A while ago, I analysed Alex Garland’s smashing debut novel, The Beach (1996). Titled ‘Chasing Daffy’, the post evaluated, in part, the bizarro Daffy Duck, whose ramblings entrances protagonist Richard in finding the elusive beach paradise. The book of the month for now is Grisham’s latest, The Rooster Bar. I can notice some similarities between Garland’s dystopic work and Grisham’s action packed thriller. While the two are of separate genres, they share a few themes.
Firstly, the inclusion of an unhinged trooper provides a forceful opening salvo. In Garland’s case, Daffy’s rants set the stage for Richard’s ensuing theatrics. He warns the latter of the dangers of paradise, having founded the haven with Sylvester and her partner, Bugs. They smoke a joint, have a long chat, and Daffy bares his soul before Richard. The latter finds a map that’ll lead him to the lost nirvana, while also discovering the corpse of Daffy. The protagonists recruits the couple next door, two wide eyed backpackers from France who are just as stoked as him.
In Rooster, Gordy is the high school jock who is drowning in student loans, just like all his peers at the aptly named Foggy Bottom Law School. He ignores his fiancée and high school sweetheart back home, while flinging with Zola, his Senegalese classmate. He then goes off the radar, spending his days locked up in his loft, overindulging on alcohol, and sleeping fitfully. When confronted by his friends, he then details the great law school scam, going on rants that last full paragraphs. He is a wreck, his flat hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, and he appears closer to a mad scientist than DC law student. His pursuit of the Great Satan jumpstarts the book on its course. Just like Daffy, he meets a tragic end, but not without providing the springboard for later story lines. You see, Gordy opens the book on the puppeteer, one Hinds Rackley, whose institutions and banks hoodwinked students across the country. His colleges and student loans are only for his own vested interests, and the pretence of a law degree and license are trumped by his desire for more billions. While comforting, Gordy said this all while being deranged, and his friends were more concerned for his improvement than their total student debt, which is short of $1 million.
Three for one
Secondly, the number of the good guys is the same between the two. In The Beach, the trio of Richard, Francoise, and Etienne are the newcomers. In Rooster, Mark, Todd and Zola are the three musketeers. In both cases, two boys and a girl yearn for adventure, and chase their dreams in trying times. While The Beach deals with love and survival, Rooster contemplates student life, the American dream, and grief. In both worlds, the idealistic trios are faced with a grim reality. The Rooster triumvirate would glean that even finishing law school does not guarantee a job that might whittle down your student debt. Moreover, leaving college and posing as a lawyer may have some good days, but most aren’t. Richard will learn that paradise is not a place. ‘…Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment… It lasts forever.’
Two different authors, two unique books. One has backpacked through Southeast Asia, the other has worked as a lawyer and public servant. One is the current king of bestsellers, the other chose to focus on film and TV work. Their respective backgrounds have afforded them the perfect setups for their artistry. From the nations capital, DC, to Maya Bay in southern Thailand, quality texts can make us go places. A pair of engrossing books, though twenty one years apart. In spite of the ‘age gap’, their legacy would live on.