Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel

by Peter Cameron

NOOK BookFirst Edition (eBook - First Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is the story of James Sveck, a sophisticated, vulnerable young man with a deep appreciation for the world and no idea how to live in it. James is eighteen, the child of divorced parents living in Manhattan. Articulate, sensitive, and cynical, he rejects all of the assumptions that govern the adult world around him–including the expectation that he will go to college in the fall. He would prefer to move to an old house in a small town somewhere in the Midwest. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You takes place over a few broiling days in the summer of 2003 as James confides in his sympathetic grandmother, stymies his canny therapist, deplores his pretentious sister, and devises a fake online identity in order to pursue his crush on a much older coworker. Nothing turns out how he'd expected.

"Possibly one of the all-time great New York books, not to mention an archly comic gem" (Peter Gadol, LA Weekly), Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is the insightful, powerfully moving story of a young man questioning his times, his family, his world, and himself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429927130
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 225,462
File size: 191 KB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

PETER CAMERON is the author of several novels, including Andorra and The Weekend. He lives in New York City.

Peter Cameron is the author of Andorra (FSG, 1997), The City of Your Final Destination (FSG, 2002), and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (FSG, 2007). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Grand Street, and The Paris Review. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

By Peter Cameron

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2007 Peter Cameron
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2713-0


Thursday, July 24, 2003

THE DAY MY SISTER, GILLIAN, DECIDED TO PRONOUNCE her name with a hard G was, coincidentally, the same day my mother returned, early and alone, from her honeymoon. Neither of these things surprised me. Gillian, who was between her third and fourth years at Barnard, was dating a "language theory" professor named Rainer Maria Schultz and had consequently become a bit of a linguistic zealot, often ranting about something called "pure" language, of which Gillian with a hard G was supposedly an example. My mother, on the other hand, had rather rashly decided to marry an odd man named Barry Rogers. Gillian — Gillian — and I had both suspected that this marriage (my mother's third) would not last very long, but we assumed it would survive its honeymoon, although when we heard they were planning a honeymoon in Las Vegas our skepticism grew. My mother, who has spent her entire life avoiding places like Las Vegas and merrily disdaining anyone who visited, or even contemplated visiting, such places, had announced, in a disturbing brainwashy way, that a honeymoon in Las Vegas would be "fun" and a nice change from her previous honeymoons (Italy with my father and the Galápagos Islands with her second husband). Whenever my mother said anything was, or would be, "fun" you could take it as a warning that said thing was not nor would be at all fun, and when I reminded my mother of this — I used the example of her telling me that the sailing camp she had forced me to attend the summer I was twelve would be "fun" — she admitted that sailing camp had not been fun for me but that was no reason why a honeymoon in Las Vegas would not be fun for her. Such is the ability adults — well, my mother, at least — have to deceive themselves.

Gillian and I were eating lunch, or some midday meal approximate to lunch, when my mother untimely returned from her honeymoon. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon. Gillian sat at the kitchen table doing the New York Times crossword, which we were not allowed to do when my mother was home because, as she often told us, it was the only dependable pleasure in her life. I was eating a fried egg sandwich. I was supposed to have been working at the art gallery which my mother owned but which was effectively run by a young man named John Webster, but John had sensibly decided that since my mother was safely out of town, preoccupied with whatever unthinkable activities preoccupy a fifty-three-year-old woman in Las Vegas on her third honeymoon, and since it was July, and no one had set foot in the gallery for several days, he would close the gallery and go and stay with friends in Amagansett, and I could do whatever I wanted for the rest of the week. I was not, of course, to tell my mother about this hiatus, for she believed that at any moment someone might walk in off the street and buy a garbage can decoupaged with pages torn out of varied editions of the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran (for $16,000). My mother opened the gallery about two years ago after she divorced her second husband, because she wanted to "do" something, which you might have thought meant work, but did not: "doing" something entailed buying a lot of new clothes (very expensive clothes that had been "deconstructed," which as far as I could tell meant some of the seams had been ripped out or zippers had been put where God did not intend zippers to go) because gallery directors had to look like gallery directors, and having lunches at very expensive restaurants with curators and corporate art consultants or, occasionally, an actual artist. My mother had had a fairly successful career editing art books until she married her second husband, and apparently once you stop working legitimately it is impossible to start again. "Oh, I could never go back to that work, it's so dreary and the last thing the world needs is another coffee table book," I had heard her say more than once. When I asked her if she thought the world needed an aluminum garbage can decoupaged with pages torn from the King James Bible she said, No, the world didn't need that, which was exactly what made it art. And then I said, Well, if the world doesn't need coffee table books then they must be art, too — what was the difference? My mother said the difference was the world thought it needed coffee table books, the world valued coffee table books, but the world didn't think it needed decoupaged garbage cans.

