Black and.. What?

Posted: March 22, 2013 in On Novels
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“You have to sow before you can reap. You have to give before you can get.” – Robert Collier

I have a few problems with “Black and White” right out of the gate. Strike 1 – it’s a sports novel. I mean, I know that’s not the entire focus, but that’s one of the genres it’s listed under, and it’s something a lot of its readers talk about. I am the complete opposite of those students that cannot get enough of Tim Tebow’s autobiography. I couldn’t give less of a crap about sports if I tried (CSC’s quite the ideal place for this attitude, let me tell you). Strike 2 – teenage stupidity I pray cannot reach the depths that Marcus and Eddie make it reach. These kids have enough of a moral compass to feel bad for one another and (implied, anyway) try to share the blame when all hell breaks loose, but don’t have enough sound moral judgment to decide “hey, maybe we shouldn’t threaten people at gunpoint for money to buy fucking BASKETBALL SHOES”? You can’t be serious. A potential scholarship to a school implies at least a decent amount of talent in one’s particular sport, but it’s also assumed that said athlete has some damn common sense. This is a no-go for me.

Still found a way to make comics fit into this week’s blog posts: Deadpool – 1, common sense – absolute zero

Strike 3 – the “black and white” aspect at all. Yeah, I suppose I’m taking the support beam right out from underneath the building here, but it’s just too gimmicky for me. There happens to be a white guy and a black guy both getting scholarships to the same school for the same sport, both happen to be total sheep and feel like robbing people  is a reliable source of income, annnnnnnd the black guy is the one that takes the brunt of the justice system’s medieval flail. I know that it’s written that this book is based partly on interviews the author conducted with “real people in similar situations”, but holy crap. This has “Lifetime Movie Original” written all over it. Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo? Holy definitive line-drawing names, Batman! Eddie’s dad happens to be a blatant racist, even though his son’s best friend is black? If this is “realism”, the pieces are falling into place quite nicely. “Black and White” as nicknames do not require creativity. That is absolutely daft. I know plenty of people of both of these colors who are friends, and no one has affectionately dubbed them “black and white”.

Above: Racism, over-easy

To Mr. Volponi’s credit, I enjoyed the writing style (yay swear words! I mention it in every other frickin’ blog). The lack of an ending seems to be a spot of complaint by many critics, but I just feel like these people might not have ever watched a movie like “Inception” (if you don’t get the reference, go watch the movie. It’s worth the time). This book doesn’t sit well in my regards, but it didn’t have a lot going for it from the get go, at least not with me. Sports, obscure racial overtones, and protagonists who get themselves into a sticky situation because of a COMPLETE AND TOTAL LACK OF JUDGMENT. Not my bag, man.

Above: What this blog post did.


  1. Your posts always make me laugh. I liked this book more than you did, for sure, but your post made me think about one problem I think it has: not enough time spent creating the characters of Marcus and Eddie before they take to a life of crime. It is difficult to understand what motivates them–I mean, they have futures, if they’re as good as they say they are, if college scouts really are coming to see them. They have no moral compass whatsoever, and the novel doesn’t give us any kind of context for that. At the same time, one of my very favorite students of all time–a young man who seemed to have a fine moral compass–once told me that he helped his aunt sell drugs so that he could make enough money to buy new basketball shoes. So maybe I’m being too hard on Volponi. And I have a sports book to recommend to you. Sorry! Tim Tharp’s Knights of Hill Country. It’s about football but really about life.

  2. I feel ya man. The book seemed a little Coach Carter but not as good. Even though I liked the book, I also love reading your perspectives.

  3. Mr. McFarland, I’m going to have to start following you, because you absolutely DID nail this post. I felt the same way about this book, although I didn’t address its glaring problems with such comedic finesse. I was definitely not the target audience for this book. Sports = blech.

  4. Lacy H says:

    I actually loved Coach Carter, so that could be why I liked the book too! 🙂 I thought it dealt with real issues and racism is a huge issue whether people want to believe it or not. I also don’t believe it will ever change either.

  5. candyscram says:

    I love your post. They seem to say what I want to at times and just can’t put words to. I also did not care much for the book for a few reasons. First the sports. I am just not into that maybe if I was I would have liked it better. Second I just wanted the characters to grow up and man up to their mistake. I also loathed the nicknames. To me that set the tone of the book right there and before reading we know what will happen.

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