Monday, October 11, 2010

Bad for me

Over the course of our friendship, M. has lent me several books. The Viagra book felt vaguely slimy in my mind (and I never finished it). The Hunger Games trilogy twirled me around and swooped me up and down, and after several months of suspense, set me down in a sunny, spacious place. And now I've read the first book in a new trilogy: Life as We Knew It.

Like Hunger Games, it was hard to put down. The novel is written as the journal of Miranda, a Pennsylvanian sixteen-year-old whose name inevitably reminds me of the ravaged planet in the movie "Serenity." This is a fitting association for a book about the disintegration of life on Earth when a stray asteroid strikes our own Luna, sending her a shade closer to the planet. The moon looms grotesquely and menacingly large overhead, as though it is about to fall out of the sky. It is a relief to Miranda when the vast quantities of ash from the volcanoes that spring up everywhere on the destablized planet obscure the sky entirely. When the ash is thick enough, she can't see the moon's threats. Meanwhile, there are plenty of more direct physical threats wreaking havoc all over the planet: tidal waves, earthquakes, epidemics, food shortages.

This is a book about the narrowing of a life, the shrinking of the known world. This is a book about deprivation and death.

It's also a book about appreciating the little you have. But that appreciation comes only through resignation. Joy sprouts from accepting that things can't better, and in fact they are going to get much worse, so now is the time to extract the little life you can out of the shriveling, withering world. This is a book about hope that comes through blindness, about stripping away false faith, about salvation through asceticism.

Reading this book felt like drowning. When I rose to the surface--when I closed the book and opened my eyes to the clear blue sky and the sunshine streaming down like it would never ever run out--I gulped reality, gasping and heaving, and coughed up despair like water from my lungs. Drowning makes you appreciate air, but that doesn't mean almost drowning is good for the soul. I don't intend to read the sequels to Life as We Knew It. Despair is enough of a temptation in my own world of abundance and faith; living in the head of a teenager in desperate circumstances that cannot improve (in her world) does nothing good for my emotional stability. Distant as the moon is, I am enough of a lunatic.

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