And so Gillian and I were sitting in the kitchen, she intent on the crossword and I enjoying my fried egg sandwich, when we heard the front door unlocking — or actually locking, for we had carelessly left it unlocked, so it was first locked and then unlocked — which took a moment during which my sister and I just looked at each other and said nothing, for we instinctually knew who was opening the door. My father has keys to our apartment, and it would have made sense — well, more sense — that it was he arriving, seeing as how my mother was supposed to be honeymooning in Las Vegas, but for some reason both Gillian and I knew immediately it was our mother. We heard her drag her rolling suitcase over the threshold (my mother does not travel lightly, especially on honeymoons) and then we heard it topple over, and then we heard her chucking the books and magazines and other debris that had accumulated on the couch in her absence to the floor, and then we heard her collapse on the couch, and say, rather quietly and poignantly, "Shit."

We sat there for a moment in stunned silence. It was almost as if we thought if we remained silent and undetected, she might reverse herself — get off the couch, replace the debris, right her suitcase, toddle it out the door, fly back to Las Vegas, and resume her honeymoon.

But of course that did not happen. After a moment we heard her get up and walk toward the kitchen.

"Oh good Lord," my mother said, when she entered the kitchen and saw us, "what are you two doing here?"

"What are you doing here?" asked Gillian.

My mother went to the sink and scowled disapprovingly at the dirty dishes and glasses. She opened the cupboard that housed glasses, but it was empty, for Gillian and I had been favoring the technique of rinsing and reusing glasses rather than washing, storing, and reusing. "My God," my mother said, "all I want is a drink of water. A simple drink of water! That is all I want. And that, like everything else I have ever wanted, appears to be denied me."

Gillian arose and found a fairly clean glass in the sink and rinsed it and then filled it with water from the tap. "Here," she said, and handed it to our mother.

"Bless you," my mother said. My mother is not a religious person and her use of this language disquieted me. Or further disquieted me, as her unexpected arrival had already achieved that effect.

"Whatever," Gillian said, and sat back down.

My mother stood at the sink, taking odd, birdlike sips from the glass of water. I thought about how I had once learned that birds cannot swallow and so must tip their heads back to ingest water, and how if in a rainstorm their beaks are left open and their heads tilted back they will drown, although why they would have their beaks open and heads thrown back during a rainstorm is a mystery to me. My mother finally finished drinking her water in this odd manner and then made what seemed to me to be a great show of rinsing out the glass and putting it in the dishwasher, which of course was not an easy thing to do as the dishwasher was already full of (dirty) dishes.

"What happened?" asked Gillian.

"What happened?"

"Yes," said Gillian. "Why are you home? Where is Mr. Rogers?" Both my sister and I enjoyed calling our mother's new husband by his surname, even though we had been urged repeatedly to call him Barry.

"I neither know nor care to know where that man is," my mother said. "I hope that I never see Barry again in my life."

"Well, best to discover that now," said Gillian. "Although I suppose it would have been best to discover that before you married him. Or before you agreed to marry him. Or before you met him."

"Gillian!" my mother said. "Please."

"It's Gillian," said Gillian.

"What?" my mother asked.

"My name is Gillian," said Gillian. "My name has been mispronounced long enough. I have decided that from now on I will only answer to Gillian. Rainer Maria says naming a child and then mispronouncing that name is a subtle and insidious form of child abuse."

