Books·Canadian

Boy Wonders

A memoir by Cathal Kelly.

Cathal Kelly

In this intimate and humorous memoir about how childhood passions shape our adult selves, Cathal Kelly probes his youthful obsessions — from Star Wars to the Blue Jays,The Lord of the Rings to The Smiths.

Vividly recalling a time when wearing a zippered, chainmail-laden Michael Jackson jacket seemed like a good idea, and The Beachcombers — "an adventure show about logging" — seemed to make sense, Kelly recounts growing up in the 1980s in a working-class Irish household as the son of a tough Catholic mother and a largely absent and abusive alcoholic father. Navigating an often fraught and always bewildering youth, Kelly sought refuge in comics, books, bands, games, movies and TV. But looking back, he realizes that his obsession with Dungeons and Dragons or Who Framed Roger Rabbit was never just about the game or movie, but about the joy in discovery and the creation of an identity. (From Doubleday Canada)

Boy Wonders won the $15,000 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for humour.

From the book

I was almost nine years old when I began digging the hole. I picked a spot near the rear of our backyard. How far will the hole go, people asked. I wasn't sure. Once you've gone through the trouble of starting a hole, you don't want to limit yourself. 

From then on I would think of everything I did, every exploration, every falling down the wormhole of a new obsession, every occasion that seemed a portent of something as more important than itself in the terms of digging that hole. That's what we do in life — we dig. Occasionally, we get somewhere, discover some small treasure. More often, the hole collapses in on us. Or we fill it in. And then we dig again. 

As life goes on, digging seems less momentous because it has become a habit. Somewhere between 10 and 20, you stop digging for its own sake, and begin digging for something specific — a job, a relationship, money, admiration, an escape.

Like your perception of time, once you cross over from one to the other, there is no going back. All that remains is the echo of how it once felt, and a nostalgia for those careless times.


From Boy Wonders by Cathal Kelly ©2018. Published by Doubleday Canada.

How Cathal Kelly became a writer

"I came from what I call a 'quite normal' broken home. I knew lots of people who shared my single parent situation in working class in the west end of Toronto. My father was gone and was not the greatest person. My family was hardscrabble. It's not like we were in the street with a tin cup, but the idea of complete security as a family escaped us. There were times when it was a little tenuous.

"Star Wars and that idea of creating your own family — going off on adventures and meeting people who stick together — was the type of family I wanted and thought someday I might build.

Star Wars and that idea of creating your own family — going off on adventures and meeting people who stick together — was the type of family I wanted ​​​​​​.- Cathal Kelly

"I saw that movie when I was a child only once, so I had to reconstruct it in my mind. The story tends to grow on you and become your own. At a certain point you can't remember exactly how things went. That's what Lucas did for a generation of children: he turned us all into storytellers."

Read more in his interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Cathal Kelly

Cathal Kelly talks to Shelagh Rogers about his memoir Boy Wonders. 16:03
Boy Wonders, the new book from national sports columnist Cathal Kelly, is about life, and childhood, and growing up in the 70s and 80s in Toronto. 8:10

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.