"Honey's depressed," McNulty tells me late one night. "She's just finished the book version of the Sardine."
Didn't she read it when it came out in 2006?
"She wasn't interested in a book about her husband."
You told her it was about you.
"It partly was. The best parts."
Did she get depressed learning that she might have been the Sardine's mother?
"Don't joke about that. She may never be reconciled to the idea that you're the son she never had."
Literally. Since you have three boys and didn't have me!
"You seem more real to her than the ones she bore and raised."
The power of the word.
"She was depressed," McNulty continues a thought, "that she finished it. There weren't any more Sardines to read."
But there are!! Nearly twenty at this site after the Sardine's identity was revealed.
"She's read those. No, I'm afraid, she reached the point where, well, nothing was left."
Did she like the book?
"She didn't like the column format. Or the 'Health Utopia' sardines, especially the last, when you seem to want the obliteration of the human race. Besides that, there were minor things. Too many of them with Frank Weathers. And she hates Wal-terr. In any case, she read the book in a day and a half."
That's Sardine overload. She should've gauged her reading to prolong the pleasurable experience.
"She couldn't stop herself. She really liked them."
A person might like to eat a sardines but not ten cans worth!
"Biologically, you can feel when you are sated. There isn't the same thing when you are reading."
She couldn't wait to finish the book and got depressed when she finished it.
"There's no way around it."
Maybe it is truly a sad moment. The single Sardine column's not enough. Yet, there's no telling when you've read too many.
Writing the column does not have the same problem. There's no sadness about finishing it. On the one hand (true for writing any kind of work), the end never comes. The Sardine's seldom completely satisfied with any finished work. At a certain point, however, one must release it to the world. In the back my mind, there's always a possibility of revising and improving it.
That's the beauty of being a writer. Yes, you want to—have to—finish the column or story, but when the process really ends is unknowable. Then, you look into the past and wonder how the book or column ever formed.
For the Sardine, writing might be the only fulfilling, meaningful experience in life. Everything else must be defined by beginnings and endings.
As for work, I mentioned in Sardine 21 that the best way to get through repetitive work—where all you can do is look forward to the end—was to create a system that made you look forward to the next task. Either that or get a job that didn't seem like work.
"What about reading? Is there any way to avoid the inevitable disappoint of finishing a book?"
The Sardine has no answer except keep reading. He's a compulsive reader. There are several hundred books in his house that hasn't been read.
"Honey's not going to be happy that you don't have any answers."
She could reread the book. Frank Weathers supposedly read it twenty times—or, at least, the Sardines he appears in.
"She doesn't reread. Against all she values in reading."
"Not knowing what's going to happen."
The Sardine ponders the rationale of Mrs. McNulty's reading values. She participated in several of the Sardine episodes. Many of the others mentioned her.
"The fact that it was in book form, I think, made her think it was a completely different experience."
The power of the printed page.
Bob Castle is the unveiled author of A Sardine on Vacation.