Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Bookshelf Project: Drew Magary's "The Postmortal"

So I started this Bookshelf Project thing this year to force me to read some of the good books I bought and then set aside over the past year or two. I picked out 25 books, which comes out to a little more than two a month. It's March, and I've finished two and have started a third. So, yeah, I'm already behind. Which I expected.

The first book I've finished is Drew Magary's "The Postmortal" -- which, as you can see above, has a fantastic cover.

The book lives up to it.

If you like sports you've probably seen Magary's stuff over at Deadspin, where he writes (profanely -- you've been warned) about everything from hating LeBron James to the agonies of being a dad to his desire for cheap horrendous beer. HE ALSO LIKES GOING ALL CAPS.

But there's an interesting mind underneath all the poop stories. And in "The Postmortal" his mind goes here: What if you could take a drug that would cure aging? You could live forever -- as long as you didn't get hit by a truck or something -- and your body would always be the age it is right now.

It sounds like paradise. But as "The Postmortal" reveals, it's not. God, no, it's not.

Magary tells the story through the eyes of John Farrell, a New Yorker who gets the cure in 2019 at age 29. He takes his roommate, Katy, to the rogue doctor who gave him the cure. Farrell spots a beautiful blonde he had seen the first time he was there. He leaves Katy at the office to track the mystery woman.

And from that point, on page 43, terrible things start to happen.

As you read you'll start to think about all the terrible things that COULD happen if people could stop aging. Would the population explode? Yep. Would some people refuse the cure because it's not part of the natural order of things? Yep. Would they wreak havoc on the people who DID get the cure? Oh, yeah.

And what about a sweet little baby? Would a doting but insane mother...?

The deeper I got into "The Postmortal," the more of these nightmare scenarios I started thinking of -- and I swear, every time I thought of one, there it'd be in the book 10 pages later.

Farrell ends up becoming an "end specialist" -- someone who euthanizes people who've decided they don't want to live forever after all -- and that brings its own set of problems. There's a lot of violence and anger and heartbreak -- and some humor, although not as much as you might expect from Magary's blogwork.

By the end, Magary drags you toward some hard questions: How will we treat one another when things go really bad? What's worth living for? And if you think of life as a story, what's the point of a story without an ending?

I zipped through this book -- it's a fast read, even at 365 pages -- but I'll be thinking about it a long time. And if the cure ever comes, I hope I'll have the guts to pass.

Next on the list: "Pulphead," by John Jeremiah Sullivan.

(Of course, one reason I'm doing this is to hear about what y'all are reading. So the lines are open in the comment section.)