I recently read John Grisham’s The Racketeer. It was a very fun book; and if you’re looking for some brain bubblegum, then I recommend it. And when I was done, I went looking for another fun book. The recommendation that I found was I Am The Messenger. It turned out to be the fun that I was looking for. I wasn’t prepared, though, for just how much more than fun that book would be.
“Why me?” I ask God. God says nothing. I laugh, and the stars watch. It’s good to be alive.
The author was obviously influenced by Catcher in the Rye. The protagonist of the story is an anti-hero with seemingly mediocre mental resources and ambition. He has a similar lack of responsibility towards money, and also seeks love from an apparently average sort of woman.
It makes me look deeper into the street, trying to find the future events in store. I’m happy.
The author uses the lyrical technique of having the story progress with a mysterious list. Much like And Then There Were None or Atlas Shrugged, a list appears without an obvious purpose, and the protagonist’s adventure is to proceed through this list. And like Catcher in the Rye, we watch the protagonist’s character grow as he proceeds through the adventure.
I didn’t know that words could be so heavy.
All of the above is extremely fun, and would have satisfied exactly what I was looking for. But then there’s the “more.” The author is able to interweave lyrical prose into his colloquial speech. Like a droplet of watercolor crashing into a glass of clean water, these moments of poetry bring extreme beauty to an otherwise simple appearance.
This isn’t about words. It’s about glowing lights and small things that are big.
And then there’s more beyond that. We find that through the character’s growth, his mental faculties become stronger than we had thought. In the most believable and common way, he demonstrates cleverness. And then, like The Things They Carried, the reader can begin to wonder whether this is a story at all. Is this a book, or a letter, or something else?
I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life.
I’m being purposefully vague. I worry that I’ve already revealed too much. In my life, I’ve come to realize that competence is unusual. Most people seem to stumble through life with the goal of minimal effort. Competence is so unusual that I celebrate it. In those rarest of occasions, I get to interact with something more than competence: excellence. I Am Messenger is one of those experiences. I hope that I get to meet Markus Zusak (the author) someday; I’d like to give him a hug.
When the job’s done, he smacks me on the shoulder and we run off like handsome thieves. We both laugh and run, and the moment is so thick around me that I feel like dropping into it to let it carry me. I love the laughter of this night. Our footsteps run, and I don’t want them to end. I want to run and laugh and feel like this forever. I want to avoid any awkward moment when the realness of reality sticks its fork into our flesh, leaving us standing there, together. I want to stay here, in this moment, and never go to other places, where we don’t know what to say or what to do. For now, just let us run. We run straight through the laughter of the night.