Posts filed under ‘Writing’
I am the Queen of Coincidence-incidence-incidence. Or, as I like to imagine it, to the tune of Cult of Personality:
Look in my eyes
What do you see?
The Queen of Co-coincidence
The Queen of Co-coincidence
The Queen of Co-coincidence
I’m probably, like, a cousin of Kate Middleton’s or something, fourteenth cousin, five times removed, whatever the crap that means. I can’t even keep track of that in my own family. I just say, she’s my cousin, but she’s not my first cousin.
Oh! As a side note, to get fully off track, have I ever mentioned that I have a double cousin? No joke. And the best part is that there’s absolutely no incest involved. My dad’s sister’s daughter married the son of a first cousin of my mother’s father. Seriously. So, I have this really snotty cousin who acts like she thinks she’s better than me but isn’t too good to ask to be my friend on Facebook that I probably share more genes with than, well, anyone outside of my immediate family. And actually, if you think about it, I mean, that is somewhat related to this post. What are the odds?
Now to get a real feel for this blog post, we have to go way back into the annals of Gooseberry Bush, to a little blog post that I like to call, The Accidental Stalker: An Ironic Tale of My Date with Destiny. Go ahead and read over that post and acquaint yourself with the awesomeness of my unrequited love for one Mark Foster. Mark Foster was an acquaintance of mine that I had the hots for who probably knew that I had the hots for him and didn’t see the point in chasing after a girl who fell into his lap.
Or, perhaps, despite my magnetic personality, he just plain old wasn’t interested. And this is actually a good thing because if he had been interested I’d probably now be married to a Republican, Presbyterian MBA who would force me to name our first-born son after a certain Scientologist alternative rock god. I’d also be married to a man who once described a former fiancée as a talented pianist who just didn’t have what it takes to be a professional musician.
With my healthy self-esteem, by now we’d have three children all named after professional writers, and I’d be a stay-at-home mom, hitting the bottle by 3:00 in the afternoon and bitching about how I coulda been a contender, like Jonathan Franzen. We would go to dinner parties with other business executives where my husband would describe me as a talented scribe who wasn’t talented enough to be published.
Can’t you just see the slurry scene of afternoon domestic melancholy?
Thank God he didn’t find me the teensiest bit attractive. Instead, he married a horse faced, bug eyed woman. There’s no accounting for taste. But just maybe he prefers horse faced and bug eyed to fat, loud mouthed, opinionated and neurotic. I don’t get it. Really, I don’t. Clearly, he coulda had all this. And the bag of chips. I mean, look at me. I’m not going to begrudge him the bag of chips. What could I say about it that wouldn’t sound like hypocrisy?
So, to get on with it, I’m at the Central Market on North Lamar this evening, going to get something to eat at the café before I meet with my Writers Group. Yes, I meet with a Writers Group. Okay. It’s one other writer, but she’s awesome, and she’s written a rape satire that I’m going to publish as a guest post in another week or two, so keep your eyes peeled.
I go to Central Market early because I get off work at 5, and the Writers Group meets at 7, and I figure that I can eat dinner and goof off on the internet while I’m waiting for my new friend to show up. Also, I have no life. But that’s really not important right now.
I get in line and pick up a menu, and then I move my head just slightly to the right. And I’ll be damned. There he is. I have not seen this guy in…how old am I? I’m thinking I haven’t seen this guy in about 13 years. And I lock eyes on his for about 2 seconds, long enough to see the adorable baby girl in his arms wearing a pink floral sundress. And I figure Horseface must be right behind me.
So, I turn my head very quickly and then turn my back and then, after spending some time pretending to be interested in a magazine rack full of periodicals for breeders, I head for the second floor where I get out my laptop and hide until my friend shows up. By then I figure it might be safe to go downstairs and get something to eat, even though my stomach has been growling for the whole hour and twenty minutes that I wait for the Mark Foster family to finish their dinners. At the same time, I’m on the iChat with one of the Mr. Brewsters.
oh. my. god.
you really are the accidental stalker. who got there first?
i don’t know. i was checking out the prepackaged sushi when i decided I wanted something from the café instead, and there he was.
i think you should aim your sights higher and try for the soup peddler next time. can’t you run into jesse james?
i didn’t aim for anything. i just turned my head, and he was there.
