Since the sun has taken refuge behind a grey cover and the air’s touch upon the skin is cold, I guess now will be as good a time as any to update my blog. So with the guttural growl of Eddie Vedder in my ears, I sit at my laptop typing and deleting…typing and deleting. I know what I want to say, I just can’t seem to say it in the manner I want. It took me my whole life to finish my first screenplay and I think this is why…type and delete, type and delete. Of course there was some procrastination tossed in there also if I’m to be honest, but a lot of starts and stops also.
I just finished an incredible story written by Joe Blair titled “By the Iowa Sea”. It was one of those reads where you feel a tinge of sadness when you arrive at the last page and you’re not ready to say goodbye. Since closing the book I haven’t picked up any of the other 17 partially read books littering my side of the bed or hidden among the myriad titles on my Nook. Well, that’s not entirely true, I did buy a book on teamwork which is incredibly boring…very much anticipated, but I haven’t picked up a book with any literary substance since.
I ran across this thing during an evening quest for something to read and yes I’m absolutely aware I just mentioned 17 unfinished books in the last paragraph, but I can’t help myself. My interests change faster than I can read, what can I say? So, I was perusing the Barnes & Noble website, the Discover Great New Writers section to be exact, when I scrolled down to a book about, of all things, the Iowa Sea. I was perplexed initially because I’m geographically inclined and I know there’s no fucking sea in Iowa. But I clicked the book image anyway just to be sure… Thank you, Mr. Blair, for choosing such an intriguing title, otherwise I would have scrolled onward and probably would have bought a book on teamwork or some other mundane thing instead. I’m not much of a memoir guy, but a particular piece of the synopsis caught my eye.
Joe Blair is a HVAC man who lives in Iowa with his wife and children and believes there’s more to life than what Iowa has to offer. As soon as I read that, my heart went out to him. I bet this is another poor sap who’s wife thinks it’s incredibly irresponsible to willingly join the ranks of the unemployed, during a recession, to pursue a change in life. My wife and I argue/discuss this very thing about Ohio from time to time. When it comes right down to it, I’m not sure I’m all that Jack Londonish anyway, but it makes for a good conversation. Ultimately, I know she’s right about this, but every so often the gypsy in me surfaces and I’m ready to pack it all up and move. Please do me a favor and don’t let her know I said she was right.
I wanted to learn more about this guy so I pre-ordered the ebook and waited. I was full aware that I could have jumped in the car and journeyed to Barnes & Noble to purchase the paper and glue version, I just wasn’t willing to betray my allegiance to my NookColor. Plus, I was reading 17 other books at the time, remember that?… and felt they could get me through the next 30 days.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking…what about the damn book? Alright, here I go.
I made a promise to myself when I started blogging that if I were to write about a book I read or a movie I saw, I wouldn’t be one of those people who regurgitates the entire story, spoiling any reason for the reader to explore it for themselves. With that, I promise not to start here.
I really enjoyed the conversational tone of his writing. That’s what sucked me in, just a man with a tale to tell and to my surprise it wasn’t preachy or braggadocious. I will say there were some things I could have lived without reading, but hey, brutal honesty I guess isn’t always easy to read. What’s funny is I read a recent blog of his on his website called “Smut”, which is worth a look if you have a moment, and although I may not agree in entirety with the church lady from the blog, the book does get a little “personal”, if you know what I mean. If you don’t, read the book.
I was also struck by how difficult this must have been for him to write. I wonder, now, what was the driving force to expose all he chose to expose? I know every writer must decide what to reveal and to conceal, but was this therapeutic? An exorcism of demons? An airing out of the proverbial ghosts in the closet? All I know, is if it were me, I’m not sure that I could have or would have been as honest or forthright as the author. I tip my hat to him though for baring his soul in the pages between the covers.
Speaking of covers, let me talk about the title that graces the front or at least two of those words “Iowa Sea”. You know, the words that drew me to this book to begin with. The story is set during the Iowa floods of 2008 and I really thought there would have been more about the rain, the flooding and the physical and mental struggles of a family trying to contend with it all. There wasn’t much about it at all. In hindsight, after a few days to digest this body of work, the philosophical side of me kicked in. Maybe, just maybe, it was…symbolic? There were storms in his life at the same time Mother Nature was throwing her angst at Iowa. Storms are unpredictable and moody. They start out small and on occasion can swell up into agents of incredible devastation. However, there are storms where we can accurately anticipate the fallout and Joe, I’m sure, knew just how dangerous the storms in his life were becoming. And I’ll be honest with you, some of the decisions he made, I wasn’t sure if I liked the guy much.
The word “sea” is often related to a person’s wants or desires, freedom, loneliness, death, rebirth. So in hindsight, maybe, just maybe, Joe never set out to write about the physical storms and floods of Iowa, just the personal ones. He talks a lot about wants and desires, freedom and rebirth, so the title is fitting, I must say.
I really need to wrap this up and quickly…I’ve bored you enough already. Obviously, I loved the book and I think you will too. And just so you know, I ended up liking Joe also. I think what he went through and wrote about in his book, each of us go through to some extent in life. I’m very hopeful he’ll write more in the future. Ideally, a work of fiction.
l have or I will leave you links to the book and to Joe Blair’s website. Go buy the book, visit his website, you won’t regret it.
But, before I sign off, I would like to know what book or movie you found yourself in? Or helped define a moment in your life. Post it in the comments.
Until next time…