Summerland (part the first), Michael Chabon

The last two summers have been the first that I haven’t been either teaching school or a student, and I’ve discovered that I hate the rhythm (or complete lack thereof) of non-educational adult pursuits. It’s June. Summer is here. I want nothing more than to go swimming (even though I hate bathing suits), eat ice cream (so I’m lactose intolerant, who cares!), and laze around yelling out things like “I’m bored” (actually, that one, I’ve totally been doing). I don’t want my vacation portioned out to me one or two weeks at a time. I want two and a half glorious months of sitting in air-conditioned movie theatres, struggling to find a parking spot at the beach, and eating food someone else has cooked for me on the grill while being fanned with palm leaves. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but until the Flip Flop Uprising (copyright pending), I have to keep sitting at my computer at least pretending to work.

This would probably turn out a lot better if I wasn’t self-employed, since it turns out that doing no work means receiving no pay. Of course, it also means that technically (as my annoyed friends point out to me all the time), this means I can take “vacation days” whenever I want. So it’s a Tuesday and you’re uninspired? Watch an NCIS marathon and paint each one of your nails a different color! And I can’t completely argue with this logic because it’s true, I do have a lot more freedom than I used to, and trust me, I appreciate that.

The problem is, if I take Tuesday off, I don’t get paid. And if on Wednesday, I wake up still wishing it were vacation, I can goof off, but I still won’t get paid, and my deadlines will be that much stickier. So the problem is not that I have no freedom, it’s that at the moment, I lack the discipline necessary to ignore it.

It’s rare for me to be in such a long slump because I usually like getting things done ahead of time. I get a rush from…what’s the opposite of procrastination? Whatever it is, I love it because it means I can kick back and taunt all of my friends, who, collectively, have the procrastination powers of a demigod (at least). So at times like this, when, say, I haven’t finished the novel I want to review, I don’t feel the rush I’ve heard procrastinators get nearing a deadline. Nope. Instead I feel distracted, irritable, and disappointed that I let you guys down with my lack of focus.

Because Summerland, so far, is a great book. I mean, it’s Michael Chabon, so that goes without saying. His writing is the kind I just sink into until my living room falls away and suddenly I’m surrounded by summer on a little island off the coast in the Pacific Northwest. It’s lovely there, cool and damp, and the children are playing baseball – a game I hated with a vengeance as a child but which I dearly love now – although it’s not my skills that have improved, just my perspective.

It was here, playing for the Snake Island Wapatos amid the cottonwoods and wildflower glades of the seventy-two-team Flathead League, that he had first begun, in his words, “to grasp the fundamental truth: a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.” (pg 63)

See what I’m dealing with here?! Chabon is such a poetic novelist that he makes it impossible for me to want to read when instead I could be out enjoying long-lit summer days. It makes no difference that his characters are nicely rounded, that his plot is well-paced, that his writing in general makes me want to rend my garments in jealousy – none of that means a thing when held up against the possibility of disappearing into summer.

Because we all deserve that chance, even if we’ve long out-grown true summer vacations (the kind that go on long enough for us to get thoroughly bored with doing nothing). So I’m going to take the rest of this book to the lake nearby, and I’m going to try to finish it for you by Monday, but if I get distracted out there by frisbees and baby ducks and fresh squeezed lemonade, well, we’ve only the summer to blame…

To find our more about Michael Chabon, check out his excellent site here.

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