A few years ago, I read Everything Matters based on the recommendation of a friend. I wrote about it here. It was then and remains now the only book I have ever read and then immediately read again. I won’t ever claim that it is classic literature, but it was a story that spoke to me in a way that no other story has. I read it and in the end was struck so deeply by it I needed to read it again to figure out the thing of it. Towards the end of the story, there is a paragraph that sums it all up for me. The story. My approach to life. Everything.
Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you’ve got — your wife’s hips, your daughter’s eyes, your brother’s heart, your father’s bones and your own grief — and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.
It is the last part that is really meaningful. “Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.” Because, to me, the one dreadful alternative is that nothing matters and how could we possibly live in a world where nothing matters. And, here’s the other thing. The other part that I loved about that quote. It’s not just the big things, the incredible things, it’s not just the sorrow and the bad. It’s the little things. Your wife’s hips, your daughter’s eyes, your brother’s heart, your father’s bones. And, then, yes, there is the grief and the loss. And it all matters and rather than turning from it we should cling to it, gather it in. Seek the meaning in it. I read that paragraph now and chills go down my spine that somebody could have put those words together in such a perfect way.
So, I eagerly awaited Mr. Currie’s next effort. Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is it. Here’s the Amazon blurb about the book:
A bold and arresting story about the impossibility of love and the inevitability of grief by the acclaimed author of Everything Matters!
Ron Currie, Jr.’s first two works of fiction, God Is Dead and Everything Matters!, dazzled readers and critics alike with their audacity, originality, and psychological insight. Hailed by the New York Times’s Janet Maslin as a “startlingly talented writer,” Currie once again moves and provokes us with his latest genre-bending novel, one that asks why literal veracity means more to us than deeper truths.
The protagonist of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is named Ron Currie, Jr., and as you’d expect, he’s a lot like the guy who wrote the book. Both of them are writers; both of their fathers are dead; both are deeply in love with women whose beauty and allure are matched only by their elusiveness. When Currie the character travels to a small Caribbean island to begin a new book about the woman he loves, he inadvertently fakes his own death, which turns out to be the best career move he’s ever made–until he learns that the one thing that the world will not forgive is having been told a deeply satisfying lie.
Truth be told, I barely read the blurb or any of the reviews or anything else about this book before I started to read it. I’m sold on this guy based on Everything Matters. My only fear being that this book wouldn’t live up to the beauty of his prior work. And so I read it with excitement and trepidation. And dammit. Now I need to read it again. Because there is just so much here and he does such an incredible job of writing about the beauty of life, the quality of love, the value in happiness, the need for sorrow, and the depths of longing. And how all of that interacts to create a life that may or may not be worth living.
Because I’d jammed more earnestness into a single line of that note than existed in the whole of my first book. And in a world where people daily put on false indifference along with their deodorant and makeup, where they girded themselves in irony between sips of coffee, where the morning newscasters winked at them while relaying the latest news, where their politicians did the same while telling them what they wanted to hear, where they told spouses they loved them when they no longer did, where they pretended not to know that the sun would one day expand and consume the Earth, where they smiled brightly at people they loathed, where they took Dexedrine to begin the day and Xanax to end it, where they ate when they were tired and fucked when they were hungry and slept when they were horny, where they willfully believed in television characters as a panacea for their loneliness, where they preferred this loneliness to the vulnerability that could relieve it, where they felt with their brains and thought with their hearts, where they seethed and feigned calm, where they feared and feigned courage, where they hungered and feigned satiety, where they almost never said how they felt for fear of being perceived as strange or weak or plain crazy, where they each and every one continued to perpetrate this massive, ravenous lie upon themselves, they each and every one felt themselves, moment to moment, trembling for something true.
Pretty much spot on as far as I’m concerned about our modern world. We’re living these fake lives looking for truth in places where we’re never going to find it.
So, there are some things about the book I wasn’t too thrilled about. There’s a story line that I simply don’t understand its connection to the main storyline. I didn’t necessarily like the conceit of the narrator being the author and him suggesting at the outset that everything that followed was the truth, when we all know that it is a novel somehow loosely based on some aspects of Currie’s life. (See this interview, which I just read.) There’s something here that I’m struggling with to figure out whether it all actually works, but at the end of the day I go back to what I said above. There is a way that Ron Currie, Jr., writes that just gets at the absolute core of life and love and humanity and as long as he keeps doing that, I’m pretty much a huge fan. It’s unfortunate in a way because there is some part of me that has compared everything I’ve written since I read Everything Matters to Mr. Currie’s work. There is a quality and depth to his words that I want to be able to match and that is one of the things that has slowed me down when it comes to writing.
Now, I need to go back and read the book again. Oh wait, I decided to read Everything Matters again. Then, I’ll go back to Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles.