Okay, so I finished reading A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson. It wasn't the kind of book you sit and read in one sitting. It was the kind of book you sit and read a little bit. Then pause. Then read a bit more. Then pause to think about what you just read. Then read a bit more. Then pause. Read. Pause. Read. Pause. Read.
Then, just like that, YOU'RE FINISHED.
So you take a nap, and you think about what you just read. Dream also. Lovely Garak dreams now that you know more about him.
It took me over a month to read this book, and it took me over a month to get all my thoughts together to write this post.
To put together some lessons from reading this book.
Have you read it yet? If you hadn't, then get a copy and read it. I dare you.
If you haven't, here's a little background: Garak is the best character ever in the Star Trek Universe. Don't agree? I'm afraid you're mistaken. This book was written by the very actor who played the character, Andrew J. Robinson. He wrote many of the chapters in this book to get into the headspace of the character, then started reading it to audience members, and eventually it got published. It's a great story. There are a million spoilers in this article, so you can enjoy the spoilers or read the book first.
In any case, here are some lessons learned from A Stitch in Time!
LESSON ONE: APPEARANCES MATTER
Sure. Dr. Parmak could have gone to talk to the neo-nazi Cardassians with a hole in his jacket. Garak decided to help Parmak fix the hole because appearances matter. Not inherently to life, but because sometimes you gotta look the part. Garak also embraces this philosophy in his own work. He realises that a lot of his job with the Obsidian Order is putting on different facades, and so he takes an interest in what outfits he's going to wear. In his letters, he explains to Doctor Bashir that Cardassians fill up to play an assigned role. Kind of like a person fitting into clothes. Basically, appearances matter. But there's a lot of layers to that (great pun, Makrenna!).
LESSON TWO: WHEN DISTRESSED, CREATE SOMETHING
Garak clearly demonstrated this during Afterimage when he was struggling with his claustrophobia attacks. Work work work. He poured himself into tailoring to calm himself down. Always keep busy. In A Stitch in Time, Garak comes home to Cardassia to find everything he hoped to come home to absolutely destroyed. Something a little more serious than helping the Federation win the war, is seeing the destruction. This time, Garak didn't turn to tailoring: he turned to building a monument in his childhood neighbourhood. In his distress, he makes something beautiful, and other suffering Cardassians find peace in his work. Honestly, it calls to mind that lyric from Rent's "La Vie Boheme": The opposite of war isn't peace; it's creation.
LESSON THREE: CHOOSE WHAT YOU'LL SACRIFICE
Garak talks a big game about giving to the Cardassian state. You have to give to the state. Help the state. Sacrifice everything for the state. Heck, his favourite book is called The Never Ending Sacrifice. But despite this, Garak chooses very carefully what he's willing to sacrifice. He chooses to sacrifice his principles, and use his "father's" secret to growing flowers in order to assassinate the Romulan ambassador. Thinking it will end his exile, he chooses to sacrifice the new Federation friend he made on Terok Nor. But, Garak won't sacrifice Palandine. At one piont, he says I won't let her be my never ending sacrifice. This was a strong choice he made. Garak teaches us that sacrifice is necessary, but we should be aware of what we're willing to sacrifice. Especially since Garak is clearly suffering due to his exile. But words that never leave his lips, or his pen, or his being are I regret my choices. He suffered because of his choice. But there's no regret.
LESSON FOUR: IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
Garak does a little ritual at his monument, and he remembers everyone he lost in the war. That list includes Gul Dukat, a man he hated, a man who tried to kill him on multiple occasions, a man who he tried to kill on multiple occasions, a man who . . . the list goes on and on and on. Gul Dukat is not a great person, and Garak hates him. But, Garak knows that it's important to remember him. Because, if he doesn't, then who would? Something like if we don't know history, then we're doomed to repeat it. He takes that a step further, and makes it personal.
LESSON FIVE: SILENCE, EXILE, AND CUNNING
This James Joyce quote is Garak's refrain when he's in exile. He shows amazing tenacity because he's been taught to see every event as an opportunity. When he's assigned to rehabilitate the tailor shop on Terok Nor, Garak decides to be the best tailor he can. Not because he really loves it, but because he believes it can be an opportunity. I think there's a pretty strong lesson right in there. An extension to that lesson, of course, is how Garak eventually grows to enjoy being a tailor. Despite how he feels hated as the only Cardassian on board the station, he also meets Doctor Bashir, and the two create an undeniable bond. The lesson here, of course, is that the real opportunities aren't always the ones you were looking for. Garak wanted to end his exile, but along the way found the opportunity to grow as a person, and make real friendships.
LESSON SIX: LOOK BEYOND THE LIES
This book is essentially a tell all about Garak's life as a child, his work in the Obsidian Order, his experiences on Deep Space Nine, and what awaits him when he returns back home to Cardassia Prime. The chapters are framed around Garak telling Julian all of this. One of the big questions is . . . is Garak telling the truth? Is the entire novel a book of lies? Did any of this actually happen? Garak is a notoriously unreliable narrator. BUT that doesn't matter. Palandine points out to Garak that it doesn't matter if someone is lying, because the lies they tell say far more than the lie itself. Even if we assume everything in the book is a lie, here is one undeniable truth we can glean from reading A Stitch in Time: Garak needs to connect with Julian, he feels the need to explain the past to him, and create a common ground for the two to continue their relationship. Every lie he (hypothetically) tells Julian is to paint himself in a certain light, a light that he wants to be seen in. Look beyond the lies.
BONUS LESSON: DOCTOR PARMAK FOR THE WIN
Dr. Parmak is totally awesome. Him and Garak have such a history, and somehow come together to complement each other in the best way. Why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why couldn't we have seen Dr. Parmak in the actual television series? Why do we only get to hear Garak and Tain talking about him? After reading A Stitch in Time, I totally think the two would make a great couple, and I wish we could have seen more of them.
So there you have it! Lessons from A Stitch in Time. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? READ IT ALREADY!