Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Accidental Tourist

Photo: from the book's Goodreads page

Smooth as silk novel with such believable characters and life-lessons that it seems like a life parable, which I guess it is. Spot-on writing has no genre to fall back on, so no tropes, no easy scenes or action to pass the pages. Just life, and daily living, making the mundane magical and the ordinary extraordinary. This has always been one of my favorite books, though I haven't read it in over 20 years, and it's only gotten better with age. One of the unique things about it is that there is no villian, exactly, except maybe fate and life itself. A writing teacher will tell you that Sarah is the antagonist, and I suppose on paper she is, but really the biggest obstacle for Macon Leary is Macon himself, which is the whole breathy idea of the book: We are our own worst enemies, as is our inability to adapt and move on. Simultaneously impossible and necessary, moving on is the only way to live, even if it makes living more difficult. Would Macon have done so if Sarah hadn't left him to begin with? No. Would it even be necessary but for what happened to their son? Of course not. But you have to ride the wave, or (as the extended metaphor shows near the end) you have to just ride the plane's turbulence and strap yourself in, because what else can you do? You can't prepare to much or worry to much, or live your life not living your life. If you do, you may turn into a man so afraid of the world that he writes travel books about not experiencing anything, about not leaving your hotel room, or trying new restaurants, or doing anything but what you've got to do for business in that city and then going back home. But life isn't like that, and your idea of what home is may change as well. The entire conceit of The Accidental Tourist is one of the best extended metaphors in all of fiction, and all the novel and writing have to do is just follow the wave it makes.

Anyway, you owe it to yourself to read this one. The movie is good, too, but don't let it stop you from reading this. This is a rare book that you can read 20 years apart and still get as much, if not more, out of it now than you did then. Like a classic movie, this book can be experienced over and over again, and savored like a favorite line or a classic meal. I couldn't effusively praise it enough.

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