"Well, that's not my style. If I were going to abuse you, there'd be nothing subtle or insidious about it." My mother looked at me. "And you," she said, "why aren't you at the gallery?"

"John didn't need me today," I said.

"That is not the point," said my mother. "John never needs you. You do not go there because you are needed. You go there because I pay you to go there so you will have a summer job and learn the value of a dollar and know what responsibility is all about."

"I'll go tomorrow," I said.

My mother sat at the table. She took the half-finished crossword puzzle away from Gillian. "Please remove that plate," she said to me. "There is nothing more disgusting than a plate on which a fried egg sandwich has been eaten." My mother is very particular about what people around her eat. She cannot stand to watch anyone eat a banana, unless they peel the whole thing and break it into attractive bite-sized pieces.

I got up and rinsed the plate and put it in the dishwasher. I filled the dishwasher with detergent and started the cycle. This act was too transparently ingratiating for anyone to acknowledge, yet it seemed to have a softening effect upon my mother: she sighed and rested her head on her arms, which were crossed before her on the table.

"What happened?" asked Gillian.

My mother did not answer. I realized she was crying. Gillian stood up and moved behind her, reached down and embraced her, and held her while she sobbed.

I went down the hall into the living room and called John in Amagansett. A woman answered the phone. "Hello?" she said.

"Hello. Is John Webster there?"

"Who's calling?" the woman asked, in a hostile, challenging fashion intended no doubt to discourage telemarketers.

"This is Bryce Canyon," I said. I always refuse to give my real name when someone demands to know "Who's calling?" They should say "May I ask who's calling?" or "May I tell him who's calling?"

"He's not available at the moment, Mr. Canyon. Can I give him a message?"

"Yes," I said. "You may. Please tell Mr. Webster that Marjorie Dunfour has returned unexpectedly from her honeymoon and if Mr. Webster values his livelihood he should return to the city posthaste."

"Post what?" the woman asked.

"Haste," I said. "Posthaste. Without delay. Immediately."

"Perhaps you'd better talk to him yourself."

"I thought he was unavailable."

"He was," said the woman, "but he has appeared."

After a moment John said, "Hello."

"John, it's me," I said.

"James," he said. "What's up?"

"My mother is here," I said. "She just arrived. I thought you might like to know."

"Oh shit," he said. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure," I said, "but Mr. Rogers seems to be history."

"Oh, the poor thing," said John. "So soon. Well, I suppose it's all for the best, to figure it out sooner than later."

"That is what we told her," I said.

"All right," he said. "I'll take the jitney back tonight. You don't think she'll call the gallery this afternoon, do you? Or, God forbid, go in?"

"I doubt it. She seems preoccupied with her misfortune."

"You're so heartless, James. It's unnatural. I worry for you."

"I think you should worry about yourself. If she finds out you closed the gallery she might get a little heartless herself."

"I'm on my way," said John. "I'm packing my bags as we speak."

I thought that under the circumstances the best thing to do might be to get out of the house, so I took our dog, a black standard poodle named Miró, to the dog run in Washington Square. Miró, who seems to think he is human, doesn't really enjoy the dog run, but he will sit patiently on the bench beside me, observing the simple canine ways of the other dogs with amused condescension.

