Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My first REQUESTED book review

I received a copy of Off the DEEP END: The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis -- and Qualify for the Olympics by W. Hodding Carter on Thursday just before last month ended. It just so happened that the months of February and March (and now April, too) have been some of the busiest weeks I've lived -- my Pastor of 12 years has died (he's been at this church 34 years, but I've only been here the last 12). It fell to me and another guy in the church to keep all the pieces together and make sure nothing was "broken" before our new pastor was voted in. (The church ran fine before, and I realize the probability of me "ruining it" falls between "slim" and "none," but it was still of great concern to me. We did call a new Pastor to step in on Sunday evening, March 30th.) I knew I needed to read this book and review it (that IS, after all, the reason they SENT it to ME), but I wasn't sure when I'd have the time. Late Friday night (March 29th) I decided to see how the first chapter started.

Picking up Off the DEEP END turned out to have been a bad idea (since I still had a lot of work to do that weekend). The first chapter started a bit slowly, but by the time I'd reached the end, then read the title of the second chapter ("Saggy Old-Man Butt"), I was hooked. It was all I could do to put the book down when I finished the second chapter. In fact, all day Saturday (as I was attempting to finish up my work) all I could think about was finishing Carter's story. Late Saturday night (when I should have been getting ready for bed) I picked up his book once again -- and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.

I find that I can identify quite well with the author: I'm passing my mid-thirties, but (even though they aren't very large) I haven't enjoyed discovering I'm now growing "love bumps" (which I'm told turn into "love handles" very quickly), that I've had to start purchasing my pants 1 to 2 inches larger in the waist (depending on the brand of course -- I could still squeeze into a 31" waist, but I wouldn't do it on the way to an all-you-can-eat-buffet), and that my lack of endurance is getting worse. It seems life, wife, children, and my own lack of commitment tend to erect numerous hurdles and hindrances to my desire of getting back into shape.

Of course, "my" sport was never swimming (I do love the water though), it was cross-country jogging -- and I was never anywhere near world-class competition levels (I was happy when I wasn't running J.V.), but more often I'm noticing lingering thoughts creeping around in the back of my mind: if I would just commit to the effort... my body would respond to the challenge.

Off the DEEP END offered some reassurance that I'm really not crazy, it renewed my hope in myself, and has instilled a fresh desire to quit sitting around wishing I was in better shape and make time to do it.

I know footnotes and parenthetical statements annoy some people to no end, but that is exactly the way I think (and... in case you missed it... the way I write), so I enjoyed Carter's style of writing immensely. The only thing I didn't like about the book was its length: I found myself wanting to know more -- and to be able to follow his monthly progress (or even weekly).

I was initially disappointed that the last chapter wasn't included -- actually, the very first disappointment was finding a card STAPLED TO THE FRONT COVER!! They defaced a book! But now that I've removed the staple, I've come to the point of looking forward to seeing what else is included when this finally goes to press.

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