.

    Things are certaily changing in this world – and we see it quite clearly in the stories here. The focus can be self-centered, co-dependent, fearful, lost… What would Carver do with this Jonah-situation? Would the father get a little tipsy and bring the kid’s bedroom furniture out onto the front lawn? This father, in this story, for good or bad, does what many fathers today would do – trouble his own confusion with more worry.

  18. Trevor Berrett October 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I did not know that Marcus was afraid to make the mother the more “emotional” one. Was that in the interview in The New Yorker (I admit to being purely a skimmer some days)?

    Nah, I think that particular comment says more about Sean H. than the story. Though, to be fair, I found your comments very insightful (about the story), Sean, even if I do not deride Marcus one bit for going where he goes.

  19. Sean H October 22, 2015 at 5:44 am

    Just a slight disagreement with the last two commenters, whose opinions are always appreciated. First, to Adrienne, I see no evidence at all that the father actually loves his son. I turn to Will Davies, who wrote a very interesting piece about the Knausgaard books and Boyhood (the Linklater film) wherein he states: “The lunacy of the neoliberal view of the family is that it wants love to become a functional investment, with a measurable return, thereby eradicating those things which make it love in the first place.” This is EXACTLY what is going on in the story and what I find Marcus so ignorant of. The husband is a lunatic. To Trevor: Marcus doesn’t outright state in his New Yorker interview, or elsewhere, that he made the male parent the hysterical emotional worrier to escape accusations of sexism or out of male liberal guilt but if you read the story it could not be more obvious how forced it is. He even makes the husband the one who loses his friends post-marriage (when in reality it is far more common to be the wife). Read the long paragraph that starts the middle column after break on page 72 (“Without really thinking about it Martin had crafted an adulthood that was essentially friendless…”) and you can clearly see an author consciously or subconsciously inverting the genders in an attempt to be “non-conventional.”

  20. jonathanfranzen foreva October 22, 2015 at 6:44 am

    “Marcus unintentionally outs himself as an over-emotional and gutless coward of the most predictable stripe (gutless for making the hysterical parent the father because Marcus was terrified of being called “sexist” if he made the mother the delusional, insanely emotional, insecure, obsessive and abusive one).”

    lol.

  21. Adrienne October 22, 2015 at 8:59 am

    It’s okay, Sean H. We can disagree. (wink) I wonder what you think love “should” look like? I feel with so many different individuals and couples there are endless permutations – ALL trying to reach their best approximation of ideals – most somewhere on a spectrum of real love. Are stories meant to examine where it “should” be or where it is and the tension therein?

  22. Trevor Berrett October 22, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Your argument is interesting, Sean, and maybe you’re right, but I still think you’re reading into it too much based on your own desire to be known as someone who does not care about political correctness.

    I think your reading, on that one point (as I said above, I found the remainder of your comment to be insightful), is reactionary. I do know men like the one in this story. I know men who did not keep their friends after marriage (I know a lot of men where this is the case, in fact); I’d be willing to bet Ben Marcus does too. For him to avoid writing about that man would mean he was afraid of your criticism. I think this is a good faith effort to write a character. While you may be exactly right that Ben Marcus feared, consciously or subconsciously, that he would be branded sexist if it didn’t write the man this way, I just don’t think there’s any evidence. Sadly, that reaction, to me, taints the remainder of your comment.

  23. Sean H October 23, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Fair point, Trevor, but a lack of hard it’d-hold-up-in-court evidence is not proof of absence either. I think veering away from controversy and avoiding the wrath of his own perceived tribe was a CLEAR part of Marcus’s thought process but if you view it otherwise I can see your counter-argument/interpretation as having some validity too.
    In response to Adrienne, what love looks like is varied, but if it’s based on controlling someone else, manipulation, or forcing someone to do something against their will, it’s hard to see that as stemming from love. I just can’t buy someone’s argument that they, for example, beat or rape their wife “out of a sense of love.” I also can’t see someone who forces physical “affection” on a child who is past the age of reason as loving or engaging in love. How is hugging someone against their wishes any better than molestation? Just because you’re not touching someone in their “bathing suit area” doesn’t mean it isn’t an act of unwanted aggression and assault. And if you verbally assert that you want someone to stop touching you and they keep doing it, it’s criminal at the very least and probably felonious at that.

