The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange

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9781569476017: The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange

In the summer of 1976, twelve-year-old Mark Barrowcliffe had a chance to be normal. He blew it. While other teenagers were being coolly rebellious, Mark—and twenty million other boys in the 1970s and ’80s—chose to spend his adolescence pretending to be a warrior, an evil priest, or a dwarf. He had discovered Dungeons & Dragons, and his life would never be the same. No longer would he have to settle for being Mark Barrowcliffe, an ordinary awkward teenager from working-class Coventry, England; he could be Alf the Elf, Foghat the Gnome, or Effilc Worrab, an elven warrior with the head of a mule. This is an hilarious memoir of an adolescence spent entirely in the world of fantasy.

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About the Author:

Mark Barrowcliffe worked as a journalist and a stand-up comedian before writing his first hit novel, Girlfriend 44. He has written two other acclaimed comic novels, Lucky Dog and Infidelity for First-Time Fathers. He now lives in Brighton, England.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. As a 12-year-old in England in 1976, Barrowcliffe (Lucky Dog) made a fateful choice: he started playing Dungeons and Dragons. Role-playing games were just beginning their rise, and Barrowcliffe, along with 20 million other socially maladapted boys, spent his adolescence in dining rooms and basements as a druid, warrior or magician, throwing oddly shaped dice and slaying monsters. While D&D allowed Barrowcliffe to escape his mundane, much-bullied existence in an all-boys school, it also threw him into an equally cruel nerdiverse of Nazi wannabes, boys with nicknames like Rat and Chigger, and his polymath, Falstaffian best friend who once ate a still-frozen chicken pie on a bet. Barrowcliffe, whose own schoolboy nickname was Spaz, wonderfully captures the insensitivity, insecurity and selfishness of the adolescent male. His eye for the oddities of 1970s British life is equally astute. At times, Barrowcliffe's relentlessly self-deprecating humor descends into a tedium of self-loathing. The book also loses some of its focus toward the end when D&D gives way to heavy metal clubs and tolerant girlfriends. However, these are minor imperfections when measured against the quality of the author's vision. Barrowcliffe renders all the comedy and sorrow of early manhood, when boys flee the wretchedness of their real status for a taste of power in imaginary domains. (Nov.)
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