Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, July 20, 2009

I AmThe Messenger by Marcus Zusak-a warning tale about the reading life

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

After loving "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak I was very happy to find another of his books, I Am The Messenger, in a local book store. The books central character and narrator is a nineteen year old cab driver named Ed who lives in a shack with an old dog named Doorman.

"no real career.
No respect in the community.
Like The Book Thief there is a lot in I AmThe Messenger". The book shows us, among other things, how a reading centered life can lead us away from the world. We can decide for ourselves if this is a rationale for lack of worldly success or a rising above it. This may well seem strange to most readers but Ed kind of brought to my mind Ishmael of Moby Dick. In the opening pages of Moby Dick Ishmael talks about why his lack of worldly success means nothing in the grander scheme of things. He speaks like a man who has read deeply into lots of deep books. Way more than a whaler should have. His reading has left him fixed on a deeper reality and he can retreat at any time into his books. He is also a man who has no possessions, no family, no life on shore. Did the reading life protect Ishmael or elevate him or did it in part lead him to have nothing? In "I Am The Messenger" we can see the same thing starting to happen to Ed.

"I was reading when I should have been doing math and the rest of it"
"Have you ever noticed that idiots have a lot of friends"
"I have read Ulysses and half of Shakespeare. But I am still hopeless, useless and practically pointless"
"A man like me thinks too much"
"I think his real name is Henry Dickens. No relation to Charles"
"I have read Joyce and Dickens and Conrad"
"Only in today's sick society can a man be persecuted for reading too many books"
"I didn't know words could be so heavy".

As the book progresses we see Ed Receiving a series of message in the form of playing cards. These cards give him instructions to intervene in the lives of those around him. Some he knows some he does not. The story develops as Ed tries to carry out these mysterious instructions. I do not want to give away to much of the plot as it is very inventive and a fun read. As the book ends we begin to wonder if Ed will one day be an old man in a shack surrounded by his books, maybe the only real constant in his life. We wonder if the books will keep him in the shack
or will they show him a shack is as good as a palace in the end. Like Ishmael floating on a coffin will Ed float through life in his cab? The reading life helps Ed see through the vanity of life (just like my own brings up to me the echo of Samuel Johnson) and at the same time gives him his excuse to live out his life in a shack.

I Am The Messenger is also a neat love story and a buddy book and has a lot of action scenes. I learned some Aussie slang from it. The book can tell us a lot about the reading life and it is also a bit of a warning.

I totally liked "I Am The Messenger" (2002-357 pages). It is a lot of fun and makes me hope Markus Zusak will write a lot more books. I have his first two books on my Amazon wish list.

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Jessica said...

I really like the direction you took here--how a reading centered life can lead us away from the world. That's certainly something to chew on. I read I Am The Messenger after reading (and enjoying) The Book Thief. I also have his two other books on my wishlist. He has quickly become one of my favorite authors and I am eager for anything he writes in the future.

By the way, thanks for the mention. :)

Suzanne Yester said...

I picked this book up at the Borders going out of business sale just because I enjoyed The Book Thief. This sounds wonderful though, and I look forward to cracking the spine.

Mel u said...

Suzanne-I hope you enjoy it and will look forward to your thoughts on this book-thanks for stopping by my blog