Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant, 10 July 2009
This review is from: The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange (Paperback)
This book was fine and dandy until Barrowcliffe's 'Mr Wrong' came out. If, as this book (and especially the jacket) seems to tell us, D&D somehow stunted Barrowcliffe's social skills, or ability to relate to others, it didn't last long, as he ended up bedding 40 women by the time he was 40! They didn't seem to mind his 'elfish gene'. Kind of makes me wish I had tried a bit of D&D now.... if those were the results. So methinks he doth protest too much.

Seriously though, while it's an interesting attempt to portray nerdy youth from a British perspective (most nerd culture is distinctly American) it ultimately fails. Why? Well, throughout the book Barrowcliffe rightly highlights the arrogance, bitterness, one-upmanship and pettiness of a male subculture and hobby. He learns, he grows, he gets beyond it. Then comes the coda. He's trying roleplaying again as a grown-up to see if he remembers what his teenage self got from it. Does he look back wistfully with a wry smile and offer the warmth of matey camradery, advice or sympathy to his fellow roleplayers? Nope: he realises he is superior to all the other middle-aged men there and declares (in a smug way) that he is going home to be with his wife and child, (I have wife! and kids! I have people who care about me! unlike those saddos!) and write some more books (proper publishers and everything!). But not before telling them this. So he still can't resist getting one over on the other role-players, proving he is king, even at this stage of his life.

He's mean, and mocking about role-players in general. Before anyone also accuses me of being 'over defensive' I certainly have no axe to grind when it comes to gaming, as I never enjoyed or understood role-playing.

So, rather than have compassion for the middle-aged nerd, he effectively goes: 'I'm better than you! Yah boo! I win! I win!' thus failing to learn any life lessons at all, and chucking any sense of development or evolution of the story, into a small dustbin. How I loathe him. However I will now use my cleric's staff to call down a healing prayer that turns him into a nicer person. Or something.

A much better autobiography of life as a nerd, which not only has genuine literary merit (it won the Pulitzer) but also genuine compassion for the nerdy male, is Junot Diaz's 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' which I heartily recommend over this tripe. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Oct 2009 13:01:10 BDT
Sam Tyler says:
Great review and exactly how I feel. The book was fun enough, but when he went through his later years the feeling of contempt and arrogance drips off the page. He seems to dismiss people as worthless and I found it chilling tbh.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Oct 2009 23:47:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 Oct 2009 01:13:08 BDT
I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed this. The guy (in the book - not sure if this is an affectation or not) ultimately seems like a nasty piece of work. Maybe he's doing it for comic effect?? Especially in Mr Wrong, he seems to want us to have sympathy for him while not willing to express much sympathy for anyone else. The end of 'Elfish' was breathtaking in its contempt for others. So, in the end, is Barrowcliffe any better than his teenage self? If, like me, you are fascinated by how horrible this man appears, you can read Mr Wrong and experience more eye-gougeingly awful 'insights' into himself and others. Make sure not to buy a copy though! Best
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