Now, it is not my preference to read two books simultaneously-in some odd way it gives me the feeling that I am cheating on the novel that I initially began to read-but sometimes it is necessary when a friend begs me to read another book, or when the book I am reading is just not very attention-getting. This, however, was not the case with the last week; about a month ago I had heard great things about this novel Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, a fairly new and not-very-well-known book that was a bit similar to Mark Haddon's bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I picked the novel up about a month ago and have been reading it through the duration of my tearing through of The Hunger Games, whose finale was so incredibly amazing (but that story is for the next post.) So even though I was ravaged with suspense after I read the premiere pages of Catching Fire last Sunday, a combination of Marcelo in the Real World getting extremely riveting and my not feeling very cheery about starting off the Christmas season with the sequel to a book about adolescents murdering each other caused me to read the remaining portion of Marcelo. And with no offense to Suzanne Collins...man, am I glad I did.
Marcelo in theReal World is essentially a coming-of-age story, but a hell of a lot more-it is a superb mix of philosophy, deceit, and realization. Marcelo Sandoval is socially disabled, but not so much so that he can not effectively participate in the "real world." However, his attendance at a school for the disabled called Paterson has caused Marcelo to still be enveloped in an extended childhood where he spends most of his weekends in a tree house analyzing the IM, or the internal melodies that independently flow through his brain. Marcelo's "special interest", as he calls it, is religion-he can recount excerpts from the Bible by the word and spends a great amount of time reciting the Scripture in his head to make himself calm. Arturo, Marcelo's father, does not see the point of his son going to Paterson and would like him to attend public high school for his senior year, so he makes a deal with him: if Marcelo works at Arturo's law firm for the summer and follows all of the rules of the "real world" (I know I'm killing you with quotation marks, but just bear with me!), Marcelo can choose whether he will go to Paterson or Oak Ridge High for senior year. He takes the offer, and from then on is jerked out of his peaceful utopia and thrown haphazardly into the hopelessly clinical world of lawyers who all have the premonition that he is retarded. Through his experiences there like meeting the arrogant Wendell Holmes, working with a talented pianist named Jasmine, and discovering the phenomenon of sacrifice through a discarded picture of a girl with half a face, Marcelo realizes that the Real World is a place with horrors and atrocities but a place that also possesses magic of companionship and the vigor of challenge. In the end, Marcelo is faced with one chance to choose between worlds with suddenly much different aspects, his faith dancing on the broken glass sprinkled around his decision.
Some of the people who start this book may obtain the premonition that this is solely a book for the religious. Well, it is not. Whether you are Islamic, Hindu, Wiccan, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Unitarian, whatever, you will obtain something from this novel. At the denouement (one of my favorite words of all time) of the story, I reasoned that one of the main themes was that applying a world of both hope for the human race and of action ignited purely by my God's will into this harsh world around us is sometimes a seemingly hopeless challenge. And for those who believe in it, isn't Christmas truly about surmounting that challenge? At what other point in the year does the world set aside a time from its occasional selfishness and anger for the celebration of humane goodwill and the amazing outcomes that can come after centuries of hope? Not to mention it is the sole point in the year when you can go around the house singing "I'm Mister Heat Miser, I'm Mister Sun, (da-da-da-da) I'm Mister Green Christmas, I'm Mister Hundred-And-One" without being called a nutcase. I know that for many this holiday is just really a time to fling presents at each other and enjoy the antebellum before that fifty-thousand dollar credit card bill comes in the mail, but I hope people will eventually realize that the Christmas Season is a lot more than that. This is the only occasion when even though your life can be rolling around in a sewage pipe, you can say, "Hey, at least it's Christmas," and a smile will be on your face. It is the only occasion when you can be as cheerful as you want in public and not have everybody hate you because they are wallowing in self-pity. And it doesn't have to be Christmas, even-the entire holiday season has the same feel of goodwill and hope for a positive future that I have mentioned above. Yes, I do know that I sound like a character from one of those Christmas specials where all of the people look like clay, but what's wrong with that really? It's as I've said: at any other point in the year these specials would be treated as a laughing stock, but yet spectacularly through the holiday season we just can't get enough of them. These characters emulate the ultimate optimists, and this is the one time of the year where optomism reigns supreme. Is that a bad thing?
How will I be enjoying the beginning of this glorious Christmas Season, you might ask? Well, you can more than likely find me either tearing my way through Catching Fire, studying (I've got quite a few exams this week,) or maybe even sitting down on our ancient couch with a mug of hot chocolate watching the Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family. If I feel like it I may just try to finish decorating our puny tree outside with sparkling red ornaments, but that probably won't happen because of today's failed attempt. What can I say? After half an hour of the frigidness numbing my fingers and my Dad's cumbersome classic rock blasting through the radio, I had had enough. I much rather prefer decorating the miniature Christmas tree in my own room as a way of spreading my cheer, even if it keeps falling over.