Right outside of our building is a tree well filled with impatiens and English ivy with two plaques attached to the little iron trellis around its base. One reads IN MEMORY OF HOWARD MORRIS SHULEVITZ, BLOCK PRESIDENT 1980–1993. HE LOVED THIS BLOCK. When I first saw this plaque, about six years ago when my parents divorced (my mother sold the apartment we lived in on West Seventy-ninth Street and we moved downtown; my father moved into an awful Trump building on the Upper East Side. He has one of those hideous apartments with huge curved windows you can't open and fake gold faucets and weird men in costumes in the elevator in case you don't know how to push a button), I misinterpreted it, thinking that the dates supplied were Howard Morris Shulevitz's dates of birth and death, and that he had been a little boy who had died some tragic early death and as a consequence had been given the posthumous honorific title of Block President. I had very tender feelings about the boy, who had died at approximately the age I was then, and felt in some way that I must be his successor, and so I vowed to love the block with Howard's ardency, and I even had fantasies about dying young myself — I thought about throwing myself out our living room window so that I would land on the sidewalk in front of the tree well. I would get my own plaque then, beside Howard's: JAMES DUNFOUR SVECK, SECOND BLOCK PRESIDENT, 1985–1997. HE LOVED THIS BLOCK TOO. I made the mistake of mentioning this little fantasy to my mother, who informed me that Howard Morris Shulevitz had probably been an old man, a petty tyrant who had nothing better to do than annoy his neighbors with building code violations. The second plaque on the trellis emphatically states CURB YOUR DOG. I don't remember exactly when this one was appended to the railing, but one can only imagine why it was necessary, and now seeing those adjacent plaques never fails to depress me, for even if Howard Morris Shulevitz was, as per my mother's imagining, an unpleasant person, did he really deserve to have his name, and memory, evoked beside a CURB YOUR DOG sign? I find this whole phenomenon of naming things after the deceased disconcerting. I don't like to sit on a bench that is a memorial to someone's life. It seems disrespectful. I think if you want to memorialize someone you should either erect a proper memorial, like the Lincoln Memorial, or leave well enough alone.

The dog run is this area of the park that is completely fenced, and once you pass through the two gates, which upon penalty of death must never be simultaneously opened, you can let your dog off the leash and let it frolic with its own kind. When I arrived at about four o'clock, it was fairly empty. The people who didn't have real jobs who frequented the dog run during the day had left, and the people who had real jobs hadn't yet arrived. This left a few dog walkers with a motley assortment of dogs, all of whom seemed not in the mood to frolic. Miró trotted to our favorite bench, which was, thankfully, by this time of the day in the shade, and jumped up onto it. I sat beside him, but he turned away and ignored me. In the privacy of our home, Miró is a very affectionate creature, but in public he behaves like a teenager who has no interest in a parent's affection. I assume he thinks that it interferes with his I-am-not-a-dog pose.

There is a sense of camaraderie in the dog run that I hate. This sort of smug friendliness dog owners share that they feel entitles them to interact. If I was sitting on a bench in the park proper, no one would approach me, but in the dog run it's as if you are on some distant weirdly friendly planet. "Oh, is that a standard poodle?" people will ask, or "Is it a he or a she?" or some other idiotic question. Fortunately the dog walkers, professionals that they are, only talk to one another, in the same way I have noticed that nannies and mothers never interact in the playground: each, like the dog walkers and dog owners, sticks to its kind. And so Miró and I were left alone. Miró watched the other dogs for a moment and then sighed and slowly lowered himself down upon the bench, pushing me a bit with his hind feet so that he would have adequate space to recline. But I refused to shift, so he was forced to hang his head over the end of the bench. He did this in a way that implied it was very difficult being a dog.


Excerpted from Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. Copyright © 2007 Peter Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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


Title Page,
1 - Thursday, July 24, 2003,
2 - Friday, July 25, 2003,
3 - April 2003,
4 - Friday, July 25, 2003,
5 - May 2003,
6 - Saturday, July 26, 2003,
7 - May 2003,
8 - June 2003,
9 - April 2003,
10 - June 2003,
11 - Monday, July 28, 2003,
12 - Monday, July 28, 2003,
13 - Tuesday, July 29, 2003,
14 - Tuesday, July 29, 2003,
15 - Tuesday, July 29, 2003,
16 - Wednesday, July 30, 2003,
17 - October 2003,
Copyright Page,

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You.

About the Book
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is the story of James Sveck, a sophisticated, vulnerable young man with a deep appreciation for the world and no idea how to live in it. James is eighteen, the child of divorced parents living in Manhattan. Articulate, sensitive, and cynical, he rejects all of the assumptions that govern the adult world around him--including the expectation that he will go to college in the fall. He would prefer to move to an old house in a small town somewhere in the Midwest. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You takes place over a few broiling days in the summer of 2003 as James confides in his sympathetic grandmother, stymies his canny therapist, deplores his pretentious sister, and devises a fake online identity in order to pursue his crush on a much older coworker. Nothing turns out how he'd expected.

