Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Spin Cycle- Favorite Book

Time to take a little spin with Sprite's Keeper and the rest of the gang. If you want to see the other spins, just click on the button above and away you'll go.

This weeks topic is supposed to be our favorite book. Uhm, I was an English major (the first time on the college merry go round). I worked for Barnes and Noble for years. How the heck am I supposed to pick a favorite? PB will vouch for the fact that we could re-build our house with books. Just one? I have to choose just one?

I trolled my memories. I have a lot of books I've called my favorite. Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby", Kingsolver's "Poisenwood Bible". Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" (the whole dang series). They're all wonderful. I've read them all over and over. But right now they just don't seem to fit me. Like an old flannel shirt that you know you'll wear again, but today it just isn't right (so you keep it in the closet, and it avoids Goodwill once again).

When I searched for one that really resonated right now I was suprised with what I found. Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea". Stop cringing. It's a good book. And well written. I've always loved Hemingway, but I would have never singled out this particular book. As a bookseller, I steered kids away from it if it was on their summer list. It was always tempting because it was usually, by far, the shortest. My line was, "Look at this list. Do you think the teacher was just throwing in a freebie? Probably not. It's a hard read, and even harder to write about. Choose something else. " And with a sigh, they did. More about this at the end.

But right now, I don't want to choose something else. Because there are really days I feel like the Old Man. And at the same time, I'm also the Sea. Because my current battles are all with myself.

My Old Man side gets up every morning. Not because I have to (though I do). Because I know there's something out there for me. And to get it, you have to get out of bed. And make the coffee. And get the kid to school, the husband to work and the kitchen counter wiped off. Show up at work, and do your job. You won't get the marlin unless you rig the boat and head out to sea.

And the Sea inside my head says, "Each thing you do will have to be re-done tomorrow. Or this afternoon. You don't get anywhere. You're treading water, at best." Shut up waves. And stop sucking my little sand castles off the shore. Stupid water.

Some days I come up with an empty net. LG has been frustering, I haven't handled it well, the sink is full, there's nothing good on TV. You know those days. The Sea wins. You go to bed wishing for the Coast Guard to come rescue you. (and I don't know about you, but the cute boys in their white uniforms never show up at my house...)

Some days I come up with some small fish, like the other people who fish beside the Old Man. Last weekend I got LG's "big" Christmas present. A new wagon that cost $90, for just $40 (with coupons, gift cards and a sale sticker). Like I said, small fish. But during the holidays, while you sweat out your Visa bill, I'll be sitting in front of my MIL's fire, eating my niece's Russian Tea cakes and watching my kid play with his fully paid for wagon. Small fish, but tasty.

Then there is the Marlin. And you don't get many. I know that. But that's what you get out of bed for, right? A few summers ago, I did a 50 mile bike ride for charity. I didn't end world hunger, but that wasn't the goal. I raised some money, and put in some miles. A Marlin, in essence. Other people admired, but it's not something to put on a resume, right?

I got a Marlin earlier this year, too. I call it my new job. Better pay, better hours, less stress. But it is a Marlin, just like Santiago's, none the less. It's a prize, I know. But it's still a job (and if you recall, after all his struggles, all Santiago came home with was the skeleton and the sword of his fish). I put this one on the resume, but I still leave LG at daycare. A win, a loss. (and you hear the Sea in my head going, "You could be a stay at home Mom."- Don't go there, salty pants.)

My husband is like Santiago's helper, the boy. Even when I suck, and the sea wins, he still wants to fish with me. He knows there are Marlin out there, and I'll get them. He gets up each morning with me. Maybe today he'll hook the Marlin, who knows?

As for the kids, and why this is a horrible book to make a high school aged person read, it's the old song. They just haven't been out there long enough to really understand. They haven't gone for 100 days without catching a fish yet. They don't know they'll have to head into the deeper water to really get "the big one". It's all still ahead of them. So, Santiago's tale is meaningless. He's just an old guy with a boat. Some kids do things that put themselves out there (a really competitive sportsman, or a great musical talent) but those kids are few. Most of us are long out of high school before we're really challenged. That's the comfort of having parents. They go out to sea for us, so we can play in the surf. And complain about the stupid books we have to read.

Ok, that's it. Go see if someone reviews a tawdry bodice ripper for their favorite. You know you wanted to... Have a good week, all.


Jan said...

As one of those kids who read it in high school because it was short (and I wasn't going to touch Moby Dick with a 10-foot pole), yes, it took me years to understand what you so eloquently stated.

Lovely post.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I need to read the book again. The only thing I ever took away from it was that I hated to fish.
Great post, as always.
You're linked!

Jim Styro said...

Nice post. It reminded me of a favorite line from The Big Lebowski: "Some days, you eat the bear - some days, the bear eats you."

I love Hemingway - but have never read "The Old Man and The Sea." I have GOT to remedy that problem.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love to read, but am ashamed to admit that I haven't read a "classic" since I was forced to do so in high school. Bout time, that's for sure.

Erin@TheLocalsLoveIt said...

I haven't read the book but I really enjoyed your post. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as you compared yourself to the man and the sea.

Erin (aka Kingsmom)

only a movie said...

Great spin! Takes me back. It's always good to be able to count your marlins.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Wonderful post. I am so impressed you took on the Old Man. I have not read it in 25 years or more.

lindsay.weiss said...

Paging MamaBager, paging MamaBadger...

I drew your name in one of my MOMfo giveaways last week and haven't heard back from you. (I emailed your yahoo account)

Give me a holler at
lindsaymillerks at hotmail dot com when you get a chance so I can send you some loot!