Tag Archive | numbers

Help! I Fell Into A Goldfinch-Sized Hole

The following has always been a true statement since Miss Hunter taught me to read in kindergarten: I love to read.  I remember tenting my covers and burning through Judy Blume’s canon with a flashlight in junior high.  My love for a good story arc and a compelling plot runs deep.

Apparently, however, not as deep as the satisfaction of finishing a book.  I think I’ve had my tenses wrong all this time.  It’s not that I’ve loved to read; I’ve loved to have read.  I love watching the tally rise as I finish a book– that’s what really gets my juices flowing.



Take this year.  I’ve read 18 books so far.  Around book 15, I started geeking out at the prospect of pushing myself to read 50 this year.  Could I? Should I? Let’s do it!  I picked up the pace, hoping to finish June with at least 23 books stuffed in my noggin.

Then I started The Goldfinch.  Damn, you Goldfinch, with your perfect descriptions of EVERYTHING and your expert language.  Damn you and your 80 gazillion pages.  The Goldfinch is a speed bump on my quest to digest more and more books.   There’s been no zipping through Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel.  Yet, I keep returning to see what’s next for the young protagonist Theo Decker.  I’m rooting for him; I adore the beautiful language.  (I’m supposed to call it “prose” and get my English degree on, but it feels like language to me; I want to bathe in it, marinade in it, and hope that some of her mastery rubs off on me.)

So, now I’ve spent a week with GF and am only 1/3 through.  The irony in all of this is that my next book is Proust, a challenge-read that a friend and I are undertaking for this summer.  (I should probably make peace with the fact that I’m perhaps only going to read 20 books this year.)

But the bigger issue?  I might want to look at my values because this little exercise, this musty literary corner of my life is a microcosm– how I do anything is how I do everything.  And my first impulse is always to value speed above thoroughness, quantity over pleasure and the goal above the journey.

And that is my real problem, not that GF had more pages than red states have guns.  No, the real problem is that there’s a battle I’m eternally (and internally) engaged in– how to harmonize all my wild and ferocious impulses into something manageable, productive, and ultimately beautiful, even those that are at odds with one another.


The Facts About The 5K I Won

See that?  It’s a trophy.  I Instagrammed it– Valencia filter– because I care.

A champion's trophy.

A champion’s trophy.


I care because it’s my trophy.  I won it.  And I won it by running my middle-aged bee-hind off in a 5K race.  I was the first woman to cross the finish line.  Because most of my readers are American, they’ll want to know my time.  We care about that stuff– we want hard numbers, figures, metrics, facts, the exact location of that downed airliner.  I get it.  It hardly counts if I can’t produce the numbers, right?


I ran the race in 26:08:47 minutes.  And because your calculator is hidden in some annoying place on your phone, I’ll do the quick math for you– my pace was 8:44 per mile.

I should probably stop here.  Press “publish” and let the glory stand for itself.  No doubt I’ve already gone too far.  I’m bungee-jumping and I just passed the first look-out point.  I’m still hurtling downward, waiting for that safety rope to catch and pull me up with a jerk of my neck.  It hasn’t yet.

So more:

I’ve never won a race in my life.  In second grade field day I almost beat Melissa Zimmel in the 50-yard dash, but she elbowed me viciously at 35 yards, and I went home empty-handed, while she had a third-place ribbon pinned to her stupid pink Izod shirt. Bitch.  Two weeks later she tried to cheat by copying my spelling test.  I laughed inside when she spelled desks as “deskes” to earn herself a 94, six points below my perfect 100.

The race in question, though, the one that I WON, was a small affair, I admit.  Four dads who seemed to sprint the whole time beat me.  They, like me, ditched their children to worship the gods of speed and endurance.  We let our spouses handle the pesky work of keeping our children off the course and out of traffic.

There were other women in the race, I swear.  That they were either orthodox Jewish women running in long skirts or benevolent do-gooders shepherding a gaggle of earnest Girls-On-The-Run participants (most of whom had never run more than six yards) is none of your business.  There was one teacher huffing it, but I passed her when I sailed over her oxygen tank like a stag escaping a hunter’ rifle in hot pursuit.

Someone had to be the first woman across the line.  Someone had to enlist her husband to custom-build a trophy case to house the golden, stubby statue that I now call my own.  Someone had to pose for victory photos, seek endorsements from local businesses and offer to headline next year’s charity ball.

There are more facts that are still obscured to you, dear readers.  Facts about the weather, the wind’s velocity, the post-race swag, and the course measurement.  It’s possible you deserve those facts and I should serve them up like I did my times.  Maybe I’ve only served you the mashed potatoes, but you richly deserve your roast beef and fresh peas.

But perhaps I’ve said too much already.