The Meaning of Leaving the Sea

I am sitting down to read "Leaving the Sea" -- the short piece of writing for which this book is titled. It is basically a six-page sentence. Today is Tuesday, Feb. 18th. It's 11am. It's starting to snow and I could use another cup of coffee. The commute tonight promises to be several hours.

11:06am - Halfway done.

11:14am - OK, that was great.

"...before our house started leaning, started hissing when the wind came up after sunset, a house no different from a gut-shot animal listing into the woods, a woods no different from a spray of wire bursting through the earth, an earth no different from a leaking sack of water, soft in the middle and made of mush..."

Leaving the Sea (the title of the book, and this story specifically) is (I think) about a loss of innocence and a step into constant struggle.

"...so that they could jump on me and ride on me and kick into the place where I would have gills if I were something better that had never tried to leave the sea..."

The sea is our ultimate home. When we left the sea to walk the earth we chose endless struggle over endless gliding and beauty. Oh well.


Poor Sad Fathers

Ben Marcus has said that his parents were normal and loving, but his treatment of father/son characters is profoundly sad.

"He had a large, sad face and he was bald. These men were everywhere. The cattle in our lives we hardly even see."

His stories usually focus on family units or small groups. The father figure is always oppressed. The first 4 stories in Leaving The Sea follow roughly the same pattern.

What Have You Done: A troubled son, newly a father, returns home but cannot love his family. His family doesn't trust him or believe anything he says based on an unsubscribed incident in his past.

I Can Say Many Nice Things: A hapless professor is teaching a course on a cruise ship. His wife doesn't love him, his class doesn't respect him, and he is harried by an unbalanced, young, female student.

The Dark Arts: A young man is mysteriously sick. His girlfriend doesn't love him and his father is a weak and feeble man unable to help.

Rollingwood: A father is asked, unexpectedly, to care for his young son. The son's mother doesn't love him, disappears for days, and the father is forced to juggle work and son without appreciation or love.

Marcus beats on the fathers in his other books too. Notable American Women features a helpless father trapped in a hole, The Flame Alphabet features a father crushed under the weight of mysterious illness, a dying wife, a poison daughter, kidnapping, forced labor, etc. etc. Needless to say, there are a lot of fathers crawling around, hiding in holes, accepting emasculation, failing.