In small-town America, a young adult novel about teen pregnancy is banned by the local school board, igniting a fierce and violent debate over abortion, religious beliefs, and modern feminism. Its directionless New York City author arrives in town to defend the book and finds that it has inspired a group of local teens to rebel in strange and unexpected ways. A timely and unforgettable drama about the failure of urban and heartland America to understand each other, The Metal Children explores what happens when fiction becomes a matter of life and death.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|File size:||160 KB|
About the Author
Adam Rapp is the author of numerous plays, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Red Light Winter, and the novel The Year of Endless Sorrows (FSG, 2006). In 2005, his young adult novel The Buffalo Tree was censored by a school board in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Adam Rapp is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Rapp is the author of several young adult novels, including Missing the Piano, The Buffalo Tree, and 33 Snowfish. His first adult novel, The Year of Endless Sorrows, was released in December 2006. Rapp directed his first film, Winter Passing, with Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell in 2005. He has written over ten plays.
Read an Excerpt
The Metal Children
By Adam Rapp
Faber and Faber, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Adam Rapp
All rights reserved.
A one-bedroom apartment in the West Village that looks as if a bookmobile and a roving, high-speed Salvation Army float had collided on top of some tasteful Pottery Barn furniture. A small kitchen nook with a counter that divides it from the living space. There is a barely functioning fish tank, with one live fish and at least one dead one. There are also a few expired plants and scores of makeshift ashtrays scattered here and there. At one time, it was probably a pretty nice apartment.
TOBIN FALMOUTH, late thirties, is seated on his congested sofa in the living room. A camcorder has been set up in front of him, and he is clutching a piece of paper. He wears boxer shorts, mismatched socks, a stained white T-shirt, and an old, light blue terry cloth bathrobe. His hair is a mess. He needs a shave. He regards the camcorder for a moment, clears his throat, and then begins to read from the piece of paper.
TOBIN Um, Hi. My name is Tobin Falmouth. I am talking to you from my apartment in New York City. I apologize for the mess. With regard to my current state, lately things have been a little, well, "shoddy" would be the word, I suppose. Shoddy at best.
I am the author of The Metal Children, a young adult novel that was published by Frontage Road Press in 1997. It's my second published novel, the second of four. It has recently been brought to my attention that certain members of your community have taken issue with my book. I am aware of the events of a recent school board meeting at which a disgruntled student read some carefully selected quotes in front of your five-member committee.
The bathroom door is flung open, and BRUNO BINELLI, TOBIN's agent, storms out. He is in his mid-forties, a feisty gay Italian American. He wears a nice suit and tie, nice shoes, a good haircut.
BRUNO I've felt more passion from a can opener. At least pretend like you have a point of view.
TOBIN Who are you all of a sudden — Uta Hagen?
BRUNO Tobin, do you have any idea what this might mean to these people? The least you could do is read it with a shred of enthusiasm.
TOBIN But I didn't even write it.
BRUNO What, my prose isn't fucking purple enough for you? TOBIN Your prose is fine, Bruno. It's just — I don't know — I'm not an actor.
BRUNO You don't have to be a fucking actor; you just have to fucking mean it. And don't apologize for the messy apartment; you're a novelist.
BRUNO exits to the bathroom. TOBIN resets the camera, begins.
TOBIN (with slightly more feeling) Hi. My name is Tobin Falmouth. I am talking to you from my apartment in New York City. As you can see, I am a profound slob. But according to my well-groomed agent, who is currently sweltering in my three-by-five bathroom, this should be of no consequence because I am a novelist.
BRUNO (from behind the bathroom door) I'm editing that!
TOBIN (barreling on) In fact, I am the author of The Metal Children, a young adult novel that was published by Frontage Road Press in 1997. I can also make origami cranes, a rather potent mint julep, and a halfway decent western omelet, but I digress. Back to the script ...
