"Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not. Time takes it all, time bears it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again. That's all I know."
Oh shit, you guys. The Green Mile. It's basically a book that's been part of my psyche for such a long time now that it's become bigger than just the book itself- part of which, I'm sure, has to do with the (very few) heartbreaking things added to the heartbreaking film just to make it that little bit more painful, but mostly it's because... It's a really, really good book, it's very effective in its message, and I've just thought about it way too much- what it means, how John Coffey could have been saved, and just what the heck is with that mouse?!
What this really means is, I can't even review it properly, because what I'd be reviewing isn't a book so much as a large part of my brain that's entirely devoted to crying about The Green Mile. What I found when I came back to the book after being away from it for too long, is that it's changed- Coffey seems less of a presence in the book than he's become in my mind, the parts in the old folks home which have inspired a whole love of old-people-are-still-the-same-on-the-inside literature for me take up WAY less of the book than I remember (and are, really, just a narrative device rather than a meditation on aging) and it's just... smaller than I remembered.
This isn't to say it wasn't still good. It's really a very very good book- probably one of King's best, and still one of my favourites, and actually, the fact that it HAS transcended its limits in my brain is probably an indication of just how good it is- the bit in the old folks home IS just a narrative device because the book was published in 6 sections, and it was a way back into the story, but it's such a well written and clearly well thought about device that you barely even notice that, and you're thinking a lot more about the woes of the old. And that's just in six of the chapters!
So, clearly, it's awesome. I don't know how much of its effect is to do with the first person narration that I can't really remember King using in basically any of his other novels (except Dolores Clairborne, I think, but even that was in speech, which is a different thing to writing) but the fact is that he's clearly very very good at it, and should probably do it more often to have the same effect as The Green Mile. Or at least the same effect on me. Which is basically this:
Because, I have to be honest, it doesn't really have a positive message. There is no salvation, no one is coming to save us, and maybe we deserve that because sometimes we let bad things happen when we know they shouldn't happen, not at all. And then there are the things which seem good at the time but turn out not-so-much to be, and yeah, that's not so great either. But the thing is, life is so not all about the skipping and dancing and joyousness, and a book about murder and rape and miracles and good and evil and the death penalty? That covers a whole lot of important things and is incredible and doesn't really have to be upbeat as well. Because not everything is.
Oh, and I guarantee it will make you cry, as well. And the thing about this crying, is that it doesn't feel like it's been emotionally manipulated out of you, in any way. There's an air of sadness over the whole book, and you come to care about nearly all of the characters (the ones you don't care about are pretty unquestionably despicable) and so when you get to the big finish, it's all a little bit too much, everything is just too wrong, and you don't want it to happen, so it can't, only it does and it's awful. And so you cry for everything that's wrong with the world, and you finish the book and then you feel a little better, and thank you catharsis for your magical work. But it's still so fucking sad.
So. The giant, massive thing that The Green Mile as a group of ideas has become in my brain is better than the book itself, but if the book wasn't as good as it is then it would have never become this big transcendy thing. To translate: It's probably one of my favourite books in the world, so I obviously definitely think you should read it. Yes. That.