  24. Adrienne October 23, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Sean H – I agree that a controlling love stems from fear rather than compassion… And I also agree that forcing “affection” on someone can be categorized as a form of abuse/molestation. And rape is NEVER about love. But this story isn’t exploring the ideal or the healthy and “normal” functioning. It is the exploration of the dysfunctional – the confusing and overwhelming – and how ONE fictional man responded. Isn’t that the point – isn’t that what Chekhov and Carver and Munro have done? Look at the morally ambiguous or odd or even inappropriate (Nabokov!) through the safety of fiction and allow us to form our own conclusions from a distance?
    *
    This story made you angry, it seems. Fantastic! Kundera does that to me… but that means the author did their job – elicit sensations, responses from the reader. It doesn’t mean I detest Kundera or his work, or even think he’s a poor or inaccurate writer – it just means I need to prepare myself to be moved to some negative emotions before I read.

    This is only the second piece I have ever read by Ben Marcus – but I cannot judge a person or their entire body of art – on one that moves me to a place of discomfort. I judge each story on its own and how *I* respond to it. That’s all. And in this tale, I saw a story about a man who just didn’t get it and it hurt – it really hurt.

    Making me think, Sean H!

  25. Sean H October 24, 2015 at 2:29 am

    I hear you, Adrienne, but unlike the authors you cite, Marcus is himself unaware of the situation. He is not in control. His recklessness and sloppiness are what anger me, not the content. The New Yorker interview references “the cruelty of children” when it is clearly the parents, particularly the father, who are cruel. Marcus talks about how it “is not his (Jonah’s) story” which makes it clear that Marcus thinks the father is the victim when it is clearly Jonas who is the victim. He refers to Martin, the father, as merely “misbehaving,” when in actuality his actions are far more serious than that. The interviewer calls the piece “a horror story for all parents” and Marcus does not correct her and goes on to say that children have some sort of obligation to unconditionally love their parents (when it is the exact OPPOSITE that is true). If you’re going to write about dysfunction, you have to apportion blame correctly and here Marcus doesn’t seem to realize he has failed in properly blaming the parents for perceiving someone as dysfunctional just for being curious and unemotional. Even comparing the child to an animal in the story’s title (and to a “creature” in the interview) seems like the workings of a rather disturbed and erratic mind.

  26. Adrienne October 24, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Every relationship is about perspective… it is just about how this one man sees things, that’s all…. Picasso apparently sees many-breasted women with half faces…. And I don’t think there is any obligation to “apportion blame correctly” – there’s no obligation for any artist to portray anything in any way other than the way they want to. That’s art.

  27. Rosalind October 26, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this story, and think what is missing, even from the comments, is empathy, which Jonah surely lacked. Studies on brain chemistry now support the argument of a genetic link. I’m an educator still going into schools to tutor, and see kids like this, it’s scary and sad.
    As for the parents they are struggling and confused, we all fail at parenting on some level.. I’m giving them a pass for being human.

  28. Greg October 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you Sean for yet again for passing on your knowledge and insight. We are very fortunate to have you commenting every week. In the last month you have helped me see the necessity to separate the art from the artist, how to view ‘fat shaming’ and now here you have opened my eyes to differentiate love from distorted love (abuse).

    Therefore, thanks for doing what Trevor’s aim is for this site – Which is enriching us!

