Monday, March 10, 2008


Life's work?

The so-called storm over the weekend ended up being mostly rain in the middle of the night, so the snow piles are flat, and we weren't stuck at home after all. In fact we ventured out to a friends-of-the-library sale on Saturday morning - three cartons of books for $78 - hardcovers were two bucks but softcovers were only fifty cents. I thought I found a decent first in jacket of Maugham's The Razor's Edge, but no. Just an early printing in disguise.

From the sale loot, I took a few books home to look at and ended up reading two of them, one Saturday night and most of the other yesterday. Both written by authors with Maine connections. The first was a recent novel and I don't even know why I looked at it twice - it was truly dreadful. Sort of chick-lit, poorly written and unbelievable in plot and characterization. I wondered, as I often do, if I could have done any better. But here I sit, with no books published, and this author has a major publisher and a nice dust jacket designer (which explains why I read the book in the first place). The book will remain nameless. The second book, though, is Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska (Blair 2003) and you know, despite some style quirks, it's pretty good. A married couple gives up life in the literary fast lane in L.A. and returns to the family orchard, to live and work and generally pare down to essentials. Move away from rampant consumerism, embrace the new frugality, and find in it a greater happiness, in the manner of Helen and Scott Nearing. They quote Ruskin at one point (p.88):

"'In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it."

That's as good a definition of life's work as I've ever read. The first two, both in books and art, I've got down. The last, not so much. Books: I'm waiting for my accountant to call me back today and frankly it doesn't look good for our heroine. Art: stalled out and the engine won't even turn over. It's been a long winter, this year.

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