I have a love-hate relationship with them here in Taiwan. Actually, walking into a bookstore here is what I would imagine Purgatory feels like.
When I walk through the door, I'm greeted by the familiar faces of Obama, Trump, and Joel Osteen. I nod their way. Turning to the high-stacked shelves, I let my fingers run over the crisp spines with a little too much excitement. A staircase leads to a second, AND a Third FLOOR!
This is Heaven.
But then I reach for a book. Dismay, shock, horror! Flipping it open, I see nothing but various scratch marks lined up in a row. This isn't right! I can't read a thing!
Furiously, frantically, I search for a legible book. Through the shelves, up the stair case, around the third floor, nothing. Desperate, I race back to the familiar photos. Joel Osteen, I grimace. Instead I reach for Obama. More doodles.
This isn't Heaven.
I'm not there yet.
So needless to say, I have to find other ways to quench my literary thirst. When I was packing, seven months ago, I had a feeling this would be the case, so I brought a fair share of books. This helps, yes, but I've torn my way through most of them, and occassionally look for another. I have to slow down though, I have not a clue how I will carry all this weight home.
Regardless, a couple weeks ago I discovered a new book, and caved.
I found said book by finding the Author, John Roger Schofield. I found said Author by the band he plays in, The Myriad.
Having been a frequent-listener of said band, I was familiar with John's writing style and his love for literature, but I had no idea he was published. I wrote him, and through a string of emails, he offered to send me out a copy personally rather than have me wade through international shipping with Amazon or the like. Thanks to PayPal, he quickly and efficiently received my payment, and a week later I received a package. Inside: Push My Life into a Duffle Bag.
A week (and change) later, I completed the novel, much to my delight.
The first chunky chunk of the book I would consider a caricature of growing up in the U.S. Push My Life is the story of a boy brought up in a small hick-town in Northern California. Though my town was nothing like his, and my family much less fragmented, I found myself relating to the character, seeing the events of his upbringing transpose into my life. If you grew up in the States, it's hard not to relate to this young boy in some ways. Through trial and travail, masochism and monotony, the story follows the boy's journey into manhood. It's looking back to see where we've been that shows us who we are.
However, Push My Life is not for the faint of heart. Schofield wields a myriad vocabulary. I say "myriad" for two reasons: 1) it's the name of his band, and 2) within the 261 pages, it popped up at least a dozen times. Do I believe it was some sub-conscious plug for his bands new cd? Not at all. There's nothing about the book, bio, or author photo, that says "I'm that one guy from that one band." If anything, I would imagine it's like an inside joke with "the guys" whenever they can weave "Myriad" into their sentences. I know a few band-guys: inside jokes like that are gold. Besides... it's a great word.
Band-humor aside, the vocabulary truly is extensive. One that proves a love for the English language, and simultaneously knows life's adversities demand the weight of choice words. Pain is real in life, and candid in both this boy's journey, and our own.
But journeys are lived forward - through muck and mire. And this one ends in a tale of beautiful hope and forgiveness - essential mysteries in this life.
If you, as I do, recognize life is a journey and have learned to celebrate its triumphs and mourn its trials, you'll find common ground with the young Protagonist. Push My Life into a Duffle Bag is nothing more than a story of the journey of life. It's humanity in all its depravity and mystery. It's something we all know a bit about - and I for one am pushing to learn more every day. Books like this only assist in finding new perspective.
John Roger was a saint for saving me from the vast halls of purgatory. His novel is well crafted, and I hunger in anticipation for his next work. (forsooth!) Though, next time, we'll likely skip the international shipping...