“I’ve been having a lot of problems with my psychic friends lately.”
I’m sure we can all relate to this poor woman’s plight. Unlike that whole book compatibility issue.
“I’ve been having a lot of problems with my psychic friends lately.”
I’m sure we can all relate to this poor woman’s plight. Unlike that whole book compatibility issue.
Two separate people have now sent me this article, so now I feel compelled to comment on it. Incidentally, keeping a blog updated is more difficult than one would expect. It sort of feels like work, though I can’t think why. Anyway, the NY Times recently published this essay in its Sunday Book Review section, which starts with the following three sentences:”
Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”
The author then goes on to note: “We’ve all been there.”
Have we now.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that going on a date with someone who believes J.K. Rowling is the most brilliant author in modern-day literature would send me fumbling for the phone to get an emergency text message from a friend who has suddenly, inexplicably, come down with a case of zombies eating her brain and has only two hours to tell me where the treasure is buried, along with a copy of her will, which I have to get first before her evil twin sister rewrites it. And it unnerves me, true, to find people who are utterly incapable of reading anything longer than a newspaper article. Or a blog post. Or the jokes in Playboy. All of this is true.
But the women in this article are freaking me out.
Today’s dating sphere is terrifying enough without disregarding people according to their literary tastes. There’s one woman who dumped a guy because he liked Ayn Rand. Now, this I consider a wise decision, because Ayn Rand is a bit of a nutjob, and anyone attempting to guide his life by the writings of Ayn Rand is not someone to whom I would consider binding my troth, if you know what I mean, and many of you will not. But this woman broke up with him not over philosophy issues, but because Rand is, in her mind, a poor writer. Someone needs to examine this woman’s head. You wouldn’t break up with someone who guided his life by the principle that the individual must serve himself above all others, but you would break up with him because he enjoyed reading about said self-serving principle in a mythical world? I grant you I have never done drugs, but it seems to me that this is the kind of logic they would induce.
Now, back in Normal-land, where the rest of us dwell, a spirited dispute over whether an author is or is not worth time and effort is a lot of fun, and needn’t ruin a friendship or a partnership. I have a long-reigning debate going with a very dear friend of mine, who shall remain nameless because I would not want to embarrass her by airing her questionable literary tastes, who likes Haruki Murakami and dislikes Anais Nin. Both of which opinions, I submit to you, are madness, since Murakami’s habit of dropping Americana throughout the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles made me want to hurl said volume into the New Hampshire snowdrift outside my window, and Anais Nin is foreplay and intellectual commentary on sexuality in written word format, and she has in addition one of the best full names I’ve ever heard (Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell).
The point is, the friendship survives. Nor was it even remotely shaken by either of these exchanges. Because there are lots of things about which we do agree, and we need not break out the checklist of favorite books to determine we like each other.
Another case: a good friend of mine loves those hideous DragonLance Chronicles because when he was a lad, he spent a full year devouring every one he could get his hands on. He begged his fiance to read them, and she obliged, and now mocks him at every opportunity, because they are dreadful fantasy fluff. Yet, remarkably, according to NYT, they are still together and quite happy. It’s almost as though grown-ups are aware that having a personal opinion is a good thing.
For the record, I love Don Delillo, Jeannette Winterson, Michael Ondaatje, Stephen King, and Kahlil Gibran (who has another awesome full name, Gibran Khalil Gibran bin Mikhael bin Saâd). And you may still buy me a drink even if none of those things are true for you.
But so help me, if you haven’t read a book in the last decade, I may throw said drink in your face. I don’t care what you read, but you have to read.
Okay, actually, for real this time. The SF Chronicle published an article I wrote for their employment section in TODAY’S Sunday paper, and I am thrilled sideways, even if I had always imagined my first article would be written about something spectacularly awesome, like graphic novels set in the Middle East, which I could have done, if I were more aggressive about that sort of thing. But it isn’t. My first published article is officially on using career counselors. That is my own fault. My eventual entry on Wikipedia would have been way cooler if that were not my first article, but now my legacy will be slightly less splendid. Ah, well.
Published! I’ll post a link as soon as I can find one. For anyone over at the Chron who cares, your search engine sucks.
And now I must needs write another for the same section. Spoiler: it’s about multi-interviews. I know, I know, the anticipation is just killing you.
Young kid, wearing tie, on interview: So, what exactly does your company do?
Interviewer: Well, as the Water Company, we provide water.
Do you now. Fascinating. Carry on.
I sit most of my day, these days, in a cafe called Saxy’s. I intend to write off all soy chai lattes I consume at this establishment as necessary writer expenses on my tax returns. Why? Because it is basically paying for an Internet connection. Not having one at home, I have to pay for one elsewhere. And the Internet at Saxy’s is free, but – and here’s where the logic happens – only to paying customers.
