Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve Reading: A Long Way Down

There are certainly books and movies about New Year's Eve, but compared to it's holiday cousin a week away Christmas gets far more movie and book love.

This past year I read a book by praised British author Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down.

The premise of this book is simple, four totally different characters find themselves on top of a tall building in London called Topper's House on New Year's Eve all with the intentions of throwing themselves off the roof and committing suicide.

The book, written in first person narrative tells the story seamlessly transitioning from one character to the next as they describe the scenes that follow, which are suprisingly comical at times for a book about suicide.

The four characters are quite different: Martin Sharp, a "breakfast television" host whose life is ruined by a sex scandal with an underage prostitute; Maureen, a patheticly lonely single woman who has been raising her disabled son since birth with no human contact with the exception of a her Sunday church friends; Jess a crazy outrage girl who's teen angst and heartbreak seem quite pathetic as the story begin, but who's value to the story is pivotal at every step of the way; and JJ an American kid who's failure as a musician has him artistically contemplative about the meaning of life.

And so the story begins and unfolds in a unique way, with these unique characters take turns telling their story.

One of the things I like about this story is that despite it's collection of relatively unredemptive characters, who's personalities, foul-mouths, and self-centered behavior makes them unlikely heroes. The Maureen character is to be the shining star of the story, because she, in her naivete is the one who warrants the most sympathy. She's the one in the shadow's who sees her life as an unending hopeless string of days.

The other characters certainly don't warrant the same level of emotional connection, but their literary pontification on the meanings of their lives and creating a mental framework for their desire to kill themselves is certainly interesting.

While this book is not quite literary genius, or even the best thing I've read this year, it does some neat things, and is compelling and interesting. My respect for Nick Hornby continues to grow with each project of his, even the screenplay he wrote for this year's (fantastic) film, An Education, demonstrates Horby's best qualities. Whether it's Fever Pitch, About a Boy, A Long Way Down, or any of his other projects I continue to be impressed. Horby walks a careful line between comedy and drama as he captures people as they are with out over-dramatic crescendo's but instead with capturing the fragility of our decisions and responses to everyday life.

Happy New Year's Eve!

1 comment:

Andrew K. said...

Finally saw An Education. Still trying to gather my thoughts.