Me-Generation Self-Destructs in Novel of Hedonism and Redemption

Share Article

A group of college students, more focused on themselves than on the outside world, lead self-indulgent lives that reduce them to jealousy, despair, and self-destruction. In the end, only one student, a poet, redeems himself by learning compassion.

Amid the confusing world of college life and only by an act of compassion can Tommy Pendoro find redemption in Thor Polson's new novel "Childsong" (ISBN 9781844017317, Athena Press, 2007), a gripping exploration of early adulthood and a new generation's struggle with failed values.

"Childsong" depicts the experiences of several freshmen at a small Midwestern college. Among the various characters are a pious church-goer confused by a troubled childhood, an athletic ex-sailor who flaunts his sexual prowess, a sad small-town girl whose one-night stands are meant to fill the void left by her lost innocence, a handsome football star consumed by his own ego, a hypocritical divinity student, a hard-bitten orphan, and a few freewheeling professors. Played out against a stark psychological framework, the themes of hedonism, jealousy, and despair ultimately lead to the students' self-destruction, and it is only through poetry and compassion that one student can finally find his way out of the chaos.

Tommy Pendoro at first finds himself swept up in his classmates' lives, but he soon realizes that their selfish attitudes and actions fail to bring them the happiness they desire. Tommy chooses to seek his own path through the maze of confusion surrounding him. He dreams of being a poet, but his anxiety over being judged by his peers often prevents him from finishing his poems, and when he does finish one, he prefers to burn it rather than share something so personal with another human being. The novel traces the stages of his growing maturity.

Throughout "Childsong", Polson's experimental style requires the reader to piece together various non-linear incidents. The final section, written from Tommy's perspective, follows his growth toward compassion, which ultimately redeems him. With obvious nods to Joyce's "Ulysses," the narrative follows a labyrinthine path, a maze of clues the reader must sort through to understand the chronology of events and understand the novel's purpose. Mixed into the narrative are scenes detailing what may be at stake rather than what has actually occurred, thus providing a ball of twine to unravel in order to find the novel's message at the very end of the labyrinth.

Critics are praising "Childsong" for both its story and experimental style. Reader Views proclaims the writing "a work of literary genius...a book you will not put down." The Midwest Book Review praises it as "a well-written coming-of-age novel with a deft criticism of the current generation." Minnesota Literature says, "For readers who love the art of words and who can relate to the disappointments and struggles of adolescence and early adulthood, it is a gem." Finally, Book Reporter states that "Childsong" is "one of those rare books that will change the way you think."

About the Author:
Thor Polson was born in Kansas City, Missouri but traveled as a child with his family to India and Norway. He has received many degrees in languages, notably an M.A. in Latin from the University of Illinois in Urbana, an M.A. in Ancient Greek from the University of Missouri in Columbia, and an M.A. in German from Middlebury College in Vermont and its program in Mainz, Germany. He has taught classical and modern languages at numerous schools and colleges in the United States, particularly in Minnesota, and he holds an additional graduate degree in Ancient Greek from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Thor is also a pianist who currently teaches music and works as a professional musician in the Twin Cities.

"Childsong" (ISBN 9781844017317, Athena Press, 2007) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit; for publicity, contact Review copies are available upon request.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author


Visit website