In the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Booklist has hailed Cameron as "one of the best writers about middle-class youth since Salinger"), Peter Cameron paints an indelible portrait of a teenage hero holding out for a better grownup world.
About the Author
Peter Cameron's fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Grand Street. He is the author of the adult novels The City of Your Final Destination, Andorra, and The Weekend. Cameron has also taught courses at Columbia University, Yale University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oberlin College. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 72 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book becuase I had read the Catcher and the Rye and thought it was great. The main character, James is exactly like a modern day Holden Caufeild. He has the same, screw life everyones an ass additude. I enjoyed this novel and I think anyone who like The catcher and the Rye would too.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
James Svek doesn't really fit in. He isn't interested in the same things as other eighteen-year-old guys, doesn't even like people his age, and even keeps his family at a distance.

Nobody could blame James for being detached from his family. His father is a bit self-absorbed and seems to feel obligated to spend the little time he does with James. James' mother owns an art gallery and has just returned early from her honeymoon. Her third marriage has ended almost as quickly as it began. And James' older sister, Gillian, is enmeshed in her own life, and an affair with a married professor. Even the family dog seems to feel superior to James. The only family member James admires is his grandmother who is supportive and understanding, even if she is a bit eccentric herself. The only other person that James admires is John, who works with him at his mother's gallery.

James is a contemplative young man whose views on the world around him aren't always congruent with popular opinion. He sees the world with a mix of ironic humor and disdain. Although he isn't an "angry" teenager, James has distanced himself from the people and things that surround him.

Now James' life is getting complicated. He has been accepted to Brown University but he has decided that he doesn't want to go to college. He would rather buy an old house in the Midwest and live in obscurity. His parents have sent him to a shrink, one who annoyingly answers every question with a question. He has just ruined what friendship he had with John. And why are his parents now asking him if he's gay?

SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU is a smart, funny story about the pain that comes with growing up and becoming your own person. James is a highly likeable character whose views on the world and himself are refreshing and insightful.