I have a feeling that he’s moved back to Austin with his family and is now really active in the same Presbyterian church that Mr. & Mrs. Landlord faithfully attend.
I swear, this guy is like a boomerang. Thirty years from now when I hit the nursing home, there he’ll be, in the dining room, dentures in a glass by his plate, eating cherry Jell-O. And I will still instantly recognize his ass…and then run and hide.
So, that review was kind of snide and snarky. And I did like the book in one way, and that is that I thought that it was entertaining, even if it was only half-way original. I think Jonathan Franzen is definitely talented. So, I have some second thoughts.
Even if the date rape was clichéd, I still recognize that the reason that it may feel clichéd is that is so true to life. After all, I wrote my own post that was somewhat similar to a Lifetime movie, only it wasn’t fiction, it was from my very own damn life.
It’s not just a cliché, it’s also my life.
In addition to that cliché there was also the love triangle between the “nice” guy and the “sexy” guy, as if nice can’t also be sexy. It struck me, after reading the book and then also reading interviews and biographies of Jonathan Franzen, that perhaps this book was somewhat personal. Richard and Walter are stand-ins for someone else, and that someone else is Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace.
Even though Franzen is the bigger environmentalist and the bird watcher and probably the less flashy of the two, and even though Wallace superficially resembles Richard, with his greater charisma and physical beauty and tobacco chew, I think that Walter and Richard are actually just dual aspects of Franzen’s personality. It’s Franzen against Franzen.
Also, if anyone is Walter, the more spiritual one, the kinder one, the more worthy one, it’s Wallace, who couldn’t possibly hurt a fly other than himself, if it weren’t for the one fact of his suicide. Wallace was the “churchgoer,” the one with the reputation as the “nice” guy, and yet it was Wallace, and not Franzen, who hanged himself on his own porch for his wife to find his body. Maybe not so selfless a death as David Foster Wallace would have wished for himself, if he had been in his right mind at the time.
It strikes me that Walter’s eventual forgiveness of Patty, and, by implication, Richard, is Franzen’s final tribute to his friend David Foster Wallace. And with this act, his overvalued novel is somewhat redeemed and maybe even worthy of half of the superfluous over-the-top “critical” literary views, if the idea was to transcend the selfish and self involved characters of his Seinfeldian universe, with this one final act of grace.
It occurs to me that the repitition of the word and the ideology of “freedom” in David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech and the fact that Jonathan Franzen’s novel is titled, Freedom are no coincidence.
After writing a blog post about Franzenfreude nearly a year ago now [https://gooseberrybush.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/ill-weep-into-my-royalty-statement/], I thought I’d get around to finally reading the book that caused the controversy. I ordered a copy of Freedom from half.com and got a hardcover version that had been withdrawn from a library in Schaumburg, Illinois. I read it over the weekend. I have some thoughts about the book, and I’d like to share them.
First of all, even though much of the book is an “autobiography” written in the third person, by the novel’s female protagonist, Franzen doesn’t seem to have a very high opinion of women. The only woman who’s really fully fleshed out in the book and still remains likeable, is the daughter, Jessica, one of the few people in the novel who doesn’t have her own vantage point recounted in the book. She is a character who is only discussed upon by her mother, her father, her brother, and her father’s college roommate. She is the only one of the four Berglunds who doesn’t get her own story told.
Freedom is a family drama that’s over 500 pages long. I couldn’t help feeling that the same story could have been told more eloquently and economically, by someone like Joyce Carol Oates, who would have most certainly given Jessica a voice. But I don’t know what I expected from an author who actually snubbed Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club Selection the first time he was chosen, because he feared that it would cause male readers to reject his book. Bear in mind that Winfrey’s book club has included the likes of such gynocentric authors as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. Real pussies, those guys!