The Metal Children was my second published novel, the second of four in a mildly uneventful, slightly depressing career riddled with artistic impotence. Just kidding. (back on the script) It has recently been brought to my attention that certain members of your community have taken issue with The Metal Children. I am aware of the events of a recent school board meeting at which a disgruntled student read some carefully selected quotes in front of your five-member committee. I also learned that upon hearing the quoted material, albeit out of context, the committee decided that the book be immediately struck from the curriculum and that without following proper procedure, several paperback copies of The Metal Children were then confiscated from readers, taken out of classrooms, seized from library shelves, and placed in a sealed vault. (to BRUNO) Nice peppering of active verbs!
(back to the script) I am speaking to you now so that I may shed some light on what my intentions were in writing the novel. First I must say that I have never considered myself to be —
The buzzer sounds. TOBIN stops the camcorder, crosses to his intercom, answers.
VOICE (VO) It's Kong.
TOBIN buzzes KONG in. BRUNO enters from the bathroom.
TOBIN Relax. This'll just take a sec.
A knock on the door. TOBIN crosses, opens the door. KONG, a somewhat androgynous white teen, dressed like a hip-hop skater punk, enters, carrying a book bag. He eases into the room a bit suspicious of BRUNO.
TOBIN That's Bruno. He's my agent. (to
BRUNO) Bruno, Kong.
KONG (to TOBIN) Why you got a agent — you a actor?
BRUNO Several hundred thousand words, actually.
From his book bag, KONG removes several small, multicolored terrariums of high-quality hydroponic marijuana, sets them on the floor.
KONG What kinda stuff you write?
BRUNO He writes very powerful and provocative novels.
KONG A novel's like a book, right?
BRUNO A published work of fiction, yes.
TOBIN picks up each terrarium, turning it in the light, studying their crystals, etc. BRUNO watches the proceedings suspiciously.
KONG (referring to one of the terrariums) That's the hoobily-doobily right there, yo. Smell it.
TOBIN removes the top, smells it.
KONG What about you, B.?
BRUNO What about me?
KONG You like the hoobily-doobily?
TOBIN I'll take this one.
KONG goes to work retrieving the other terrariums, putting them back in his book bag. TOBIN produces eighty dollars.
KONG counts it quickly.
KONG Thanks, yo. I'm out. (to BRUNO) Nice to meet you, Pluto.
KONG I mean Bruno.
KONG exits. BRUNO is shaking his head.
BRUNO The hoobily-doobily? No wonder you're nine months late on the new book.
TOBIN Look, Bruno, I don't need you judging me right now.
BRUNO I'm not judging you, I'm just concerned.
LYNNE, a middle-aged woman, enters. She is disoriented, hung over, almost attractive, beat to shit, smoking a cigarette. She has nicotine teeth and a tattoo or two. She wears a sheet and maybe some tube socks. She and BRUNO share a look.
TOBIN Hey, Lynne.
LYNNE Who's he?
BRUNO I'm General Robert E. Lee. I like hang gliding, mountain biking, and playing the helicon tuba.
TOBIN His name is Bruno.
LYNNE Nice suit, Bruno. (to TOBIN) Hey, Toby, you seen my keys?
He crosses to the fish tank, reaches inside, grabs her keys.
LYNNE (referring to the camcorder) What's this for?
TOBIN I'm making an official statement.
LYNNE Like a speech?
BRUNO Tobin wrote a novel that has recently caused quite a stir in a community in the American heartland.
LYNNE The heartland, huh? What kinda stir?
BRUNO A small but potent right-wing contingent is lobbying to strike it from the high school curriculum. Next week they're having a school board meeting to discuss the fate of the book, and he's making a video statement that they can play at the meeting.
LYNNE You're a writer? (to BRUNO) I thought he sold knives.
BRUNO You sell knives?
LYNNE He sold me a Yellowhorse Sacred Eagle Spirit Blade for three hundred bucks. (to TOBIN) I don't know how you suckered me into that — I musta been loaded.
BRUNO That knife was a gift, Tobin!
LYNNE Wait. Are you two like ... ?
TOBIN Bruno's my agent.
BRUNO (to TOBIN, genuinely hurt) Who are you?
TOBIN exits. LYNNE smokes for a moment.
LYNNE (to TOBIN, off ) So what's your book about, Toby?
BRUNO It's about a small town in the Midwest where a group of pregnant teenagers are mysteriously disappearing, one by one. And following each disappearance, a statue of the missing girl appears in a barren cornfield.
LYNNE Freaky. What's it called?
BRUNO It's called The Metal Children. It was named a 1997 Best Book for Young Adults and was short-listed for the L.A. Times Book Prize.
TOBIN enters with a toothbrush in a glass of orange juice, brushes his teeth over the following.
LYNNE Wow, Toby, I'm impressed. I really thought you sold knives. (to BRUNO) I mean, what a fuckin' trip, right? You think you know someone ... (to TOBIN) See you around, Mr. Mystery Man.
She exits. BRUNO watches him for a moment.
TOBIN What? She lives downstairs.
BRUNO Did you have sex with her?
BRUNO You did, didn't you? You fucking had sex with her!
BRUNO What's wrong with you?
TOBIN You know I'm lonely, Bruno.
BRUNO Did you use a condom?
TOBIN (lying) Of course.
BRUNO No, you didn't! Jesus! ... Look, Tobin. There's a community out there that is up in arms about your book. Hundreds of people are fighting for the life of your greatest achievement to date.
TOBIN Bruno, please. Hundreds of people?
BRUNO I have a photocopy of a petition with over three hundred student signatures on it. Three hundred and twelve to be exact. I have fourteen pages of a heated blog debate.
TOBIN Ooh, a heated blog —
BRUNO Shut up! ... Now, I'm going to read you something, and I want you to listen, you smug, unappreciative prick!
BRUNO produces a letter, unfolds it, reads.
BRUNO It's dated March fourteenth, three days ago ...
Dear Mr. Falmouth,
My name is Stacey Kinsella, and I'm the English Department chairperson at Midlothia Memorial High School, the site of a recent tragedy that altered the course of reading experiences for many. I'm also a teacher who strongly believes in the power of young adult literature.
At a time in their lives when most students are making crucial life decisions, Meredith Miller's redemptive journey in The Metal Children provides positive moral guidance and future hope. It's simply the most amazingly written novel for young adults I've ever read.
I apologize for not contacting you sooner, but I've been busy working on the book's defense. In truth, it has been an easy, if time-consuming, task. The voices of students past and present, as well as my own reader's perceptions, led me to the many relevant themes contemporary youth can connect to their own lives: the failure of parents to educate youth, friendship, suicide, sympathy, fighting injustice, broken homes, coming of age, sexual awareness, body image, and the power of the human spirit to survive the most trying of circumstances. Clearly I do not want to lose this book. There are too many adolescent lives at stake.
On Wednesday, March twenty-fourth, I will be presenting my defense of The Metal Children at an open school board meeting at the Midlothia Memorial High School auditorium, scheduled for seven-thirty in the evening. Equally passionate educators, students, and community members will be there, along with local media coverage. If there is any way that you can attend this meeting, I know it will do much to lift the spirits of all of us fighting for the book.
Before I close, I want to thank you for writing such a beautiful novel. Its words remind me to seek out my own inner strength in this time of crisis. And like your young heroine, Meredith Miller, my fists are clenched and my heart is open.
Midlothia Memorial High School
TOBIN She sounds hot. Do you think she's hot?
BRUNO Tobin, my advice to you is get on a plane. Take a few days out of your precious life and go to that school board meeting. Reconnect with your audience. Look them in the eye. You haven't even left this apartment in over a month. I promise you it'll do you a world of good.
TOBIN Bruno, I'm broke.
BRUNO I'll buy you your ticket.
TOBIN I don't like flying.
BRUNO I'll fucking rent you a car.
TOBIN Like an SUV?
BRUNO Whatever you want, Tobin.
TOBIN Can I get a little spending money too?
BRUNO removes his wallet, counts out a hundred bucks, hands it to
TOBIN. TOBIN starts to cry.
BRUNO What's wrong?
TOBIN I'm such a fuckup.
BRUNO Tobin, come on, now, stop it.
TOBIN No, I am, Bruno. I'm a thirty-eight-year-old loser.
BRUNO You're the author of four highly acclaimed young adult novels.
