Friends, I apologize for being away from ConsterNation for so long. Hard to believe I’ve not posted since the end of April.
What happened? Long story short, I got a job. I continue to make time for reading. Later in this post, I’ll talk briefly about “My Antonia,” by Willa Cather, and “Babbit,” by Sinclair Lewis. Started May 2, working 40 hours a week, four evening shifts and one overnight shift. The work is usually pleasant, taking reservations and checking in guests at a beach motel. About once a week, it gets stressful. Some people spend their time at the beach drinking, and I have to provide behavioral counseling. Usually, the police come to participate in the counseling sessions. Nothing more serious than a broken window, so far. All’s well that ends well. More or less.
The hourly rate is low, but better than the exploited immigrants and college-educated interns can expect, in a business environment that increasingly seeks not just cheap labor, but also shamelessly solicits free labor. The regular paycheck supplements Social Security, and makes paying the bills less of a juggling act.
At my age and energy level, work leaves little time for anything besides sleep and chores. I am struck anew with a familiar riddle: “There must be more to life than working, sleeping, and paying bills.” Actually, there is more.
I don’t read primarily for entertainment. For me, reading is an escape from drudgery and loneliness. Also a search for relevance, which is often rewarded.
In recent weeks, I’ve read three books. Two novels from bygone America, “Babbit,” by Sinclair Lewis, 1922, a story of social, business, and family life in an American city during the Prohibition era of the early 1920s; and “My Antonia,” by Willa Cather, 1918, a story of the pioneers who settled the land and broke the sod on the Great Plains in the 1880s.
“Babbit” is informative and interesting, but required a little effort to slog through. “My Antonia” is masterfully written, effortless to read. It’s a wonderful story of people you’d like to know. But it’s tinged with sadness.
Cather’s theme is “Optima dies . . . prima fugit” (The best days are the first to flee.) H.L. Mencken wrote:
“No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as My Antonia.”
My third book of recent weeks is current nonfiction, “Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude,” by Emily White, 2010. About “Lonely,” I will have more to say.
— John Hayden
Quick take rating for this post: Approx 399 words.
- On Willa Cather (litlove.wordpress.com)
I was just wondering what happened to you yesterday, so it was good to receive your post. Thank you for the insight into what you are reading…I have tinnitus and listening to audiobooks with headphones helps cover up the constant noise in my head. I just placed “My Antonia” on hold at the library, and will be looking forward to listening to it in the near future.
Happy listening Jane! Let me know some of the books you’ve found enjoyable or informative.
I think I’ve heard of the Emily White book? As for Willa Cather, it’s been years but I know I read it. It’s interesting to go back and read the ‘classics’ after a bit of time away. I’m currently reading Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a first time for me. It’s one of those classics to some people.
And, by the way congrats on the job…. I completely understand what you mean.
I read Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the 1970s. I remember going into a library when it was on the best-seller list, and the librarian had never heard of it. As I recall, the book’s about “excellence?” And maybe also mental illness?
Do you ever watch movies, John? I have “The Book Of Eli” that you might like.
Please let me know if you ever want to borrow it. I thought it was very good. It stars Denzel Washington and takes place in post-apocalyptic America. I’d watch anything with Denzel in it. Neighbor Cathy. Good luck with the new job!
Cathy — Thanks. I find post-apocalyptic fiction and movies to be fascinating. Best I’ve seen so far is the movie “Children of Men,” based in end-of-the-world England. I will look forward to borrowing “The Book of Eli” after the season. — John
I think “My Antonia” is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you enjoyed it I’d also suggest Cather’s “Death Comes For the Archbishop”, about a French Catholic priest sent to the american south-west to orgaize the Church circa 1850. I, too, read as an escape — works great. Good luck with the job.
People have been telling me about Willa Cather since I was in high school — a time in my life when I revolted against the idea that anything written in America could be good. Actually, I still have a bump of that feeling today even though I no longer really *think* that or base decisions on it — it’s just a passing reaction. But I never did get around to Cather.
Remember what C. S. Lewis said about reading for escape — to the effect that trying to escape from a prison (which life can be at times) is honorable.
I frequently say that work is the curse of the lifting class.
@ Tom, thanks for lending me “Babbit.” The books you lend me are always good. I’ll return Babbit at Thanksgiving. I plan to read “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and “O Pioneer!” after the season.
@ Sled, I think you would find “My Antonia” appealing, because it’s a story of the people who broke the sod on The Plains, and it seems to me on the same track as the “John Henry” story. Also, a theme of “My Antonia” is the strength of the Plainswomen, such as Antonia. On the Plains, you had to be strong to survive.
@ Tom and Sled, Thanks for agreeing with me about escape. I think books and movies are the two best forms of escape. Although some people prefer other methods, such as fishing, alcohol, food, or sex. Whatever works, I say.
In a perfect world, work would feel like a blessing. But in the real world, work all too often does seem like a curse. A friend who recently passed away used to say, “Work is the curse of the drinking class,” when we were both card-carrying members of that class. I gave up drinking and smoking, and he and his girlfriend did not. Now both of them are dead, and I’m still working. At this point, work — especially work that puts me in contact with humanity — will likely be a blessing and extend my life.
Hi John finally got around to visit.. and I haven’t come across the books mentioned, but I agree reading to me is for pure escapism, where once my nose is buried I’m lost to this world. 40 hours a week , no wonder you haven’t had much time… Sounds an interesting job I hope that you don’t get too many behavioural counselling sessions to oversee John… Wishing you well in your new job.. I too started my new job on the 19th May.. I support adults who have mental health issues..
Hi John… hope that within the real life you finding some ‘me time’ too.. and some relaxing time… my own job quite stressfull at the moment as They get used to me and I get used to their trigger behaviours.. but Im getting there.. Wishing you well..
Best of luck with your new job, Sue. It sounds challenging, but also very rewarding. I hope to get back to posting at least once a week soon.
Will look forward to seeing your new weekly posts Have a relaxing weekend if you are able.. Take care.. 🙂