Monday, April 18, 2022

Matt Haig on How to Stay in a Body

I now rank Matt Haig among my favorite contemporary novelists. Reasons to Stay Alive is not fiction but his memoir of his struggle to overcome near-suicidal depression and affirm life. Here we discover the foundation of three extraordinary novels in which Haig's protagonists are challenged to find the will to stay in a human body on the physical Earth.

In The Humans an alien sent to Earth on a mission finds the body he is assigned and its situation ugly and grotesque. I was vividly reminded of what it felt like having to relearn to operate a physical vehicle after I died and came back from another world as a boy.

In The Midnight Library a young woman whose body is near extinction after an overdose is allowed to experience some of the parallel lives she is living in worlds where she made different choices, and determine whether she can make a firm commitment to any of them.

In How to Stop Time the challenge is to find a way to live in a world where you age ever so much more slowly than others, so that if you stay in one place too long you'll excite fear and literal witch hunts and if you fall in love you will watch your beloved wither and die while you are wrinkle-free.

"There is only one serious philosophical problem," Albert Camus wrote in The Myth of Sisyphus, "and that is suicide. To decide whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question." You'll notice from the evident depth and breadth of his reading that Matt Haig is no stranger to philosophy. However his moving and muscular fiction strips off the veils of abstraction and gives us not a problem to be solved, but a challenge to be lived.

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