It’s been quite a summer. I’ve moved across the country with my wife to start a PhD. I’ve quit my job. I’ve taken on a new identity- doctoral student. Progress.
Before I delve into the maelstrom of academics that is a doctoral program I decided to catch up on some pleasure reading. I wanted to remind myself that people do read for pleasure. I read three books within the last 3 weeks:
The Catcher in the Rye– J.D. Salinger
Less than Zero– Bret Easton Ellis
Lunar Park– Bret Easton Ellis
If you know anything about the above books/authors then you know I am probably in a weird head-space right about now.
I picked the above books at near random- The Catcher in the Rye was given to me for free by a friend in Athens just before I moved, and I have the two Ellis novels as leftover Christmas gifts that I never read. Despite the lack of purpose in my choosing to read them they are all connected by a similar theme: Identity. In each of these books the main character is trying to identify himself. And, in all three, the main character is at some point of transition- either flunking out of school, returning home, or trying to transition into fatherhood.
The Catcher in the Rye and Less than Zero are the most similar. Being lost. Lonliness. Self isolation. It’s clear that, reading through these novels, Ellis has taken his cues from Salinger. Similar styles, stream of consciousness at times. Colloquial language. They both write in a way that draws you in. However, they both have a tendency to come off as entitled. Scenes of private prep schools, private liberal arts schools, excessive materialism, lack of value for relationships. Where Salinger is whiny, forever searching for some deeper meaning from a highschool dropout, Ellis is loquacious, often giving erroneous descriptions of a luxury car, household décor, names of people at parties.
Lunar Park, while tackling some similar themes, is different. It’s quite a strange novel, to say the least. I’m not even sure if it is a novel, or if it is a memoir, or some kind of horror filled yet hopeful wish. Whatever label it should fit under is irrelevant as I’m sure the real purpose is to help Ellis work out his own inner demons (no pun intended) with his deceased father. It was a good novel to end the trio.
It’s poignant that my life, my identity, is also changing, is changed. In a way, I identify with all the characters here, I am these characters. Yet, I am not. In Less than Zero the antagonist, Clay, says all that matters “ . . . is I want to see the worst.” I don’t. Okay, I do, but that’s another blog post. Right now I want to see the best. I want to see the best in myself.
Where the characters of the aforementioned novels are filled with hopelessness, I am filled with hope. I am ready for this next stage of life. I am ready to achieve my best.
I appreciate all the readers who follow my blog. This was a heavy post, but a needed post. My writing may diminish in the coming months as much of my energy will go back into school. But I will be sure to post, I am trying to adhere to a once a month minimum, even if that once a month is just a photography post.
I hope you are achieving your best. If not, I hope you are on your way to it.
Thanks for the read.