TOBIN Yeah, why don't we italicize the "young adult" part for all my former classmates at Iowa! I wanted to be Vonnegut or Updike, and I turned out to be Louise Marie Alcott! I'm being published in the same genre as Little House on the fucking Prairie!
BRUNO Louis a May Alcott. And she wrote Little Women! Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote Little House on the Prairie!
TOBIN What's the difference?
BRUNO Tobin, I happen to think your novels are heads and shoulders above a lot of the adult books out there. No one captures voices like you. And fuck you, I like the Little House on the Prairie series! Laura Ingalls Wilder fucking rocks! Besides, we could have published The Metal Children as an adult book. Scribner was begging for it. You wanted to do it as a YA. You should be fucking proud of your career.
TOBIN My apartment's a mess. I can barely pay my rent. I have fucking hemorrhoids. My wife left me. Why did she leave me, Bruno?
BRUNO She fell in love with her editor. It happens.
TOBIN I miss her so much ... Do you think she'd come back to me? If I started working out or something?
BRUNO Tobin, you look fine. I'm sure Miranda's leaving had a lot more to do with, well, other matters.
TOBIN But she could come back. It's possible, right?
BRUNO I suppose anything's possible. Stop crying now.
BRUNO Do you really have hemorrhoids?
BRUNO Have you seen anyone about it?
TOBIN No. But I bought some Tucks.
BRUNO If they don't go away, promise me you'll see someone, okay?
BRUNO Okay, I'm gonna go. (gathering the video equipment) I'll call you later with the car information.
TOBIN Hey, can I have that letter, the one from the teacher?
BRUNO produces the letter, hands it to TOBIN.
BRUNO You're a great writer, Tobin. I believe in you ... We'll talk later, okay?
TOBIN nods. BRUNO exits with his attaché case and video equipment. After the front door is closed, TOBIN removes the letter from the envelope, starts to read it as lights fade.CHAPTER 2
Five days later. A motel room in Midlothia, a small town in the American heartland.
A full-size bed and cheap headboard. A bedside stand with a digital clock radio. Blank baby-blue walls. A small round table with a chair. A door leading to a bathroom.
TOBIN is standing in the middle of the room, staring at the wall, on which someone has spray-painted GONE FOR NOW in large, crude red letters. TOBIN is dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He looks better but just barely. He holds a gym bag, and there is a suit bag lying across the bed. EDITH, a middle-aged woman, is standing behind him. She is run-down but possesses an inherent sweetness. She wears jeans and a cotton shirt that boasts the name of the motel. She holds fresh bedding.
TOBIN You have no idea who did it?
EDITH Well, there was a pickup truck roaming around earlier. I think it was one of the Yeager boys, but he was wearing a mask.
TOBIN A mask.
EDITH Yeah, I'm almost certain it was Porky Pig.
TOBIN Do you think he wrote that on the wall?
She starts to strip the bed, which has soiled footprints on the comforter.
EDITH I guess it's possible. I mean, I have a clear view of your unit from the office, but they could've snuck in when I was restocking the candy machine. My niece was supposed to be watching the front desk, but I have no idea where she is. The sheriff said he'd be sending a car by ... Is there anything I can do for you? Unfortunately I can't offer you a hot meal, but our vending options are quite good if I do say so myself.
Excerpted from The Metal Children by Adam Rapp. Copyright © 2010 Adam Rapp. Excerpted by permission of Faber and Faber, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsTable of Contents,
Other Works by Adam Rapp,
Adam Rapp - The Metal Children,
Praise For the Plays of Adam Rapp,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Had to read this for a class. Caused some interesting discussion about raising children with a bunch of kids that are children themselves. Anyway the play was complete tripe. Cliche and simple. The only redeeming factor is it was mercifully short.
Adam Rapp's The Metal Children is absolutely brilliant! It is a wonderful portrayl of the controversies surrounding censorship, genre, and writer/reader responsibilities. Rapp writes with a flow that swims from one beat to the next, allowing the reader to effortlessly move throughout the pages. I want to see it a hundred times and read it a thousand more!