It May Be the Worst Book Review Ever…

by A.E. Pole

I googled it. I came up with nothing. So much for due diligence and research. I guess this is going to be the world’s worst book review. I mean no title. No author. What kind of a book review is that? I guess it will be an entertaining one. I mean who doesn’t like a good car crash. Don’t tell me you never rubber necked!

I read this book back in the 1990s and it affected me dearly. I found it in the bargain bin at a Half-priced Books. It had been a best seller but it was going out of print and off the book shelf. I probably picked it up for a dollar. It was one of the best purchases of my life in terms of per dollar value. You do that, right? Think about things in per dollar value? Anyway…

It was one of those books that affected me dearly, and yet, at least when it comes to me, I feel that wisdom is easy to say, though this book said it in a way that was art, but it is much harder to do than t say. I wish I could live up to this wisdom. I mean sometimes I do. But often, I don’t. Maybe many people out there are the same. We know what is right but we don’t always do it. If you are, I can relate.

Okay, I must warn you. Even though I don’t know the title or the author of this book, I have to give a spoiler alert. So, if you don’t want to know about this story, please stop now. I won’t blame you. It is a good book. But, I don’t even know if it is in print any more. You may never get a chance to read this book. I don’t even know the publisher so you can contact them and demand that this brilliant book be printed because the world absolutely needs it. See, that is how bad this book review is! Anyway, you have been warned. But, I hope you read on anyway.

***

The first thing I remember is reading on its cover (not sure if it was front or back) but the writer had been a former bus driver in England, I think London. But, he had literary ambitions and so he wrote this novel. I thought to myself: I guess this is important to understanding the story. And in this case it actually was, though often all this author’s info stuff is boring and worthless. I think that was one of the first things about the story that impressed me. It was just a working man, spinning a yarn, and teaching a lesson at the same time.

It was written from the main character’s point of view. He was a working man with a dream. His dream was to drive a motorcycle across Europe, through the middle east and into India. I could totally relate. Well, not the motorcycle part, that part is not really me, but the whole pack up my bags and go to India part. That I could relate to. But, it didn’t have to be motorcycles (You hear me Pirsig!) and it doesn’t have to be India. We all have dreams! Like being writers or seeing the Pyramids of Egypt or whatever it is for you!

So, the main character started working toward his dream. He wanted to save up some money, because he didn’t have any. He was living in a small village in England and he saw a sign looking for a handy man. He was not that good with his hands but he wasn’t all that bad and he decided to knock on the door and see what kind of work the guy was looking for. It was not all that hard – just some basic carpentry – nail some fencing together – it was not hard but it was tedious. Funny how a lot of work is like that – not that hard but tedious. It is not that anyone couldn’t do it but people don’t really want to do it.

Anyway, the main character worked hard, did a decent job, and finished in a reasonable amount of time. The man who hired him was impressed and recommended the main character to a friend of his. He soon got another job and was starting to make some money; he was even saving some. His reputation continued to grow and demand for his services increased.

People said that people today are lazy and don’t know how to do a decent job in a decent amount of time but the main character was different. He was not lazy, and that was a good thing. The main character was a good person. Soon, he rented an apartment, started settling in and he was well-known at the local pub. The main character got a good at playing darts and he played at the Pub’s tournaments.

One night after a hard day’s work, he went down to the pub for a pint. He saw this beautiful woman there and he decided to chat her up. He started talking about his work and how it was growing. And she said she knew. She said it is small village and everyone knows everyone. I know about you. Undeterred, he started talking of his dreams – how he wanted to motorcycle across Europe, through the Middle East and into India – as soon as he saved his money.

The woman smiled. She said she had been to India.

You have been to India? The main character replied.
Sure, she said. It is easy. You just go. Why are you wasting your time doing all this handy work? If your dream is to go to India, just go!

***

The main character realized how easily it is to get distracted. To get used to doing something; you become a little comfortable, and then it is so hard to change. There are so many things we want but we are so good at finding ways to not do them. We know where the target is but we are not brave enough to go for the bull’s eye.

Maybe, he was not lazy in one sense. But, he was not so smart. Or maybe he was just ordinary. What is that line from that Pink Floyd song: Living lives of quiet desperation?

He was the main character but maybe he was symbolic of some larger group – all those working people out there that work hard out of fear of being called lazy but they spin their wheels not doing important things to actually make their dreams come true. They don’t know how to fulfill their lives. Maybe, they were taught all the wrong values. How do we know what are the right values? Maybe the system was really stacked against them but not in the ways we usually think.

What is the first thing that happens to people when they start college? They take out a loan. Or you are just given a credit card. And it all makes sense in one way you look at it. College is an investment. Life is easier with a little credit. Buy now and pay it off with your future labor. All fair and square until you realize you are a fly becoming stuck in the spider’s web. It is becoming harder and harder to just go – and be the person you really want to be.

It all sends shivers down my spine, because I know it but I can’t always live it. What is it inside some that just allows them to go for it while others just hold themselves back. What kind of world would we live in if people actually strived for what they really wanted and believed in instead of getting caught in the spider’s web? What if enlightenment was real and possible and not just pretty words to say?

I often think about self-esteem training in public schools. You know the everyone gets a trophy kind of thing. It is easy to laugh at, right? Yeah, me too. But, is that what the difference is? A belief in yourself? A belief that you can achieve your dreams? Is that what differentiates, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, those who pursue their happiness, and those who pretend and live lives of quiet desperation?

The other day I was talking to one of my sons. He is in high school. I asked him about his dreams and he said he wanted to be rich. Okay, it is a big dream! I asked how. He said he wanted to own his own business or something like that. I asked him about music. You write your own music; have you thought about pursuing being a song writer? He said it was too hard. Too few people succeed. He was better off pursuing a more traditional path.

I get it. It is. But that is the difference. There are those who want something yet fear it. And there are those who don’t. Sometimes, it is due to blessed eagerness or maybe they don’t have anything to lose but they have it. They have that something. They believe in what they are doing. Or at least enough to fake it to others.

I don’t know how to teach my son this. He sees me and he learns and he learns all to well. I can’t say I am much different despite having read such an amazing story. Wisdom is easy to say but it is so much harder to do. What did Spike Lee say? Do the right thing? So easy to say yet so hard to do. If it were easy, we wouldn’t need to be reminded to do it. Maybe, he will read a story, or see a movie that will change his life? I am sure this is true. It happens to all of us in one way or another.
Keep on writing! Keep on reading! Or watching! All experience is wisdom if we look at it in the right way. The monk says bow to the thief for a thief is a powerful teacher – in what not to do. We just have to look at it in the right way. Life is full of maya – illusion. Karma traps us in webs we don’t see. They lead us to think certain avenues are the right direction but they only get us lost. But, I do believe we can find our way.

And if you would like to help all the writers at Sconnies find their happiness, and the cost is not too dear, pick up a novel that looks right for you and give it a try! Who knows? It might just change your life.

And, as Grover once said you made it to the end of the book (article)! Worst book review ever? I will wear that badge if necessary…thanks for reading!

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