Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Play it Again Jeff

A couple weeks ago my Bookman read a book by Ken Grimwood called Replay. I looked up from my own book as he finished it to see tears in his eyes. He closed the book, handed it to me and told me I had to read it. Now while my dearest and I are both avid readers and frequently suggest books for each other, it is rare that either of us says, "You have to read this." So naturally I delved into the book at the earliest opportunity. While I can't say that Replay had as stirring an effect on me as is did my husband, I can say that I very much enjoyed it. The book is the story of Jeff Winston who in 1988 at the age of 43 has a heart attack and dies. Except he doesn't. He wakes up in his college dorm room in 1963, 18 years old but knowing everything he knew when he died at 43. Since Jeff knows things like who is going to win the Kentucky Derby, the World Series, and what stocks to invest in, he has the chance to live his life over as a rich man--until he turns 43, dies, and wakes up 18 again. The story sounds like one big cliché, but it isn't. As I followed Jeff through his replaying lifetimes I began to feel sorry for him because in the end what makes life so precious is that you only get one. What point is there to making art, saving a life, making the world better if you know that when you are 43 everything you worked so hard for will be nullified and you will have to start all over again? It's a modern Greek tragedy, Sisyphus rolling his stone eternally up the hill. But unlike Sisyphus, there is an end for Jeff. Of course as I was reading I'd catch myself thinking how cool it would be to have so many lifetimes to spend reading. But then I realized that while there are enough books to keep me going for a lifetime or two, eventually it would get boring because there would be nothing new anymore. There's always a catch isn't there?