Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.
Imagine that you were born with the absolute, unquestionable knowledge that the world would be destoyed in a fiery comet collision somewhere in the vicinity of your 36th birthday. How would you live your life, knowing that every single thing you do or say or think is essentially futile – or at least more finite than we are comfortable thinking about? Would you use your knowledge to try and save the world? Or just your own family? Would you just chuck it all and drink yourself to death? Or would you just live your life as normally as possible? Does anything you do matter? These are the questions posed to Junior Thibodeau, born with an all-seeing, all-knowing voice inside his head. The voice shares its vast knowledge with Junior, whether regarding other people’s personal secrets or the impending destruction of the planet, turning him into an lonely, introverted, alcoholic genius who feels that no one really knows him, since he cannot share his knowledge, since no one would believe him. He peppers his life with poor decisions, all under the ruse that nothing he does in life matters at all, since the outcome is so devastatingly pre-determined. But the one constant in life, he finds, is love, and no amount of destiny can impede that emotional connection to other people in your life.
This was an absolutely astounding book that completely caught me off guard. I had a copy on my shelf for several months, not really knowing what to make of it, and I needed something a bit more substantial after breezing through a Ken Bruen & a Denis Johnson pulp novel the week before. Ron Currie is a force to be reckoned with. He has taken a highly unusual, potentially disastrous premise and created a completely plausible, emotionally resonant life story around this Junior Thibodeau, born with a unprecendentedly unique prespective on the world. Junior spends most of his 36 years dwelling on the fact that the world will be destroyed – so much so, that he doesn’t know how to actually live a life based in the moment. Once he discovers – perhaps too late? – that life is all about living from moment to moment, that unique prespective he had completely changes, even if the fate of the world may not. Thankfully Currie allows his readers to avoid the potential for morbidity and overwhelming depression of such an end-of-the-world story, by writing this tale with substantial humor and grounding Junior in reality by lending his “inside voice” a deep-seeded, genuine bonhomie. Despite his mistakes, I cared a great deal about Junior and those he loved – in spite of the fact that I shared his absolute knowledge that he would certainly go down with the ship when that fateful comet arrived. Currie is capable of striking an emotional nerve and helping the reader forget just how absurd the whole idea of a prescient genius boy from Maine really is. What can I say, it really hit home with me. I knew from about halfway through that I will read this book over and over and over again throughout my life, always having my own unique perspective, I’m sure of it.
Everything ends, and Everything matters.
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 lips, 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 turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.