  29. Sean H October 31, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Just because you don’t want to be touched doesn’t mean you lack empathy, Rosalind. Saying you’re giving someone a pass for “being human” is dangerously close to excusing rapists. Just because we have animalistic urges or a desire to touch/be touched doesn’t mean we have the right to impose those desires on other human beings.
    There’s a good piece up now at Feministing about teaching children that “it’s OK to say no to hugs.” It’s essentially about autonomy and the freedom to decline physical contact, especially for children, who are often forcibly touched against their will. It includes advice such as:
    “Give children the choice to hug or kiss someone – or not. Then respect their decisions. ‘Would you like to hug Aunt Mary? No? That’s OK.'”
    “Offer alternatives to hugs and kisses that allow children to say hello without touching others. ‘Can you wave hello to Uncle Amir?’
    “Explain what you’re doing to family and friends. ‘We’re teaching Jeremy that she is allowed to make decisions about her body. Thanks for respecting her wishes.'”
    The government shouldn’t have the right to control your body and neither should your parents because of their own issues. Patriarchy wasn’t just invented by feminists, it’s a quite literal term. Excusing bad parenting as “being human” is a slippery slope to defending neglect, abuse, and tons of other unacceptable behavior.
    And that’s the failure of Marcus’s lame attempt at “art,” to address Adrienne’s point — his own ignorance about the mistreatment that he’s presenting. He has an obligation to create good art, not art that is facile and short-sighted and lacking in self-awareness. The New Yorker needs to hold itself to a higher standard. A photograph of a naked child can be art or it can be child pornography, the difference is largely in the skill of the artiste.

  30. Carmen mason November 6, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Getting around to the three descriptions of the 3 books and their covers Jonah is reading, what do you thought provoking and captivating, activating people make of the author’s description here? Why are they there in the story, short but vivid, jarring? A short story must cull and what’s repeatedly kept in matters a lot. I see them as terribly prophetic, but I’m afraid I can’t yet make a definitive statement about them! Help me, please. CHM

  31. Adrienne November 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Carmen – I believe the idea was to be “vivid, jarring”. Just as Jonah is for his father.

    I find investigation into an emotional landscape. Exploration, and an invitation to ponder, but nothing so sure as prophesy.

  32. Rosalind November 7, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Sean, I’ve been thinking about your comments and have the need to defend myself.. I believe and have taught people to respect boundaries in all their relationships. I never condone abusive behavior and resent that you would imply that I could.

  33. Linda November 18, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    This is probably too late for relevancy to the discussion, but I heard so many echoes of Salinger’s short story, Teddy,the tale about an odd and dangerously enlightened child, which concluded Salinger’s Nine Stories.There are so many equivalents in Cold Little Bird: bewilderment of the parents, Teddy’s sophisticated reading materials, Teddy’s cold, superior manner and also an unanswered question of murder at the end. I wonder if Teddy was an inspiration for this NY story?

  34. Greg November 22, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Great linkage Linda to Salinger!

    And just for fun, what is your favourite story from “Nine Stories”? For example, Sean recently referred to, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” as one of his all time faves and I feel the same way…..so, what’s your favourite Linda?

  35. Linda December 26, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Greg, my favorite is “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” – because of the humorous portrayal of the young protagonist as a naive art/artist worshiper – it’s so funny! especially when he pretends to have been a friend of Picasso. I really like the resolution – how he learns to see beauty in the mundane – the orthopedics shop. I know this story is not a big time fave, but it is my favorite!

  36. Greg December 27, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you Linda for sharing your reasons for loving this Salinger story…..you made me want to re-read it this afternoon!….What a masterpiece in the necessity of letting the ego go.

    And now I want to re-read “Franny and Zooey”…..

  37. LaNell March 20, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    In all honesty, I actually liked this short story. It was a good book. I actually understood what was going on and remember what happened in the book. Although I didn’t like how the boy treated his parents, I can kind of relate or understand where he is coming from. Me and my mom don’t ALWAYS get along. But my Dad on the other hand, is cool. Our relationship is better. I’m not the huggy huggy, kissey kissey child either. The parents took it a little over board though by taking him to the doctor because I’m pretty sure Jonah would have eventually speak up. Jonah will eventually come to the realization that his parent’s are there to love him and care for him. He also went a little over board when he said that he was going to tell the school counselor that he was getting touched inappropriately. Overall, I really liked this story. It was very interesting and i wish it would have ended a bit better.

  38. Britney Redmond March 20, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I know I can relate to this little boy. When I was little I never really had a parent who would give me hugs. When I turned about 14, my mother wanted to treat me like I was 5-7 years old. I acted like him with my mother, but I kind of had a reason. The parents handle the best in their ability. They didn’t hit him for being more independent. I think when he gets older like late 20s he might want to get closer to his parents. The Jewish faith did not have play a role in Jonah’s behavior. Even though he was reading a book about how 911 was caused by Jews, and his parents are Jewish, he didn’t know that they were Jewish until his father told him.

