Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Marcelo in the Real World
I read such a good review of Francisco Stork's novel Marcelo in the Real World at Jenny's Books back in March that I knew I had to read it, so when I found it at the library, I pounced on it and finished it before the day was out. I thought it was a charming little novel and a quick read for a summer's day. It was refreshing, like a popsicle.
It seems like everyone has been reviewing this novel lately, and I don't have a lot to add except that for me, the charms outweighed most of the problems that have been pointed out, like that the villain is two-dimensional. I think because Marcelo--who describes himself as "on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum"--isn't as interested in other people as many are, some of his attitude rubs off as the novel goes on. And it seems to me that sometimes simplifying an issue for someone gives you a better understanding of it, like when one of Marcelo's adult friends answers his question about how people can use sex to hurt each other:
The ways we use sex to hurt each other are innumerable and unspeakable. Anytime we treat a person as a thing for our own pleasure. When we look at another person as an object and not as a person like us. When sex consists solely of taking and not giving. When a person uses physical or psychological force to have sex against another person's will. When a person deceives another in order to have sex with them. When a person uses sex to physically or emotionally hurt another. Any time an adult has sex with a child. Those are some of the ways sex becomes evil."
The same kind of simplifying works for me again when Marcelo discusses ethical issues with the girl whose suffering has made him aware that there are such issues:
"It cannot be that this is the first time I realized this, but it is. We all have ugly parts. I think of the time in the cafeteria when Jasmine asked me what the girl in the picture was asking me. How do we live with all the suffering? We see our ugly parts, and then we are able to forgive, love kindness, walk humbly."
I like the way that, by the end of his story, Marcelo finds a way to live without either ignoring other peoples' pain or being overwhelmed by it.
Reading something this straightforward or doing something simple is a good way for me to see the world differently. A long-standing joke among my friends is that while we all do sedentary, intellectual work for a living, we dig ditches for fun--we go to the beach and build sand castles. We're serious sand castle builders, as you can see from my photos (above).
Also, I like red popsicles. What's your favorite flavor?