Whenever I finish a really good book, I have this moment of reflection...questioning. Life altering thoughts.
Today, as the subway car rattled and shook, I finished up Brighton Rock by Graham Green, a book that many hail as one of the greatest novels of all time.
Gritty and raw, Brighton Rock chronicles the ascent and descent of a dime store mobster named Pinkie. Written in the third person omniscient point of view, something I've never been very good at, it gives you characters that will never leave your brain.
But this isn't a book review, not even close. This is an experience, so we should carry on.
I purchased the book at The Strand in Union Square in New York City. I started reading it in the New York City transit system, where things got dark really quickly and there were always delays on the tracks. I finished it halfway across the world in the Seoul Metro system. Kind of amazing, that the only thing tying me back to New York is this book.
This book got me thinking about a lot of things, about the futility of life, about faith...about redemption. I thought about how we may not be alone in our universe, and then I was checked into a wall by another commuter and those thoughts quickly ended.
You see, once you start asking those big questions, something forcibly removes you from that headspace. You get pulled back into reality, and the enlightenment stops.
The characters in this book are so real that they could be standing next to you. You can hear their conversations in the voices of your friends. That's how you know it's really good writing, if you can honestly see yourself in that world no matter how far away in time.
Some things never change, like the idea of the afterlife, or where the hell all of this is going. Heaven and Hell are abstract concepts that live in the back of most people's minds, but isn't ever confronted fully. This book makes you confront it.
"You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”
It's a harsh thing to see on a page, and even harsher thing to confront on a speeding train.
This got me thinking about Paris, Beirut, Syria, people who lost their lives for no reason. The strange mercy of God. Mercy...
I thought about my family and the hardships we've endured. I thought about addiction, distractions, iPhones. I thought about the mercy of sleep, of waking death. I thought about the characters in the book, who were seemingly stuck in purgatory. I thought about innocence and the loss of it.
Thoughts. Continuing on and on as the train careened toward its destination. Thoughts. The futility of lthem. The idea of the lights going out. The book wavered in my hands, shaking as the train came to a halt.
I pulled out my headphones and Radiohead filled the air. The muffled sound of Thom Yorke hitting the ears of several commuters, causing them to turn their heads in disgust.
I'm about to head back to the USA for another adventure, and my time in this foreign land is coming to a close. I thought about my bed at home, the warm sight of my parents. I thought about time slipping away.
I slid the book into my tote bag and left the train car, the wind from the outside hitting me as I waded through all the people.