Thusly, my coffee drink is the equivalent of buying my Internet.
Anyway. So I’m at Saxy’s, and the chick next to me is startled by a friend of hers, and says, “Oh, I didn’t see you! I lost my shoe!”
I don’t know about you, but the phrase ‘I lost my shoe’ is one of those phrases whose veracity must immediately be verified. I looked down right away, lest I miss this moment. Did she lose her shoe? What kind of shoe was it? How do you lose, say, a hiking boot? How startling is this friend, anyway?
The answers, in order, are:
Generally, to a crocodile.
Not so startling, though with lovely eyeglasses.
What makes us have to verify that stuff? If someone next to me said, “I got a phone call,” I feel I would also have to glance at his cell phone to see if that, too, was true. If someone said, “This crocodile is eating my hiking boot!” I would probably have to check that out, too. But why?
I don’t usually like to say such things about people, particularly those who write for Good Magazine, which is an amazing publication and one I would love to write for someday. And I’m aware that the section of the magazine entitled ‘Provocations‘ is designed to, you know, provoke people. That’s cool. That’s great. But this woman is an idiot.
For those of you who don’t want to click on the link, Ms. Anne Trubek postulates that since her son has trouble forming his letters in third grade, he should not be required to learn how to print. Why? Because handwriting, she argues, is arcane. Caput. Gone the way of Shakespearian grammar and MC Hammer pants.
Now, Ms. Trubek goes on to say that we have romanticized handwriting, which is surely true. My own handwriting is a lovely sort of script that makes people stop and ask questions about what Victorian academy I attended in my tender years. I get some admiration for it, somewhat mitigated by the fact that there are only a half-dozen people capable of reading it.
There is, however, a difference, not mentioned in this article, between handwriting and printing. Printing is the stuff we all learned in grade school. Big A, little a, etc. When you printed in grade school, it looked more or less like the stuff I’m typing now. A little more wobbly, but hey, you were six years old, give yourself a break. Printing is what the federal government asks you to do when you fill out your forms to vote, or do your taxes. Because they don’t want to read your handwriting. Your handwriting probably sucks. But everyone can print. Printing is what the ‘stupid’ kids were at least theoretically capable of doing back when Mark Twain was writing about Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher. Becky, refined little minx that she was, could write in script. Tom could only print. But he could print. He could print ‘Here There Be Pirates’ (or Robbers, or whatever the boys were playing at that week) anywhere he wanted. Hell, Injun Joe could print, and he was a heathenish murdering sort.
Her arguments about the romanticism of handwriting are moot. Nobody romanticizes printing. When was the last time you filled out a form and went, my god, it looks like a sonnet to my lover. Never happened. Here’s what her article boils down to:
My son is having a hard time with a subject in school.
Ergo, the entire school system should change to accommodate my poor, misunderstood, talented offspring.
Which is idiotic.
I’m sure Ms. Trubek’s son is a lovely, talented, intelligent child who washes his hands and makes his bed. I’m sure he worries about the starving kids in Africa and gets all worked up over endangered species. I’m sure there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him developmentally and that his frustration with handwriting is related more to the way his brain processes things than any defect in his intelligence. I’m not mad at the kid here. The kid’s having a rough time. I’m sorry for that kid. I felt that way about multiplication tables. It was a hard year for me, the multiplication-table year. But nobody told me that I didn’t have to learn them, because calculators existed. I just drilled them, over and over. And if you want to know what 7 x 12 is, I can now tell you. Though you really should know yourself, if you got past, I don’t know, sixth grade.
Now, I think standardized testing is a dumb way to teach kids. That being said, there are some things that it is worthwhile that every child know. Basic math, basic grammar, and yes, how to read and write would be right up there. I know she expects her son to be able to read and write, just in a computerized format, but I’m waiting for the day when they’re out, I don’t know, camping in the redwoods, and the kid is out all night, and she’s going crazy with worry. She gets the forest rangers involved and there’s a full-fledged search going on with dogs and everything and the kid shows up, totally fine.
“Why didn’t you TELL me where you were going?”
“I sent you a text message.”
Which never got there, because they were, you know, in the woods. And the kid, at the ripe old age of seventeen, doesn’t have the basic skills at his disposal to write a note.
It isn’t the romantic situations I’m thinking of here. I don’t care that his girlfriend is going to get his lousy post-pubescent poetry in email form rather than a written piece of paper covered in doodles (though, you know, she might. I suspect this is going to be a good way to get yourself a girlfriend, fifteen years from now. Young Trubek, take note. These are good girl-getting tips I’m giving you here. Or, you know, guys, if grow up and happen to swing that way). I’m thinking of the sadness inherent in an adult who cannot write himself a shopping list without the aid of a several-hundred-dollar device.
