Share via Email This weekend, the No 1 spot on the hardback non-fiction bestseller list is occupied by Dave Pelzer.
Share via Email This weekend, the No 1 spot on the hardback non-fiction bestseller list is occupied by Dave Pelzer. The No 2 spot on the paperback non-fiction bestseller list is also occupied by Dave Pelzer.
And the No 3 spot on the hardback non-fiction bestseller list? It's been like this for months. Altogether, Pelzer has sold almost a million books in this country and three million worldwide. Yet even his publisher admits that Pelzer is no great shakes as a writer.
But this scarcely begins to account for the success of three volumes concerned with horrific childhood abuse at the hands of Dave's alcoholic mother, which, as a result, are brutal and piercing to read. These are memoirs of violence, a catalogue of crimes against a suffering child.
Why does anyone - whether they're habitual book buyers or not - want to consume this stuff? Briefly, Pelzer relates that between the ages of four and 12, he was kept in the garage of his house in the San Francisco suburbs and forced to wear the same clothes, which slowly disintegrated into smelly rags.
He was not allowed to eat meals with the rest of the family, and when he scavenged for leftovers, his mother took to dusting the bin with ammonia. Guessing that he was begging or stealing food from elsewhere, she forced him to vomit and, at least once, made him eat the regurgitated mess.
Dave became known in the household as The Boy or It.
If he got behind with his chores, his mother forced him to swallow spoonfuls of ammonia or locked him in the bathroom to inhale the rasping fumes from a bucket of ammonia and bleach. He was regularly required to lie in baths of cold water.
On one occasion, she pressed his face into a dirty nappy and hissed at him to 'Eat it! On another again, she stabbed him with a kitchen knife and left him to clean up the suppurating pus with dirty rags. If this is unpleasant over two paragraphs, imagine it carefully detailed over pages, and revisited in two follow-up volumes.
Even though the book had been on the New York Times bestseller list for three years garishly packaged for a religiously inclined middle-American market by the same people who produce the gruesomely smug Chicken Soup For The Soul seriesthe consensus among British publishers was that it wouldn't work here.
There may also have been some literary snobbery. Pelzer rarely uses one word where five will do. When trying to escape his mother, rather than crawl, he 'literally crawled on my hands and knees'.
But snootiness about the writing is beside the point, because actually, the books bowl along, in their horrific way, and my guess is that Pelzer - and more particularly Marsha, who began as his editor, but is now his 'wife and executive director' - know exactly what they are doing.
They are, for example, extremely adept at building tension. When little Dave has been begging for food, he walks home in dread that his mother will have found him out.
Above me the skies were blue and I could feel the sun's rays warm on my back.
As I approached Mother's house, I looked up towards the sun, wondering if I would ever see it again Nothing extraneous is allowed to get in the way of the steady march of the violence. It's difficult to work out exactly where Dave comes in the family of five boys I think he is the second child.
We know nothing about what his house was like or his parents' backgrounds. His father remains shadowy - heroic to Dave, but presumably deeply culpable - and it's not at all clear how his brothers reacted to his torture.
The writing focuses tightly on the contest between mother and son, but, crucially, no explanation is offered for her violence. One minute, Catherine Roerva Pelzer is too good to be true, not only taking the kids to Chinatown for a lesson in Chinese culture, but also, in a manic parody of idealised motherhood, decorating the house with paper lanterns and dressing up in a Chinese costume to serve a home-cooked Chinese meal.
The next minute she's smashing his face against a mirror. In its decontextualised void, the violence becomes effectively pornographic; thrilling and meaningless. This is child abuse as entertainment, relived in titillating detail, a schlock-fest of random brutality. Trevor Dolby who packaged the books brilliantly for sale in the UK, as classy-looking white-covered hardbacks doesn't disagree that the violence is deracinated, but says:A Child Called "It" tells the heartbreaking true story of the abuse Dave Pelzer suffered at the hands of his alcoholic mother.
In this memoir, Dave . Dave is also the author of The Lost Boy, A Man Named Dave, The Privilege of Youth, Help Yourself, and Help Yourself for Teens.
Today Dave is a husband and a father and resides in Rancho Mirage, California. More Information. A Child Called "It" is Dave's first book. David Pelzer tells his personal story of child abuse and brings the reader in through the the eyes of himself as a child.
The emotions of constant fear, rage, hopelessness to the struggle of holding onto strength and triumph all in one.
Trevor Dolby, publishing director of non-fiction at Orion, believes that Pelzer's autobiographical trilogy - A Child Called It, The Lost Boy and A Man Named Dave - appeal to people who don't.
A Child Called "It" (Dave Pelzer #1), Dave Pelzer David James "Dave" Pelzer (born December 29, in San Francisco, California) is an American author, of several autobiographical and self-help books/5. Dave Pelzer's first book in this series is phenomenal. What actually happened to him as a child is hard to imagine.
This was a number one New York Times bestseller for months and is an inspirational story.