Friday, January 31, 2014

Reflections after reading The Beach by Alex Garland

‘I want to do something different, and everybody wants to do something different. But we all do the same thing. There’s no…’

‘Adventure.’
Because I associate the word with popular books and movies, adventure signifies something exciting, with an element of mystery, risk and danger. It is ultimately safe, because with books and movies, even if it does not reach a positive conclusion, I, the audience, am physically removed from the harms pervading the narrative.

Riverhead Books edition
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In the Alex Garland novel, the first adventure is getting to—and therefore proving the existence of—‘the beach’, a mythical island-paradise in Thailand; the second is living there; and the third, leaving.

In life, not as clear-cut.

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So the beach is real, alive with a small community that keeps it habitable to the few of them who discovered the place and decided it was theirs to call home.

The trick is how to keep the secret Eden from the rest of the world. With how the book ends, it can’t be done. If anything, I gather that paradise is possible, but, like happiness and human life itself, is transient. And that clinging on to it when it is time to let go is fatal.

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Koh Samui seemed miles behind us but the drop-off island still appeared as distant as it had an hour ago.
A proper objective correlative for moving on and forward. Despite great efforts, doing everything you can within your power, why does it feel like an eternity has elapsed and your goals remain out of sight?

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Richard, the main character and narrator, is pretty ordinary. He is not so much of a daredevil or an extreme romantic that oftentimes distinguish an adventurer. He simply wants to go out there and see the world; and that’s what he simply does.

If there is one thing I’d remember most about The Beach, it is the one thing that Richard has learned from traveling:
The way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Do’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.
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Adventure, for better or worse, is a lonely business. You meet fellow travelers, and short-term partners, but in the end, as in the beginning, you take the toughest steps on your own.
Of course you’ll try to have a safe trip. I’m saying, actually have one.
Have a safe trip.

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