Franzen is indisputably a good writer. I’m not arguing that he has no talent. What I am arguing is that he’s not our generation’s Messiah of the Great American Novel. Franzen has been so overly and overtly hyped that, even though he himself comes across as a smug, pretentious and self-satisfied bastard, even he probably doesn’t believe his own press.
The novel starts off with what could have been a short story on its own, the story of the disintegration of a once happy Midwestern American family, told mostly through the eyes and ears of the family’s busybody neighbors. The son starts up with a neighbor girl, and the wife alienates her son to the degree that he chooses to move out of his family home and in with his teenage girlfriend and her mother and stepfather. This causes the wife to come unhinged. We’re told the neighbors suspect her of slashing the tires on the truck of her son’s girlfriend’s stepfather. They also suspect that she has a drinking problem.
After this preface, we’re treated to several chapters of the autobiography of Patty Berglund, the wife and mother with the drinking problem. The writing assignment was for therapy. She starts with a cursory description of the dynamics of her family of origin and then goes into the story of a date rape that she survived as a teenager, an assault that was swept under the rug by her parents.
The chapter is called Agreeable, and it was originally published as a short story in The New Yorker, a periodical that I subscribe to, which might explain why the story seemed so familiar to me. But nah. On top of having probably read the story already, it reads like a 1980’s afterschool special or a Lifetime movie that I remember seeing once. The story of the dutiful daughter raped by the son of a politically powerful family and then encouraged to accept the boy’s insincere apology as penance for his crime – there’s nothing new here. Franzen serves up Mom’s meatloaf and expects us to praise it as if it were filet mignon.
The biggest example of predictability is the love triangle between Patty, her husband Walter, and Walter’s narcissistic musician friend, Richard Katz. Katz is described as promiscuous, unreliable, irresponsible, and prone to addictive behavior. On top of his finer traits, he also happens to be a fundamentally decent fellow with a glossy sort of asshole charisma.
It’s easy to see why Patty might find him attractive in a superficial way. He’s the sort of guy who believes in gender equality and likes women in theory but in practice has nothing but contempt for virtually any female, or at least, for the ones he wants to fuck. I might have found the character of Richard Katz somewhat attractive myself, but Franzen ruined it for me by describing him as looking like Muammar Gadaffi. Maybe this is an example of the “funny” that the book jacket reviewers credit Franzen with.
After Patty and Richard inevitably scratch their itch at Walter’s mother’s vacation home, Richard records an album of sad love songs with his alternative country band Walnut Surprise and becomes a hit with the middle-aged and pretentious set. The album is reviewed and featured on NPR. Richard Katz experiences his first taste of fame, tours the world with a girl in every harbor, and then eventually bottoms out after a DWI conviction and a stint in rehab. Richard Katz isn’t a character. He’s a conglomeration of hackneyed musician clichés.
Walter is a humanistic do-gooder type, passionate about the ecology and the sustainable living movement. He’s so earnest as to come across as self-righteous, a difficult feat for an atheist to pull off. Walter is so good, and Franzen underscores his very goodness so repeatedly, that Walter’s only fault is in his self-righteousness, and perhaps, in his naivete. He comes across as a caricature of a good man rather than a fully realized character. Still, when he finds love with his young and gorgeous Indian assistant, you root for him. But alas, Lalitha is not long for this world.
Franzen foreshadows the novel’s conclusion, setting you up for Patty and Walter’s reconciliation hundreds of pages before, with a speech from Walter’s mother Dorothy on the virtues of loyalty. I suppose Franzen thought his readers would find this a satisfactory conclusion, but I just wondered how long it would take before Patty decided to shit on Walter again. If Freedom is supposed to be Jonathan Franzen’s oeuvre I think he needs to make like Wile E. Coyote and go back to the drawing board. As far as works of art named Freedom go, George Michael has Jonathan Franzen beat.
I turned 40 over the weekend. I also participated in my fourth 5K race. I don’t race, because I don’t believe in running. I walk. Also, I broke both my ankles once in a freak accident, and now I have plates and screws in my left ankle so I’m not allowed to run. Or at least that’s my excuse.