This is a book that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James is quite different then the usual withdrawn teen characters in many books, his elegant speech and reasoning will take you by suprise. I love how even though his sexuality comes up, it does not overshadow the main story which is that of a boy looking for his place in the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great one. Get it off the list of gay books, it is nothing that really has to do with that. The only reason it is on there to begin with is because the main character happens to be gay (not that it matters because we hear about this characteristic only a couple times). I think that James Sveck (the main character) is very interesting and inspiring. He has such a different way of looking at things, that makes this book interesting in itself. And although some things said are somewhat cliche, you get a good laugh as well as many more emotions out of this book. I finished it very quickly and it was well worth the read. Don't judge it by the cover or the name, its very unique and endearing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this novel well written. The many anecdotes of the narrator's explanation of things made this novel flow smoothly without the common 'rush' as people may find in other novels. This book was very motivational and made me think a lot about things I've never even thought to think of before.
Capfox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here's a quick story about how one comes across a new author. Several months ago, I was trying to track down some gay YA books, and I ran across this book. Somehow, despite my intentions, the description of this book as really only qualifying as a YA novel because its protagonist is a teenager got my attention. Despite the fact that I started the search looking specifically for YA stuff, I ended up with this book on the strength of those reviews that it wasn't really meant for that audience. Curious, right? I think, though, that the book works both ways, and could probably be appreciated by anyone from their teens right on up.So yes, we do have our teenaged protagonist, James Sveck, a high-schooler getting ready to apply for university, but feeling ambivalent about the prospect. He lives in New York, some number of years after September 11, but finds himself intrigued by breaking out of the regular molds, and perhaps just going and buying up a house in the Midwest, cheap and easy, and live out there. The story, then, follows him finding himself and where he wants to go in his life.That's all easy to say, but the cast of characters here is really winning, even beyond James. The book is slim, and you get the story from James's point of view, but you still get a good sense of the reality of the other people in his world: his older sister, at university already and dating an affable professor; his divorcee mother, an art gallery owner who is getting married to her new beau; his father, the sort of executive that thinks ordering steak is definitely the manly thing to do; John Webster, the black gay gallery manager that helps run his mother's gallery. They all feel real, and motivated by their own desires and thoughts, even through James's filter, which is pretty remarkable for the space.But the stars of this piece are James, a really fully realized, conflicted teenager, and the dialogue. Oh my, the dialogue. I love it to bits. The book flies by quickly, because you just get lost in the talking. James in particular is that kind of sharp, smart, vulnerable teenager who pokes holes in things with his words, and Cameron nails it.I wanted to hold off saying it until I checked my list, and I have read a good number of good books this year, but I think this was probably my favorite. Not necessarily the best, but my favorite. I would recommend it most highly.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s summertime and James Sveck is all set to go to Brown in the fall. The only problem is that James doesn¿t want to go to college. He doesn¿t like college students. In fact, he really doesn¿t like much of anyone.His family isn¿t much help. His father consents to eating a token lunch with him now and then, but they haven¿t much to talk about. His mother has returned abruptly, prematurely, from her honeymoon, distraught, talking of divorce. His sister is acrimonious toward him and spends her time engaging in an affair with a married man.James finds little in the world to love. He disparages the dog park; his job at this mother¿s art gallery; the sole artist who exhibits at the gallery, a man who creates garbage can art; the seminar on American government he was chosen to participate in, which ended in fiasco; his co-worker; even his therapist. James seems horribly ill-at-ease in the world.The story is just a charmingly told harangue of life by a brilliant teenage misfit who continues to bumble through life, angering and alienating everyone he meets. Only his grandmother knows what to say to him, sharing her wisdom with him, a wisdom that seems to help him move on, to keep stumbling through the pain of life.The problems James faces are not resolved by the end of the book, but James has acquired a perspective that this too shall pass. Somehow James manages to go away to college. Hope is seen when James keeps the houseful of possessions his grandmother leaves to him, not sure what he might need in the future.
kristenn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this in one sitting. I don't usually read YA but it was getting good crossover reviews too. I liked his voice. It was clever and polished, but in that way that things you write in your own head on the way home are. In the way they never are once you actually write them down and you wonder what happened. I could relate to his social awkwardness too, except that I was that way at 12, not at 18. There were a few bits that made me wish for post-its, to make note of the neat wording (but it was cold and I was snuggled in bed) and a few bits that made me chuckle. I have a 15 year old cousin; maybe I'll send her a copy and get that perspective.
solicitouslibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Firstly, I read this book in one evening. Which should not suggest that it's facile, but rather that it's engaging. This book was a pleasure to read! There's more I could and should say, but I won't. This book is for people who are interested in the interior.
