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  • The Book of Grum – feedback Friday assignment

    Posted by Anthony Balkwill on 17 November 2023 at 11:31

    The Book of Grum

    The book is a bildungsroman about Graham Turnbull, who calls himself Grum. The only child of a single parent (who suffers from agoraphobia), Grum is uncomfortable around other people. It’s about him growing up and eventually working for a big tech company writing code for artificial intelligence. In this scene, Grum is on his first day at school, and has just hung his robot-themed backpack on a peg in the classroom, without being told. The peg has a robot picture on it, which made Grum think it must be for him.

    Start: Grum is anxious and disoriented. He doesn’t know if he’s doing the right thing.

    All the other children still had their backpacks on their shoulders as they sat on the carpet. Grum sat down and looked anxiously across the room at his robot backpack hanging on the peg. Had he done the right thing? What was on the list which Miss Trish had gone to find? His tummy had stopped its roiling, but was now hurting with a sharp tightness.

    A little girl with straight, dark hair tied in bunches on either side of a thin-lipped, unsmiling face had sat down next to Grum on the carpet. She leaned towards him and looked hard into his eyes. Her eyes were like two, deep pools of molten chocolate.

    I wanted the robot,” she whispered. “You stole it. You’re a thief.”

    Change: The anxiety is ramped up. He’s been accused of being a thief, and becomes increasingly aware of how uncomfortable and strange everything is.

    Grum felt his face going hot, and the paper, paint, and watery smell of the room suddenly became chokingly intense. He looked down at the carpet and saw that it was marked out like a snakes and ladders board. He was sitting on one of the ladders, but he couldn’t work out if he was at the top or bottom of it. He shuffled his bottom uncomfortably, and felt the sharp pain move in his tummy. The girl leaned in towards him again, “What’s your name, thief?” she asked in a whisper.

    “Grum,” answered Grum. “No, Graham.”

    End: He’s accidentally revealed his weird nickname (His mum had warned him to remember he’s called Graham at school). He associates himself with being horrid – this will prove very important later on.

    “Grum?” snirtled the girl. “What a horrid name.”

    Grum felt the tight, hot pain flood from his tummy up into his face, and down into his bottom. He had forgotten to remember that his name at school was Graham, not Grum.

    “You’ve got a horrid name. And a horrid face.” The girl shuffled herself a few more inches away and turned her head to look at the distant pegs where the robot backpack hung accusingly

    Ceresse Gardner replied 2 weeks ago 5 Members · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • Suzanne Owen

    17 November 2023 at 11:55

    This fits this week’s task very well, from what I can see. I found it difficult to find a suitable scene that wasn’t too complicated.

    I see in your scene that Grum goes from being anxious to ashamed.

  • Jonathan Baylis

    17 November 2023 at 12:15

    This task is as difficult to comment on as to do. I think your selection reads just fine. I’m not sure that the girl turning away is really a change or a resolution. It seems like he’s still upset by the hostility.

    • Anthony Balkwill

      17 November 2023 at 14:59

      Yes, you’re right, Jonathan. It’s more on an intensification than a change. Swift changes in the emotional architecture of a big thing like a novel can feel ungainly. I’d need a whole chapter to do it well, I think!

  • Harry Bingham

    20 November 2023 at 12:05

    I like this, Anthony – and picturing one of my kids in that situation gets my fatherly juices flowing.

    I guess I think that the girl is pretty savage for a (?) five-year-old. My kids went to a pretty nice, gentle school at that age, but I couldn’t quite imagine that level of hostility out of nothing.

    That said:-

    a) who cares. It’s a powerful scene

    b) we have Grum’s feelings beautifully and believably on the page

    c) there are some nice details – the snakes & ladders carpet. the pools of molten chocolate

    So all good. But I’m gonna send Grum to a different school!

  • Ceresse Gardner

    21 November 2023 at 06:35

    Hi Anthony, I like this. You painted a very clear picture of Grum’s first day at school. His anxiety at the newness of it all. Then a girl was nasty to him and he felt increasingly uncomfortable and finally accidentally embarrassed himself. I bet he will never forget that first day. I wonder how he goes when he eventually makes it into the corporate world. I know someone just like him who’s a wonderkid in IT now.

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