Hello, all. It is 2 am and I just read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and now I’m a sobbing mess.
The greatest books aren’t words on paper: they are experiences. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was just that. For the first time in a long time, I’m not going to review the book. I’m not even going to attempt to analyse it. I’m just going to tell you how it felt like.
The best part was how I just kept reading, and reading, and reading. Not because the book was a “page-turner” in the thrilling, lots-of-action sense, but simply because it was so clear, and so lucid, and so easy to read. It wasn’t trying to be anything, it just was. And that was the best part. It has been so long- so long!- since I didn’t notice the passing of time while reading (the last one was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossaini, over a year back), and I didn’t read it obsessively, like I did with Wolf Hall- I just did. It was that easy to absorb.
I sometimes wonder if blurbs dumb books down on purpose so that people don’t get scared off from reading the books. The blurb for “Perks…” made me furious because it was so idiotic. Yes, it is a coming-of-age story, although I would prefer the term bildungsroman, simply because of how magnificent, how grandiose it sounds, which seems to do the grandeur of the book justice. Yes, it is set in high school. But it is so much more than the cliché of a high school coming-of-age story, although than in itself, as well done, would be enough- it is about life, and love, and the paradox of their duality, about our place in the great scheme of things and the how insignificant that scheme is compared to each individual story. It’s about loss of innocence and confusion, guilt, cruelty, betrayal and forgiveness, and how messed up all of these things can get. It’s about identity, and the workings of the mind. In short, it’s about every little great question of existence humankind asks itself during its years on earth. And beyond.
I am not even going to attempt to explain how real I was to Charlie. (No, I didn’t put that the wrong way round.) It was like I was a part of the story. I was there, and Charlie was talking to me. Rationally, and in a literary sense, I know that was the point of the anonymous “Dear Friend”, but never have I accepted that role so completely, stepped into it so immediately and comfortably. At some point, it was my story as well as Charlie’s. I was no longer a passive reader- I was, as Charlie would be happy to know, a “participant”.
I can’t get the simplicity of this novel out of my head. And how simply, how profoundly it puts up suggestions, gently lays down layers in its direct, poignant, soft prose.
Sometime ago, I was asking one of my friends to teach me how to enjoy a book again. She told me, “Read it to enjoy the story and not to find the meaning of the universe.” I did that with “Perks…” and funnily and greatly enough, I think it helped me find the meaning of the universe much more easily than Kafka did. It’s one of those books that I feel like I ought to read once, and then never look at or read or even think consciously of again, because doing so would change the essence I absorbed from it. Like I did with “Siddhartha”. I don’t need to, either. You know that part in Avatar when the Na’avi bond with their animals? That’s how I felt with this book. Like it was a living organism, a small hopeful little thing that could be crushed but never destroyed, that is now a part of me.
I don’t think I’ll be able to get the novel out of my head for a long time.