Whipping Boy, by Allen Kurzweil (Bullying)

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Donald Schneider

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Feb 21, 2009
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(From my personal website regarding school bullying)

Whipping Boy: My Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully, by Allen Kurzweil

Whipping Boy…, the double entendre-titled memoir by writer and academic Allen Kurzweil, recounts the forty-year odyssey of a man trying to come to terms with his metaphorical inner demons which he had been long convinced were born in a Swiss boarding school by his school bully and personal tormentor, a then twelve-year-old boy with the improbably pompous name of Caesar Augustus. After reading a newspaper article about the youthful sadist regarding his unsavory past subsequent to their mutual school years, Mr. Kurzweil succeeded in contacting his nemesis of yore and eventually confronting him over the emotional injuries the bully had inflicted upon his victim and the subsequent emotional pain he had endured ever since as a result.

Although I haven’t read the book yet (which I might well review in the hopefully not too distant future), I have formed certain conclusions about Mr. Kurzweil’s project from reading the review regarding the book that I shall link to below. My feelings are one of ambivalence. Of course, I can empathize with the author. Nevertheless, I have mixed emotions about it. The theme of Mr. Kurzweil’s quest—how the trauma of severe school bullying can leave a profound emotional scar on the victim and influence his or her entire course of life—is in perfect accord with one of the major themes of my short story “Pride’s Prison.” However, my reaction differs with that of Mr. Kurzweil’s. Whereas he desired to confront the pain of his past, the embarrassment of my sorry school years of being bullied left me wanting no part in actually confronting it and those responsible. Now, as then, I simply wanted them to leave me alone; an easily granted request as Mr. Kurzweil discovered to his apparent astonishment.

It seems as if Mr. Kurzweil’s personal villain barely remembered him and claimed he had no recollection of the pervious bullying he had inflicted upon his victim as Mr. Kurzweil recounted to him, nor even of having been his roommate. I readily believe the erstwhile juvenile bully as I have stated time and again that true school bullying is only personal in the sense that once a kid has been marked as a target of opportunity the torment will persist as long as he or she remains such. It is not personal in that had it not been this or that kid, it would have been another.

As I also have said many times, the motive for true school bullying is always the same: sadism, the perverse pleasure that the bully feels in humiliating others. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Mr. Kurzweil discovered how little he had really mattered to his personal demon of so many years gone by.

As stated, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read Mr. Kurzweil’s book, but I certainly intend to do so as soon as time permits. Here is the link for the review I referred to:

New York Post review, by Larry Getlen:


Here is the link to the Wikipedia article for Allen Kurzweil and his career:

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