Behaving Bradley

Behaving Bradley is available at Amazon.

Making rules. As if that’s something Bradley Gold wants to get involved in. If it weren’t for his buddy, Coll, who roped him into adding his “student input” to Roblin High’s new code of conduct, there’s no way Brad would have been within ten miles of the parents’ committee meeting that turns him into an unwilling activist. With high humor and exquisite farce, Perry Nodelman reveals a side-splitting view of high school law and order.

How I Came to Write Behaving Bradley

Behaving Bradley grew out of conversations at the Nodelman family dinner table a few years ago, when my daughter Alice was in high school. Alice had never been very interested in getting involved in school activities, but after one of her best friends became school president and another the school year book editor, she found herself involved in spite of herself, and specifically involved with the student committee providing input for the school’s new code of conduct. As this committee did its work, Alice found herself being constantly astonished and horrified by the behaviour of everyone involved in these discussions, teachers, parents, principals and other students;and she told the rest of us Nodelmans all about it over dinner, night after night.

But I hasten to say that Behaving Bradleyis not a book about Alice’s experiences. It isn’t, not at all. When I decided to write a book about students in a high school putting together a code of conduct, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t pump Alice or her friends for details of what happened to them. I wanted to invent my own school and my own characters and events, one based only very loosely on the little bits I remembered from what Alice had been telling us.

And that’s what I did. Except for the annoying curly hair, Bradley is nothing like Alice herself. He’s probably more like me, and I, too, have (no, the truth, Perry–used to have) the same awful hair and even some of the same anti-social attitudes. Also, the skinny legs are mine. The things that happen in Bradley’s school are a mixture of things that are sort of like what happened to Alice, things that have happened to my sons Josh and Asa and to other high school students I’ve known, things that have happened to me, and most of all, things I’ve just made up. While I hope it sounds at least a little like reality, it’s not a documentary. It’s fiction. 

But is it Real?

Behaving Bradley is a comedy, with a certain amount of exaggeration and stretching of the truth for the sake of the humour. It’s no more real than, say, The Simpsons.

Or is it? Some people I know who are familiar with life in high schools tell me there’s no exaggeration at all–that the people in the schools they know often behave at least as badly and even sometimes as goofily as the characters in the book do. Or even worse: after Alice read the finished book based so loosely on her own experiences, she told me that the school in the book in a much nicer place than the actual high school she herself attended–and that what really happened to her was much more nightmarish and awful than what happens to Bradley

Bradley tells his own story–the book is the contents of a journal he keeps. He has a keen eye for all the ways in which the people around him (especially the adults) fail to live up to the standards they claim to live by, and since Brad tells the story as he sees it, the book might seem to some readers be a little cynical and negative. But I don’t think it is. I think (I hope) that perceptive readers will realize how often Brad’s perceptions of things are distorted by his own impossible high standards and his own feelings of inadequacy–that they are never quite the whole story. I hope you can tell just by the exaggerations of Brad’s journal that there are other ways of seeing the things and the people he’s describing, and that you might even be able to figure out what those other ways are.

One other thing: Brad is not just negative about other people. He often sees himself as being just as much of a jerk and a hypocrite as everyone around him. He realizes just how implicated he himself is in the human condition, how he too is often less noble or moral than he might like to think he is, how the inevitable failure of all of us human beings to live up to our own ideals does not mean that they are wrong ideals or that we should not always keep on trying to live up to them and keep on seeing the humour of our failure to do so. That I see as true and positive, and not cynical at all.

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