This was the Chuy’s 5K, and it’s down south in Oak Hill. New Oak Hill. I’ve lived in Oak Hill, and I just know we didn’t have anything like Arbor Trails back then. So, you walk the 5K uphill and then downhill. Since the race was in South Austin instead of me spending the night at Lubbock’s the night before the race, as we usually do, I decided that it would be fun, seeing as how it was my 40th birthday, to have an adventure.
So, I found a “resort” on the internet and booked a room in south Austin so we wouldn’t have such a long drive Saturday morning. I found this place on William Cannon called the Austin Lonestar RV Resort Park. I think I scared Lubbock, who texted me from work on Friday to ask if we would have air conditioning.
Actually, the place we stayed at was clean and cute, and, yes, there was air conditioning. It was like a little mobile home with a wood deck. Sort of a duplex log cabin. We had the right hand side. And except for the fact that the propane tank had run out and had to be changed (no hot water) everything was super great. We had cable TV and wireless access. There was a swimming pool we didn’t get a chance to use. And the place was super quiet with a bunch of retirees and young families.
The RV park thing is kind of a weird dream of mine. My idea of the perfect life would be to travel the country in a motor home and interview strangers and then write about them on the internet. I would be like the new, female version of Charles Kuralt, finding fabulously eccentric and fascinating people to entertain the masses. My new blog would be called Travels with Gooseberry, and I would have to take my new dog with me for company. I don’t have a new dog. I would just get a dog before I took to the road. Feel free to contact me if you would like to fund my dream.
In reality, it would probably be more like that Albert Brooks movie, Lost in America. But in my dreams my new dog Tiny and I are winning Pulitzer Prizes from my Winnebago. Lubbock says that I am bound to win any RV Park popularity contest and would probably make new friends at each park and start Crochet Clubs across the nation. I wonder if they have beauty pageants! I’d have a shot at Miss RV Park.
After our little adventure, the Mr. Brewsters made me birthday dinner. Yummy enchiladas and chocolate cake with coconut frosting. I scored a fancy armband for my iPod touch. No more do I have to hold it while I walk. Woot! And I also got the most beautiful afghan. I know you envy me. Lubbock showed up for birthday dinner, and she got to meet the Mr. Brewsters. And, like I thought would happen, they all three ganged up on me. And by ganged up I mean that as a bonus the headlight on my car that’s been out for two weeks got fixed Sunday morning, and I spent the night so I wasn’t driving back home in the dark with one headlight. It was sort of like an extra birthday present that one of the Mr. Brewsters could replace my bulbs.
Then the Mr. Brewsters went to look for a house. And they found a house. And on Monday they signed a contract on that house. I am moving in to the Harry Potter room under the stairs. Just kidding. But I wonder if that counts as a tiny house.
Dear David Eagleman,
I was 3 minutes late to work this morning because I was busy reading the profile on you and your brain research in The New Yorker. Fascinating stuff. I needed to think about something to write on my blog today, and it was between you and the documentary Inside Job, so I thought I’d lighten up and write about you because our economy is serious stuff. Nothing funny about it. Also, I want to finish the director’s commentary before I write about Inside Job.
I have decided, after reading about half of the article in The New Yorker, that you will receive the honor of being my new “celebrity” crush. I think you are awesome. Studying the brain’s perception of time! And before that you studied literature and tried your hand at stand up comedy and screenwriting! James Franco is so jealous.
*SIGH* What is up with that Chippendale dancer pose with the tight t-shirt and jeans in front of the whiteboard? Where’s your smoking jacket, pipe, and cravat? What kind of an academic are you? Not a very dignified one. I like it.
Dude, I checked out your picture on the Baylor College of Medicine website, too. You got it going on with that smoldering profile against the amber background. Was that photo taken at Geek Glamour Shots? You look like you have a very sexy intellectual secret that you will not be sharing. Seriously, it’s a great photo. I don’t even care if the author of The New Yorker profile said you walk like Pinocchio. Can I be your Jiminy Cricket?
