Controversial Behaviour in Spud




Hey guys! Sorry about the lateness of this week’s blog post but here it is.


I don’t think any South African high school reading list would be complete without at least John van de Ruit’s first Spud book (and mine unfortunately was, a great travesty for my classmates, who may never ever read Spud). Spud is one of those stories that, though set in a very specific era in South Africa (that transitional period between Apartheid and Democracy), will never age because somehow Spud represents our own feelings at some stage in our lives.

John “Spud” Milton has just embarked on the wildest adventure in his life as a scholarship-holder at a prestigious all-boys private school. Spud has now got to deal with cruel nicknames, wild pranks, insane parents, demented teachers and prefects and a crazy group of friends worthy of their name, the Crazy Eight. But, will Spud survive his first high school experience or will it all become too much for him as he juggles parents, school work, teachers, bullies and the desire to be the lead in the school play? Find out in this hilariously funny book about a boy’s pursuit of manhood.

Movie Magic:

I always think that anyone should read the book (any book) before watching the movie but I am ashamed to say that in this case, I watched the film version of Spud before managing to acquire a copy of the book. I have to say that the film is just as side-splittingly funny as the book and I found myself almost falling off my chair the first (ok every!) time I saw it.  But, there are some fundamental differences between the book and the film. If I had to give someone advice about whether to watch the film instead of reading the book for a literature class my immediate response would be READ THE BOOK (and then watch the film because it’s just as funny).

The first fundamental difference between the book and the film is the characters. When I watched Spud (psst! Want the film version click here.), the film, I was introduced to an assortment of characters. When I read the book, I was introduced to a whole lot more. Now, of course I know that having too many actors in a film doing too many different things can get confusing for the audience but so can too many characters in a book. The problem I had with the film is that too many characters were missing from the film, characters that add dimension to the book. And some of the important (I would go so far as to say crucial) lines of those characters have either been totally omitted or given to someone else. But, how can the producers do that? How can they take crucial lines of a character, lines that represent who they are, and just give them to another character, with other traits? It somehow made the story entirely and completely different in the movie, still funny but different. The other thing about the characters in the film that was different from the book is that they liked Spud to much. I know what you’re thinking: is that a bad thing? Well, yes, it is kind of. At least, it’s not consistent with the character’s traits. I guess, I realise that making the characters like Spud kind of made Spud the hero of the story but it somehow just seemed to add extra variance to the already changed story.

 The other fundamental difference between the book and the film was the story line. I’ve read many books where the movie cuts out whole scenes. And I get why the producers have done that: it’s hard to fit in all the situations you read about in a book into a two-hour long film sequence. The problem I had was that after reading the first Spud book I realised that quite a few of the rather hilarious situations were removed from the film. Not such a big deal as I have said. Not until I read the second book and watched the second film and discovered that the situations in the first and second Spud books were completely muddled in the first and second films. I saw situations from both the first and second Spud books in the first film. That was really confusing because it’s hard to keep straight what a story is about when the story in the book is completely different from the one in the film. So I say again: READ THE BOOK FIRST!!

In My Humble Opinion:

I titled this blog “Controversial Behaviour” for a reason. It’s actually a line from the book and the movie. I’ll spare you the rest of the phrase because it’s a little derogatory (hey, it was the early nineties) but I will say that it has to do with the topic of homosexuality. I’m going to avoid the trap of giving you my own opinion on that topic basically because I’m not sure which side – for or against – of the fence I fall on. Rather, this is my opinion of how it was addressed in Spud.

Spud is the story of a thirteen year old boy from a normal (I use that word in it’s broadest sense) family. He’s been kind of sheltered in life from homosexuality. And it’s clear from the book that he’s not at all aware of the dangers he may face in an all-boys school. Yet, even though reading Spud is essentially reading the diary of a naive and sheltered boy attending his first year of an all-boys high school, those subtle nuances are there. It sounds strange but even though the reader can see that Spud doesn’t understand – unless someone outright mentions the words “gay” or “lesbian” (forgive me if those words offend but they are in the book) – the concept of homosexuality is still present throughout the book. Perhaps its the subtleties and the actions of those involved in “controversial behaviour” that allow for the reader to pick up what thirteen-year old Spud doesn’t understand. And that naivety also makes for exceptionally funny reading.

So, here’s what to do. Grab some tissues (because you are going to laugh so much, you cry), find a quiet place (you don’t want any people to be taken by surprise when you fall off your chair, couch, wall or floor -yes,  Spud will do that to you) and don’t drink anything for at least two hours before you start reading (seriously, I don’t want anyone wetting themselves because I recommended this book). Yes, Spud is that funny! Grab the book by clicking on the picture or one of the red links, which will take you directly to Amazon.

Happy Reading!



2 thoughts on “Controversial Behaviour in Spud

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