Ma’am, I believe you to be an idiot. However, I believe you will see the error of your ways around the fifth e-card you get from your tiny son, while all the other mothers are opening up their poorly scrawled ‘I love you Mom’ cards for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. It’s not the romanticism. It’s the fact that you won’t be able to tell the difference from your son’s e-card and the one that your sort-of-friend from work sent you.
The act of putting a human hand to the world’s surface is called personality. The way we move, think, talk, and create is a living record of who we are. The way your son interacts with the world may never be best expressed through his handwriting. He may he an amazing mechanic or mathematician or debater (though I hope he never has any last-minute edits he wants to scribble in the margins). I swear, though, by the time your son leaves the house, you will want to see the all the little notes he wrote you over the years. Even if he always wrote his ‘d’s backward.
Freedom is a glorious concept. Mel Gibson’s blue-woaded face wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive if he had been screaming ‘Oppression!’ while his guts were being slowly unraveled from his body. ‘Land of the chained and the home of the obedient’ isn’t a good slogan for any nation. And I liked Thomas More’s Utopia, I don’t care what all my professors at University of Chicago said about it. (They said mean things. They made Thomas More cry.)
The downside of freedom is, of course, that you have to figure out for yourself what you want to do with your time. In an oppressed society, someone tells you what to do. Get up at dawn, work in the fields, pay my taxes, hand over your wife. None of it fun, but hey, there’s a purpose to it. You know what’s expected of you. Same thing with a nine-to-five job. Get up, buy a latte, get that report done, pander to the boss. Nobody likes it, but nobody’s ever sitting there in the middle of the day wondering what they should do next. Nine-to-fivers know what they’re supposed to do next. They just don’t want to do it. And probably won’t, until their fifth reprimand from the voices on high. Since they discontinued that whole ‘serf’ thing.
I threw off my chains a while ago. I’ve been freelancing for years, free as the birdies, and just as aimless. I had a pretty lofty utopian dream of what my life would look like, if I were only free to do as I liked. No more wasted time on YouTube while my manager figured out that I’d completed that assignment a week ahead of schedule. No, I would use my time efficiently, finish my work in the mornings and spend my afternoons in museums and bookstores, increasing my knowledge and romantic nature with every precious art-ridden moment. Then, perhaps, I would refinish my cabinets. I would live in splendor, work swiftly and well, drown myself in art, and finish that novel. And bluebirds would appear every morning to drape a fresh crown of seasonal flowers about my head.
Here’s what actually goes down:
I wake up. Feeling a little sick. Have the sort of sore throat that makes me swallow constantly and try to pop my ears. But they never pop. No. Because there is not a just and kind god in the universe, not a one. Not even a pagan one of ears and sickliness.
Go back to sleep.
Wake up around eleven, having forgotten I was supposed to email a woman in California about a potential gig. Roll over, pull computer up on bed, attempt to connect to the series of tubes.
No Internet connection. Damn and blast.
Take shower. Make tea with some whiskey in it. If no one told you, ginger tea with honey, lemon, and whiskey is a delicious alternative to DayQuil, and accomplishes approximately the same thing. And if you think I’m an alcoholic for drinking at that hour of the morning, I remind you that some of us did not have Ritalin and Prozac and other FDA-approved drugs when we were children, and we must now make up for lost time by altering our experience of the world wherever possible, and for whatever excuse we deem fit.
Now there’s an Internet connection. I suspect this has something to do with my embracing alcohol before noon. If the gods of sickliness are not on my side, the gods of debauchery are ready to roll. I email the woman, find another email about a quick copyediting job.
I drive to the coffeeshop full of working professionals. Well. Maybe not. It’s a pretty day. I decide to take walk first.
Nice walk. I need to put more exciting things in my iPod. Stuff other people envy me for having. Some of this music I do have, courtesy of a good friend of mine who likes to gather it, but he always gives it to me in CD form, so all of my supercool music comes to me under the title of ‘Track 13’, which is impressive to exactly no one. For all they know, ‘Track 13’ could be Britney Spears, when in fact it is Goldfrapp.
Sit down to do the copyediting job. Get distracted by John Scalzi’s blog. Four hours pass. I eat a bagel for nourishment.
Do copyediting job. Takes a little longer than I would have thought.
Freedom is not for the weak. I think it’s good that we throw off our tyrants, but some of us could do with a benevolent monarch. A monarch who would issue inspiring, bold, unforgettable speeches from a high tower that impressed upon me the wisdom and virtue of good works and eschewing hours of time pondering the lolcats. When the monarch spake, I would immediately rush to do his bidding, because my many years of living under this rule would have assured me to trust him.
And then I’d find out that he was, in fact, responsible for some kind of Gate fiasco. And I would weep.