  39. Jose March 20, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I think that Jonah is going through a phase and he will get over it when hes ready, all of this is just new for the parents because he is the first and eldest child. Jonah is also pretty smart for a 10 year old and i think he just needs to experience something that puts him in a position to where he sees how much his parents love him and care about how he feels about them. but i really liked the story.

  40. Habay,DAR March 20, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Rosalind, I’ve been thinking about this story, and think what is missing, even from the comments, is empathy, which Jonah surely lacked. Studies on brain chemistry now support the argument of a genetic link. I’m an educator still going into schools to tutor, and see kids like this, it’s scary and sad.
    As for the parents they are struggling and confused, we all fail at parenting on some level.. I’m giving them a pass for being human.

    His father does’t have empathy for his son because he does’t respect his son’s wishes. one example is the father hugs him when he does not like it. his parent always fight about Jonah, he does not like because they fight. he not gonna change it because he does not like his parent.

  41. Binali Ali March 20, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    I believe that this short story was a really great short story. it was very compelling and made me want to love my parents even more than i did before i read this story. I couldn’t possibly imagine how it would feel to disrespect your loved ones, or people that actually care about you. There were very dramatic moments in this story which had me thinking ” Oh my God! this did not just happen! like seriously dude, have you lost your mind?” Towards the end of the story I was at point where i was so anxiously waiting to find out what happens next, only to find out that was the end. Overall, I loved this story and would encourage others to read as well.

  42. Malik March 20, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    This was a sensitive situation and i don’t think Jonah’s parents handled it well enough. I think Jonah might’ve known that his parents were struggling in their relationship and maybe he wanted them to split. I thought Jonah was being facetious when he spoke to them for his own reason. He knew exactly how to manipulate and control his parents. That is scary to see in a child his age. The way the story ended was upsetting and gave me no resolution. I feel like Jonah was a genius, but maybe he was also a sociopath. His behavior was very abnormal for a boy his age. Ben Marcus gave an interesting view into the mind of a intelligent young man

  43. Ha'Dyia Ross March 20, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I can relate to Jonas actions towards his parents, not the amount of disrespect towards them but the amount of affection he shows. I was always told that I wasn’t an affectionate person. Being apart of a carribean family affection is often showed, but I lack this gesture sometimes. I may come off as rude or surprisingly disrespectful. Even though I am not as affectionate as people want me to be, I have NEVER disrespected my parents or anybody to the point I told them I didn’t love them. I just think Jonah wants space and wants people to know that he is growing up. Jonah is a smart kid but he may have trouble with communicating and expressing himself without coming off as disrespectful.

  44. Daja March 20, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    This story really gave me insight to how an ”broken marriage” can effect a child and their actions. For example Jonah had an relation with his parents (Martian and Rachel) before he grew up and started to hate them and potentially not love them.This ten year old child is just like everybody else, he’s smart and very well spoken although he is a child, he doesn’t take it kind when adults treat him like one or even show him affection that they love him!! I really don’t like the fact that he was mean and very ill-behaved toward his parents who only loves him. Most parent are proud to kiss and hug their children but this child flips the strip by threatening his parent that he would report them for touching him implying that his parents are no good. If i was a parent i would honestly lose it because my child would have broken my heart. I understand Jonah and his parents perspective, i just cant agree with either Jonah or his parents. This story honestly upset me due to the way it ended and there was no resolution or mending of Jonah and his parents relationship. I love the Story but hate the ending!!

  45. Maria ain't with it March 20, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    I’m really concerned for Jonah like my parents annoy me but I don’t hate them. Something must’ve really affected this kid somehow to hate them that much. My theory is either the books he reads or it’s because of his parents fighting all the time. I mean if the parents fight all the time then Jonah might feel like he needs to be the grown up in the house. Which means he has to take care of his little brother and act like the adult. Or Jonah just read some books that had ideas that made him really think. Like when he read that book about Jews being blaming for 9/11. Martin really hasn’t taught him enough stuff about Judaism or even precipitate in the holidays. So it kind of makes since if he doesn’t see himself like his dad. But having a kid like him would be really annoying though. I regret drinking this soda while writing this out, now excuse me, I need to reverse drink this soda.

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