*** 10/ 10/ 13
I can count on one hand the books I have started and never finished, and the other hand would probably suffice to count what others in that category have slipped my mind. (I might need Hands Across America to count the ones I should have let slide past my pride.)
Thumb: Finnegan's Wake, James Joyce. The crown jewel of my forfeitures--started and abandoned three times.
Pointer: The Defenestration of Bob T. Hash III, David Deans. Oh, how I tried. Switched to my secondary book, came back and tried again. It became more unfinishable the closer I got to finishing--an asymptote of reader x and story y, perhaps. (On the upside, I had never heard of the word "defenestration" before and within the year it made a useful appearance in a poem I wrote.)
Birdie: Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope. In my defense, it was the second novel of a two-novel volume the first novel of which, The Warden, I did finish with the intention of returning to the second just as soon as I finished a less yellowed, less tiny-typed, less 1850s-y book. Still my favorite kind of book, mind you, since my early teens; but there are a finite number of books by dead authors, naturally, and practically an infinite-supply of books (A-Million, let's say) to be enjoyed in which the characters bear some resemblance to you and some connection to modernity—which is to say that they relieve themselves at least once every three hundred pages and that the rumble approaching from ahead is not likely a coach and four horses but a sub-woofering Mustang coughing and hopping in your direction.
Ring: no fourth comes to mind, ergo . . .
Pinkie: no fifth.
I'm sure there is a book or two that would fill those slots, but I'll have to come back if they occur to me later. Maybe I'll admit a special ilk. Books I've bounced around in but have no compunction for never having completed. Here might be resting in peace such giants as: Virgil's Aeneid, Homer's Odyssey, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Now the tally is six. Call me Count Rugen—a six- fingered man, preparing to die. Hello!
Now I'm certain I had a point when I started this entry, but now I'm not so sure. At any rate, I don't think I guaranteed points, just thoughts, which more and more begin strong, coast a bit on momentum, start to meander, then peter-out.
If I had to guess, the thought probably began: This book I'm reading (Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood), will I even finish it? If not, why'd I even start it? In all my days of avid reading it had never occurred to me, though, that these are valid questions in each instance of starting a new book—or any enterprise, really . . .
Then coasted: Besides, it's not like I've finished every book I've started--much less every enterprise, any one of which, let's face it, probably (certainly?) would have contributed to society more meaningfully. Seriously, just think, what difference would it have made if, say, I'd finished, say . . .
*** 10/ 11/ 13
Apropos of two months from now, I suppose: I have determined that the greatest hours of my life have been those belonging Christmas Eve's evening and night. So, roughly 200 hours of gladness and peace, of snow-hopes and hearth-cheer. Father turning the crackling pages of Luke's gospel, joyous through tears; mother divvying red robes and reindeer footies, smiling, eyes wide twinkling back the tree lights; brothers scrimmaging, speculating on shakable boxes.
And little has changed in my estimation. The venue changes and players alternate, but when the sun sets on Christmas Eve and the luminaries are lambent and the games have been trotted-out, when the cinnamon sticks have been added to the cider and the nog has been glugged, the truth remains: those hours, roughly 200, are filled with the stuff of life. The worthy and satisfying stuff.
There were other hours which teemed with enjoyment. Hours of adventure, hilariousness, calm contemplation. So many hours of so many pleasures that I cannot even roughly guess their number. However, these times came sporadically, often unheralded and never so likely to be strung together by familial thread as Christmas Eves. Which come every year, famously heralded—celebrations of broken bulbs on evergreens, armless ceramic Josephs on the mantel, and a Christ in the east, soon to cry, in a matter of hours.
*** 10/ 17/ 13
If our dramatic representations (in books, on screens, upon stages, from anecdotes) are indicative of expected reflections during one's last months, then allow me dispense with a certain reflection now.
Regrets? Yes. And how! But I think I'm supposed to say "no"; and if I had to do it all again, would I change anything? Without a doubt! But I think I'm supposed to say "doubtfully—you only go around once, what was is what is."
These pat answers as if experience predates innocence, as if wisdom comes with batteries included.
With all of this being said and at least half-full disclosure being an aim of this journal: What do I regret and what would I change if I could? In the interest of time, allow me to skip particulars and say that for starters and plenteous example, oh, about 60% of my early twenties clear through to my early thirties. A profligate, prodigal sot and no small jackass as a result. That's enough for one lifetime, I think.
I can hear the protestations already, the latter day revisions of history: "Come on now, you weren't that bad, why remember this one time . . . [fill in an eking ray of goodness here] [a swatch of above-average decency here] [I'll even give you a handful of consecutive-week respectable, adult behavior here] . . .
But no, gracious friend, I appreciate the doubt, but regrettably I regret more than I could shake stick at, and let's be honest—who's afraid of sticks in a nuclear environment? I deeply regret that flimsy metaphor; and in one sneaky swoop, allow me to apologize for that and every other offense brought about by my decade of 60% depravity. All square? Good.
*** 10/ 28/ 13
[a poem about my non-chemical infusion therapy--tumor-cell-wise this kind chokes, chemo poisons]
It does not hurt,
Rawhide, a cloying
It does not hurt,
Nipping at my needle.
Noticed by blood,
Noticed at all but by
Stubborn as when
A sample is needed.
This needing hurts—
Enough to mention,
Except to say
It hurts to need
Or this infusion merely.