callmecayce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cameron's book is truly a fantastic book. Not only is the story well done, but the writing is brilliant. Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You is the story of James, an 18 year old boy trying to figure out, well, life. He's not sure he wants to go to college, he's not really sure about much of anything, except that he wants to be alone and he hates people his own age. Cameron handles everything perfectly -- the several time married mother, the distant and yet controlling father, the implied crush on the older coworker, and the love that James is seeking without really knowing it. I say perfectly because he manages to capture how our lives (the lives of the family, of teenagers, of college students, of everyone) are not perfect at all. James' view is one that anyone can relate too, not just teens. This isn't just because he's such a universal character in many ways, it's also because Cameron proves to be a sublime writer. James is smarter than many people (perhaps smarter than we are) and while in many books (YA or otherwise) this would be a turn off, it's the opposite. James doesn't lord it over his readers, just the people he encounters. And often, it's not even on purpose. While this book isn't about me, reading it I felt it had been written for me. It's an incredibly emotional (and emotionally driven) story about what it's like to grow up when you're already halfway there.
msimelda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for the interesting title. I didn't think I liked the book at first. By the end I didn't want to leave the 18 year old main character, James. Throughout the book we peer in to James' messy, confused and angst ridden life. Why doesn't someone just step in and help him? Of course, no one can really help a teenager get through this time in life. It's part of becoming the adult of your future.
59Square on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a funny, witty, painful book about growing up and becoming an adult, and how those things aren't always what they are cracked up to be. James is spending the summer before his freshman year of college at Brown deciding not to go to college because he doesn't like people his age, among other things. His divorced, wealthy parents give him little guidance other than what serves themselves. He works at his mother's art gallery which rarely has any customers, giving him way too much time to navelgaze. This book has a lot of interesting characters and thoughtful observations. Unfortunately, its cerebral humor and plot are not going to appeal to the majority of teen readers. James is gay, but spends a lot of time in the book ducking the question, which might either reassure or alienate gay readers.
4sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure what to think of this book. The main character was funny at times and certainly interesting. He reminded me a great deal of my husband. The book however didn't seem to have a plot. It's more of a really long character sketch than a novel. Parts got very boring and tedious; especially the meetings with the psychiatrist. I don't think I'd recommend this book.
stonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eighteen year-old James is a brilliant and troubled young man who thinks an escape to a mid-century house in middle-America will cure his ennui and discontented feelings about life in general. He is an obsessive linguist who beautifully sums up to his therapist his word usage compulsion and his false representation to a friend in an online posting in this way: "They're both about the correct or proper way to do something. there is a correct and proper way to use words and there is a correct and proper way to behave with other people. And I behaved improperly with John and feel bad, so I compensate by obsessing with language, which is easier to control than behavior." There are so many, many sentences and paragraphs in this beautiful, melancholy book, and such amazing word play between all the characters - between James, his therapist, his mother and sister, and even with his prescient and compassionate grandmother, Like Holden Caulfield, James is wandering through the perilous landscape of adolescence, hampered by his examination of the human psyche and his lack of emotional padding. but as he makes his way through this sizzling summer week in Manhattan, he, with the abstract help of his quirky family, comes to realize that life will never be simple, or explained in simple terms but we march along nonetheless, doing the best we can. This book would only be of interest to the most literate of YA readers because there's very little action. It is mostly James' examination of self and life.
vampireeat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book caught me eye during a YALSA program during the ALA Midwinter 2008 in Philadelphia. Mainly because the cover and description were somewhat vague as to the struggles of the main character. Wondering if maybe it was a young adult GLBT title (which I've never really read before) I was intrigued. The title did not disappoint. Other than having somewhat crappy names for the characters (I'm speaking of the sister's Professor boyfriend, who really shouldn't have been in the book at all), I really liked this book. It takes place in New York, and makes the probably mandatory 9/11 reference that all books being written at the time have to. Honestly, that doesn't go so much with the story. It's been compared to 'Catcher in the Rye.' James isn't Holden; he's way gayer, and that made it entertaining to read. When he talked about being on the bus and feeling so alone... I was that kid. This book is a good read for those of all ages, but obviously it's intended audience... GLBT young adults, are going to identify with something within these pages.
mgaulding on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed many of this author's books but this was simply his best. This character, along with his grandmother, are so adorable and so appealing (despite Jame's embarrassing faux pas). Don't miss this book.
