Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Few Thoughts Re: Nick Hornby's "How To Be Good"

I just finished this book last week, and it was well worth it. Nick Hornby is funny, observant, and in this book he manages to accurately capture the psychological make-up of middle class folks, who in this case are trying to redeem their souls in the wake of leading a comfortable existence. How, with the best of intentions, does one be good when your life force is drained from running endlessly on the hamster wheel that is modern life? A valid question in this age, and Hornby approaches it masterfully.

There are also some poignant observations regarding some of the numbing and sterile aspects of middle-class existence, and the struggle to balance the pursuit of the "good life" with the need to reach beyond our own little cocoons into a larger social responsibility. What shapes our morals in this context when we feel barely afloat ourselves at times?

When one family member in this novel has a dramatic "conversion" to a new paradigm, the other members also have a crisis as they reevaluate everything they have taken for granted up to this point. This works itself out in a playful manner, and as usual Hornby has a keen ability to juxtapose how what goes on within our internal workings and what actually comes out of our mouths are not always congruent.

I did love this book and there are some sublime moments to say the least. Highly recommended...........

I also wanted to post a passage that I love. In this a mother is observing her daughter;

"What has happened to Molly in her first eight years? More or less nothing. We have protected her from the world as best we can. She has been brought up in a loving home, she has two parents, she has never been hungry, and she receives an education that will prepare her for the rest of her life; and yet she is sad, and that sadness is not, when you think about it, inappropriate.... It seems to me now that the plain state of being human is dramatic enough for anyone; you don't need to be a heroin addict or a performance poet to experience extremity. You just have to love someone."

This is a struggle for many parents - you want to protect your kids from hurt, anguish, disappointment, the very things that are a natural consequence of loving another human being and bringing a life into this world. Our ability to hurt others and to let them down is staggering and endless.

This desire to inoculate against sadness is valid and likely comes from a good place, though I often think it can have destructive consequences. Perhaps it is healthier to provide children with a vocabulary to explore sadness, to learn how to give voice and direction to this emotion, rather than suppressing, medicating or denying it as we often do in our culture. Maybe we are unable do this ourselves, and this is where the struggle lies....

Anyways, I have been chewing on this passage for about week, and I think it will stick with me for a while. Thank you Nick for so eloquently capturing the human condition!

1 comment:

robyn bright said...

It is so true- we need to be able to fully live in all our emotions pretty or difficult- and children need to learn that they can navigate their turmultuous heart strings, difficult moods, ennui.....relationships,dreams-
if we can not live in these moments and through them- then we do not find the true beauty in life- and children are not "precious"- they need to know they can handle things and that we have a full spectrum of
experience.