A Long Way Down [and Up], Nick Hornby

In accordance to the depressing months of September and October, I have braved my way into yet another novel of suicide and questions, but this time, on a lighter narration with Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down.

Once or maybe several times of our lives, we thought of going the easy way out. We ask of what is the point of living in this cruel, miserable world where we have nothing stable to cling on to, where change is constant and inevitable, and the fear of unknown is among us every waking moment of our life. [Or is it just me? Heh.]

The story opens on the rather festive New Year celebration, the occasion of hope for another year to come, and yet,  we meet four characters who decided that they have enough of life’s misgivings. There is Martin Sharp, Maureen, Jess, and JJ, who all have decided to give up on life’s punishment/burden/hopes/life, in general. Who wouldn’t?

We see Martin Sharp, who had the life everyone would have wanted to have, but then, he makes one mistake and the life he had worked hard to secure crumbles before him. Then there’s Maureen, a single mother of a child who is practically her life’s burden. JJ, who lost life when he thought he lost music, and then Jess, our resident heartbroken teenager who lives on angst and heartbreak. After hearing of their stories, there was the “seems legit” moment. Life has been terribly hard on these people, no wonder they would want to succumb to that seemingly eternal abyss of afterlife.

And another way of explaining it is to say that shit happens, and there’s no space too small, too dark and airless and fucking hopeless, for people to crawl into.

We have four characters to pick from, depending on which battle of life we are on now. There was Jess and the angsty phase everyone had gone through, hated and was embarrassed by it. JJ and his quarter life crisis, ehem. Maureen and the woes of being a mother, and Martin and the difficulties of looking helplessly at a life that is cascading before you. I thoroughly enjoyed being in the subconscious of these characters, but somehow, it didn’t feel like I was having the experiences first hand, that even if I was supposed to have the reader in me immersed in them, I feel detached. I felt like I was looking at them from a far, even with the obvious inclination to Jess’ heartbreak and JJ’s quarterlife crisis.

“That’s it.” I said. “This disease that dries up all the blood in your veins.”
“That’s just what happens to everyone,” said Martin. “It’s called getting older.”

Which made me realize of how I value of the language use. This is the first Hornby that I have read, but I would like to claim that I have familiarized myself with the language of chic and lad lit before. I have developed certain fondness over the easy flowing conversations, natural wit, and light flow of the story that characterize this genre of fiction. I would have enjoyed such, I think, had I not read and fell in love with Foer’s romantic language.

You see, both authors were talking about the hopelessness in life, but for some reason, with Hornby narrating these characters woes, there was Schadenfreude. My spirits felt uplifted after knowing of other people’s miseries. I found happiness on their grief, knowing that I have a better life than them, that at least, my drunk moments did not equate with that of Martin Sharp’s that caused him his job, stature, and family or I think I still have not lost my writing, which is the same with JJ’s regard with music. But with Foer, the sadness was contagious. It made me realize my life’s flaws and how I could have lost hope had I looked at  life at these certain angles.

But then again, we are talking about suicide, and the beauty of Hornby and his pen is the way he could talk about serious topics such as suicide in a light manner. As I have said, September and October are proving to be difficult months for my emotional stability and psychological capacity to fathom life, and a shared grief on suicide may just tug a string. Huh.

In tough times of life questions, we all need a Hornby, for his is the hand that is from the other side of the building offering us the better and sweeter side of life.

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