I celebrated my birthday this week.(They say 43 is the new 23!) I received some very beautiful and thoughtful gifts from my friends and husband. Steph gave a donation to Heifer International in my name. Kim (aka sweetcakes) made me a lovely chicken tea cozy. My husband gave me a DVD I had been wanting to watch. Also flowers, a picture and frame of some friends, a button box and some lovely cards. It was a very nice day.
I usually treat myself to books since those are some of my favorite things to shop for. I picked out a current memoir called: Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. A book of short stories by Elizabeth Berg. Another memoir by autistic animal behaviorist Temple Grandin called Animals in Translation and finally another memoir by surgeon Atul Gawande called Better. I hope to be recommending another book of the week very soon.
I do love memoirs and so far Beautiful Boy is promising to be very compelling. I did end up taking back a book. It looked funny, but after I read a chapter I decided it was vapid and lacking all meaning and the funny could not make up for the sick feeling I felt when I read it. So, I won't even tell you what it was called lest you waste your money on it. Lets not give this writer her due.
Lately memoirs take on this form: find something outrageous and nearly impossible (but not totally impossible) to do. Do it. Write about how hard it was to do it. I have read memoirs of families who gave up buying everything except basic necessities for one year, gave up using electricity for a year, gave up buying anything made in China for a year, read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, walked across the country, and cooked all the recipes from Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking over the course of one year.
Hodding Carter has the latest entry into the memoir-turns-daring-do saga, he is going to train for and compete in swimming at the 2008 summer Olympics at age 45. The advanced copy I read does not include the final chapter which will relate his encounter at the Olympic swimming trials. I can’t really say if the final chapter would have made a difference in how I feel about his story.
For much of the book I really did not like Mr. Carter. He struck me as a 43 year old frat boy who was having a hard time accepting middle age. The fact that he kept admitting his frat boy tendencies did nothing to endear me to him. The technical aspects of swimming were not interesting for me—they may be for seasoned swimmers—and a lot of the book seemed bogged down by details of stroke and times and races. It was hard to get through. There were a few interesting adventures most notably his swimming from island to island in the Caribbean in a sort of swimming trek adventure and also his relay swim around Manhattan Island. Even during these adventures he seemed like a puffed up school boy. The kind I mostly try to avoid.
Just the same, being about 45 myself, I hope he is able to make the Olympics. I will watch for him, and I will pick up the book when it is out to see if I can find out his fate at the trials. I will also send this book to an old friend who is an avid swimmer. Perhaps she will understand some of the swimming-speak and relate to him a bit more. ( )