The Wit and Wisdom of Leonard Peacock

This month my library book group selection was “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock,” by Matthew Quick. It was such a fun time. As you can see we are a diverse group and the opinions on the book and its subject matter covered a wide range.

I loved it. Matthew Quick is an incredible author and has a way of putting on paper things that go through almost everyone’s mind, but can barely express. He has written several books including the one that inspired the film “The Silver Linings Playbook;” which is one of the few movies that I could watch a hundred times and never get sick of.

I wanted to share with you some of the awesomeness that made me love Leonard Peacock, in the hope that you will read this book and take as much away from it as I did. 

Leonard is extraordinarily intelligent, has a dark sardonic sense of humor, and is deeply wounded. He has decided to take a gun to school to kill his former best friend and then himself; but first he has some presents that he wants to give to a few “friends.”

I don’t want to give away any of the plot because it so interesting to follow him through “his last day on earth,” and discover how he has come to such a low that he is considering taking someone else’s life and his own. Although the subject seems dark and could have been depressing, Matthew Quick has given Leonard a beautiful, hilarious, and sarcastic voice that brings the book to life.

I dont think I have ever had so many sticky notes and highlighted passages in a fiction book. 

So without further ado, here is a brief introduction into the mind of Leonard Peacock…*

-Leonard is late for school-

Vice Principal Torres- “Mr. Peacock…if you’re not on your way to class by the time I say three, you’re going to have a big problem.”

Leonard- “What type of problem am I going to have?”…” Don’t you think we should discuss the consequence of my possible inaction so I can decide whether or not doing what you have requested is truly in my best interest? I want to make an informed decision. I want to think. This is school after all. Aren’t you supposed to encourage us to think?…”

Leonard often skips school in order to observe and follow people (targets) from the subway to try to figure out “if being an adult is worth it.”-

“The whole time I pretend like I have mental telepathy. And with my mind only, I’ll say-or think?-to the target, “”Don’t do it. Don’t go to that job you hate. Do something you love today. Ride a rollercoaster. Swim in the ocean naked….Maybe stop a spinning globe with your finger and then plan a trip to that very spot….Do anything! Something!””

“Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take.”

“The rides home always deepen my depression, because these people are free-off work, headed back to families they chose and made themselves-and yet they still dont look happy.”

-Leonard has an interesting encounter when one of his “targets” realizes he is following her-

“…which is when I realized that the truth doesn’t matter most of the time, and when people have awful ideas about your identity, that’s just the way they will stay no matter what you do.”

-Leonard on the reactions of some students in his Holocaust class to the teacher pointing out that Walt Disney was often accused of being a Nazi sympathizer-

“Head-in-sand logic is so popular here at my high school. It’s like even if Disney World were run on power generated by secret underground slaves from Africa, people who were chained and forced to ride stationary bikes hooked up to generators, people who were whipped and lived in cages…people from all over America would still take their children to Disney World. Just as no one saw the slaves being whipped. Hide the horrors and most Americans would be happy as hell. Depressing. ”

-Leonard goes with a girl he likes in order to impress her-

“Just to make things more interesting, I pretended that I was an anthropologist from the future sent back to observe what religious life was like in the past.”
I wish I could share more with you, but I am afraid it will ruin the story. This book is witty, wise, profound, and extremely important. I think that it is important for adults, especially parents, to remember what it was like to feel like high school was the entire world. It is important to let them know, as Herr Silverman told Leonard, that they will “find their people.”

*All of the quotes were taken from the paperback edition of “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.” -ISBN 978-0-316-22135-1

**Group photo courtesy of Leominster public library

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