Saturday, August 20, 2011

You Must Go and Win

One of my good friends has a thing about quitting. He thinks it's important to quit something that isn't working out, or just isn't working for you, and to do it as soon as reasonably possible. And he feels this way to the point where I think he respects people a little bit less (maybe even a lot less?) if they just keep plugging away. I forget what the exact logic is, but I think it has something to do with not wasting your life.

I have historically seen things the opposite way. To me, there's honor in sticking with a crappy job or a degree program you're not too sure about. Quitting seems flighty and immature. It's also something I would have a hard time owning up to, ending a relationship or dropping out of law school (which I didn't do). It would feel like failure.

Ultimately, sometimes it's best to admit something isn't working and cut your losses, and other times the smart thing to do is tough it out. But how do you figure out which is which?

If there's a theme tying together the stories of You Must Go and Win, a sort of memoir/essay collection by a struggling musician who was born in the USSR, it's that. Alina Simone, the author, moved from Ukraine to the Boston suburbs as a child when her father fell out of favor with the KGB. As one might imagine, such a history paves the way for a lot of seeking, and a lot of colorful tales. Many of them are set in Siberia. This is mostly what the book is about -- here are some crazy stories about a quirky singer/songwriter in search of her past, and, also, herself. Some of them are pretty funny. Some are like a slightly boring knockoff of Sarah Vowell. But one can see how a book about a struggling musician can also be a book about whether it makes sense to keep trying. The answer may not be what you think it is.

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