I have been thinking about Facebook suicide for some time.  I already made the ‘no relationship status’ change and the response from ‘friends’ was shocking.  Between all the crap, the addictive waste of time I make it and my ‘friends’ from high school that now rant about every Obama-is-a-socialist move I can no longer stand it.  Or this:

“Your whole ass?”

Absurdity.  The word ‘absurd’ cannot capture the nonsense below.

Too many times people try to be cute.  Advice columnists rarely are ever cute, I’m looking at you Dear Prudence, but at least Sugar is funny.  This time he’s got it really really right.  And at a Creeper 5 rating.

For the challenge of cover songs started by Buttercup over at Woodenpickle.org, I re-exposed myself to Orgy’s “Blue Monday”.

Richard Hass, in an essay about a Lowell poem, provides a brilliant insight into not only Sarah Palin and the Tea Baggers but also to the nostalgic politics of the right.  “Nostalgia locates desire in the past where it suffers no active conflict and can be yearned toward pleasantly.  History is the antidote to this.” (330)

I have spent a lot of time lately following writers behaving badly.  Dan Kennedy in a Moth podcast tells a funny joke about a time in the 90s when he was not doing so hot.  He goes to a therapist (reminds me of a party at UNT where a guy tried to game a woman by referring to his roommate as The-Rapist, oops!) and the therapist asks, “how many beers did you have this week?”  “You’re right doc, it wasn’t a total wash, I did manage to have a few beers.”  Oops!  Therapist finishes the harangue, “you’re Irish, you’re last name is Kennedy and your heroes are all writers.  Let’s just keep an eye on the alcohol.”

In any case, writers behaving badly.  So, I’ve been watching some old Norman Mailer segments available on YouTube.  Great watching.  Here’s the best, where Norman squares off against Dick Cavett, Gore Vidal and Flannery O’Connor.

Hass, Richard.  (1997).  Lowell’s graveyard.  In J.C. Hallman, ed. (2009).  The story about the story: Great writers explore great literature (328-47). Portland: Tin House Books.

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There is no denying Alice Munro’s ability to weave a tale, but sometimes she is given more respect than might be due.  I just finished reading “Child’s Play” a 2007 story of hers that appeared in Harper’s.  Fair enough, but then to be included in The best American short stories, 2008?  I am not so sure about this inclusion.  The story seems overly hamfisted, an attribution I have probably never before given to Munro.

Part of Munro’s brilliance is her foreshadowing technique.  Sometimes she is not even hinting at a future plot development, but is merely coaxing the reader into an odd setting.  Instead of saying ‘we were at summer camp’ she goes through a mention of cots and coolie caps (and the discussion of ‘coolie’ as a way to set the time).  These are particularly brilliant strokes, not at all unique to “Child’s Play” but unique to Munro.  Her magic with dialogue is also … magical.  I cannot even begin to unlock how she does it.

All that said (and if I did not discuss it, then consider it, at the least, well-done if not brilliant), the reveal in this story seems tired.  I have the impression that Munro became tired of working her magic and decided to be a mere mortal about it.  She just blurts out the event causing the grief, causing the story.  It’s very sudden and sad to see a master not work her mastery.  But there is a moment earlier in the story where this also occurs.  Munro discloses her anthropologist eye and then tried to impress the reader with a clue about the secret dealings of women who just ‘click’.  Yep, she subscribes to ‘clicking’.  No explanation, no theory.  Once that affinity is posited she then moves on to describe how that relationship functions.

It is precisely that explanation that bugged me.  It seemed unnecessary, as a way to justify the way the two women interacted.  Here is where I prefer Hemingway.  He would have just done, instead of explaining.  The explanation comes off as an apology, a kernel of self-doubt.  It is possible that Munro anticipated this criticism, as not even one page later there is this gem: “I’ve felt less wary with men.  They don’t expect such transactions and are seldom really interested.”  This is why Hemingway could only capture relationships set against some background of overwhelming proportion.

Despite how good the story is, and it is a good one despite my comments, it is not even the best one I read this morning.  For that I offer a section of E.B. White’s rescue of Thoreau’s Walden, a book which needs resuscitation.

Thoreau’s assault on the Concord society of the mid-nineteenth century has the quality of a modern Western: he rides into the subject at top speed, shooting in all directions.  Many of his shots ricochet and nick him on the rebound, and throughout the melee there is a horrendous cloud of inconsistencies and contradictions, and when the shooting dies down and the air clears, one is impressed chiefly by the courage of the rider and by how splendid it was that somebody should have ridden in there and raised all that ruckus. (293)

Munro, Alice.  (2007).  Child’s play.  In S. Rushdie, ed.  (2008).  The best American short stories, 2008 (201-229).  NY: Houghton Mifflin.

White, E.B. (1954).  A slight sound at evening.  In J.C. Hallman, ed. (2009).  The story about the story: Great writers explore great literature (291-300).  Portland: Tin House Books.

I have always been a proponent of MTV. People mock it, like pop music, but I think there is value to watching it, or at least keeping abreast of it. Not only because I think it is important to be culturally relevant but also because there are important concepts to be gleaned. It may take more work than listening to NPR does, but there is value in there.

I remember a few seasons of The Real World ago there was a marathon with commentary by Coral, a fixture among the franchise. She was commenting on an episode where one of the cast members cheated on a significant other that was back home. Corals’ comment was “and here comes the reveal.” I thought this was particularly insightful since the only thing that was happening was a conversation between the cast member and the significant other, but the name of the other was mentioned. Here is how it usually happens:

Significant other: “What did you do last night?”
Cast member: “Oh, not much. Just hung out with Thomas/Tammy. It was a pretty boring night.”

I thought it was insightful because not only did Coral demonstrate the name dropping was a hint, but that it was an intentional hint – what I guess the kids these days call fishing for a reaction. Zizek (2008) makes the same observation in his latest tome: “the question to be raised is: what more is there hiding in this statement that made the speaker enunciate it?” (49) Zizek and Coral have the same lesson for us: if it was no big deal then why was the name of an-other mentioned? The Real World teaches us that the motivation is to get a reaction. The cast member wants to feel important and the best measure is if you can make another person feel badly by behaving badly.

Zizek’s illustration in In Defense of Lost Causes is eerily similar to the above, a husband and wife in an unspoken open relationship except the husband one day mentions the affair. The wife now responds hysterically because the affair(s) are now spoken therefore something has changed in the relationship.