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I did not like Catcher in the Rye. Not the first time I read it (in high school) and not the second time (in my 20s). And this book is little more than Catcher in the Rye updated for the 21st century. Except they still use words like "faggy".James, which at least is a better name than Holden, has not been kicked out of school, but has just graduated from high school and is considering not going to college, although he's scheduled to begin at Brown in the fall. Aside from a somewhat meaningless job, he spends his time being introspective and disaffected, and seems determined to remain so. He does strange, antisocial things for no apparent reason and with no apparent thought of the consequences and then not quite understanding why people are upset about what he did.I can't quite put my finger on why I has a problem with this book, or why I don't like Catcher in the Rye. I guess characters who know they're acting in an asocial way and refuse to acknowledge why other people might think they're a little strange just bother me. It's fine to be asocial, but a character (at least an intelligent character, as both James and Holden are supposed to be), ought to have enough insight to understand that they're outside the norm, which is going to be troubling to some people.
dfullmer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really liked this book. Teenage male protagonist struggling with life in Manhattan.
mjspear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gripping look at a disaffected boy in his pre-college summer in New York. NYC references and arch, arty environment (James works in his mother's gallery) may put some readers off. Those who perservere will be rewarded with a funny, poignant look at a young man overcoming depression to reach out. Nice bonus: a warmly realized relationship with his grandmother.
MrsHillReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
He's smart, witty, gay & unable to connect with the world. James's family is SO dysfunctional...almost a stereotype. James is hard to figure out and in the long run, I didn't care about him very much. The adult in me just wanted to tell him to "grow up".
iwriteinbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When eighteen year old James Sveck announces that he will most likely be forgoing his upcoming entrance to Brown University to instead pursue a piece of land not yet purchased in the Midwest, his well heeled New York City family protests. His flighty, thrice married, thrice divorced mother is only interested to the point of insisting that he subscribe to the services of the family shrink. His Partner¿s Club dinning father, voices repeatedly that he will be throwing his life away by shirking his academic responsibility. His older sister, halfway through Barnard and dating a married man, lectures him on his stupidity. His therapist, recommended by his mother, simply parrots the wishes of his family. His only solace is found in his feisty grandmother and an older coworker at his mother¿s gallery.Peter Cameron¿s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is an elegantly crafted tribute to the ever-growing stack of quarter-life crisis accounts in American literature. While the theme is not new (the book has received some serious flack for drawing on the likes of Catcher In the Rye), it is far from a mundane, rehashed storyline. Written from a teen view but not necessarily the voice of teen aged America (in fact, James will tell you that his position is exactly the opposite) the book superbly articulates the fluidity and uncertainty affixed to coming of age.I found myself cringing when I read other reviewers¿ descriptions of James¿s deep queries as ¿too adult¿. I find that young adults are often far more elegant in their searching than we give them credit for, perhaps because of, not in spite of, their youth. As we age, much like the secondary adults in Cameron¿s tale, we lose the ability to question, to act out, to rise above or sidestep authority.While it is billed as a young adult novel, the story touches on points that are relevant throughout life making it accessible and agreeable to a wide reading audience. If more young adult literature followed Cameron¿s lead, I think I would find myself a bigger fan of the genre. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You may be small in size but its impact is nothing less than powerful and is one that should, without a doubt, make its way to your summer reading pile.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
James lives in New York City. His parents are divorced, and he lives with his mother and older sister. His only friends are his grandmother and the man who runs his mother's art gallery. His dysfunctinal family and uncertainty about the future combine with his loneliness to cause problems.
presto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
James Sveck, eighteen years old, lives in New York City. He lives with his several times divorced mother and his older sister , he sees his father every Friday for lunch, but of choice enjoys visiting his one time actress grandmother. He is bright, articulate, a thinker, and a loner; he finds peers insufferable and prefers the company of is elders, and maybe he has a crush on John, the manager of his mother's art gallery.James story covers the period leading up to his possible entry into college, something he decides he does not want to do, he would prefer his father spent the money on a down payment on the old and remote house of his dreams. It is an affecting and captivating story told by an interesting and endearing young man; and for anyone who is happy in their own company a story that will strike more than a few chords.
infinitechoice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Super-smart James tangles with his misfit status during and after his senior year in New York City. His razor-sharp observations are witty and often deadly accurate, yet James often uses his keen verbal ability to alienate other people.I have a soft spot for gifted, troubled narrators, and find a place for James among Holden and his peers.
Alirambles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Seems you can't pick up a book with a male first-person narrator between the ages of 16 and 20 without reading on the back cover, "The next Holden Caulfield!!!!" or "JD Salinger for the 21st century!!" It's a pet peeve of mine.But, James Sveck? Really reminded me of Holden Caulfield. In fact, some of the things that made JD Salinger's protagonist hard to relate to are true of James as well. He's not a people person, and he does things that don't make sense to anyone but him. I suspect this is why some people didn't like this book, but I found James likeable and somehow more hopeful, even in his depression and isolation.