Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Does It All Mean?!?!

It happens to the best of us: life is just moving along until BAM! Something happens that causes us to question the very meaning of our lives. Do we have a purpose? Does anything matter at all? This is the theme tackled in Danish author Janne Teller’s Nothing, a young-adult novel that’s been likened to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. In Nothing, a group of seventh-grade school friends are antagonized by classmate Pierre Anthon, who without warning marches out of class one day, climbs a plum tree, and begins shouting to passersby that life is absolutely meaningless: “If something’s worth getting upset about, then there must be something worth getting happy about. And if something’s worth getting happy about, then there must be something that matters. But there isn’t!” He continues, “In a few years you’ll all be dead and forgotten and diddly-squat, nothing, so you might just as well start getting used to it!” Charming fellow, that Pierre. But as harsh as his words are, his classmates, particularly narrator Agnes, begin to wonder if he’s right. Because if he is, well…he just can’t be! So they set out to prove him wrong by building in an abandoned sawmill what they call their “heap of meaning,” a makeshift monument consisting of items that hold special value to their contributors. But what starts off as a reasonably good idea quickly spirals out of control when spite and vengefulness begin to dictate what items get added to the heap, and this leads to a devastating conclusion. Nothing is a thought-provoking read—after all, who hasn’t been in Pierre’s tree at one time or another?—but when it’s all said and done, you may wonder as I did: Where in the world were the parents?

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