Now, before you answer that question, think about the distinguished company that you will be joining. My past celebrity crushes for the last 3 years or so have been smokin’ hot, and at least one of them is smart. (I limit my celebrity crushes to the last 3 years’ worth because we really don’t have the time to get into the full history, and I used to be in love with both John Denver and Kermit the Frog simultaneously. I don’t want you to think that my tastes haven’t evolved into more sophisticated selections lately.) I have excellent taste in celebrity crushes, really I do.
Take Robbie Williams, for instance. Hot and talented. I really don’t know if he’s smart or not. I’ve never met him or seen him interviewed on The Charlie Rose Show. But, you know, he could be. And he’s an international superstar, so presumably, even though he’s never really caught on in America, he must have something going for him.
More recently, there’s been The Soup Peddler. He’s a local entrepreneur. He is cute, and he writes this funny blog. Really smart. See? If you replaced him in my affections, then this would really give you some bragging rights. I mean, The Soup Peddler is a dream. Nice Jewish boy. He cooks delicious soup. He delivers it on his bicycle. Well, not anymore. But you get the picture. Grassroots business success story: what’s not to love?
Don’t answer yet. I know that you will want to know what’s involved in agreeing to be my new celebrity crush. Well, technically, I don’t have to ask your permission. I’m just being polite. What do you have to do? Precisely nothing.
That’s right. Nothing. Just continue to breathe. It would be nice if every once in a while you might drop a crumb for me like another interview in a magazine or on a website or The Charlie Rose Show or what’s the PBS talk show with Evan Smith — that one, but that’s not required. I will keep scouring the internet for new information daily until my infatuation wears out. If you have any videos on TED, I’ll watch those, too.
I will also read at least one of your books after I purchase it on half.com. I’ll be honest. I’m unlikely to read an academic textbook about neuroscience. I’m pretty fickle. I give this thing about six months. And the great thing is that at the end of that six months, if you are ever the subject of a Trivial Pursuit question or a category on Jeopardy I can guarantee you that I will kick some useless information ass!!
I know that this crush might cause you to be fearful for your life or think about the need to hire bodyguards, but I assure you that even though Houston is less than 3 hours away on Highway 290, I will not be stalking you. I just like the idea of you, and if I met you I am sure that in some way the idea of your perfection would burst like a bubble, and it would kind of ruin the fun for me. Like, I bet in real life that you fart or scratch yourself or something like that. I just really don’t want to be confronted with that, so like I said, you are completely safe. And if you don’t believe me you can just ask The Soup Peddler and Robbie Williams and the Austin Police Department and the FBI. Really. Completely safe.
In the meantime, while you contemplate my heartfelt proposal, I will leave you with this: our song. Think about it. And then don’t call me. Really. I mean it. Don’t call me. You’ll ruin the magic.
Sunday afternoon was spent writing the most fantastically awesome business blog post ever. I sent it with my cover letter and resume. I actually created a new blog just to send a writing sample to the head of the editorial department. I was so proud of myself. And then I posted THE BLOG to beat ALL BLOGS.
It was exactly the right length at just under 500 words. It had a nice picture of Bill and Melinda Gates with Warren Buffett, and it included an original business proposal for my current company, a way they could maybe expand their market share. And I included links for articles on how I came to my conclusion. I shortened all those links with that bit.ly site, and then I tested every single one of the links to make sure they worked right. I even created a blogroll for my fake job audition blog. It was totally freakin’ awesome, if I do say so myself.
I mean, if I were him, then I would have been impressed with me, and maybe he was. He read it right away, practically first thing this morning, and the article was hit on twice. He didn’t click any of the links. Bummer.
Then he sent me an email thanking me for my resume, telling me they didn’t currently have any writing jobs available but that he would keep my resume on file. I think the email said something about “initiative.” That was cool. And then he said that if I wanted to ask him more about the jobs in his department some time that he would be happy to meet with me.
I saw him in the hall afterward, and he made a point out of talking to me in person. No wan smile this time. I looked him right in the eye. He said we could meet for coffee some time, and he’d be happy to answer any questions I had. I thanked him. I’ll email him back and take him up on it.