Random thought that could get me kicked in the balls, should I be identified on the street.

Women (perhaps men do this too, I don’t know, since I’ve only dated women, you tell me) do NOT fall in love with men (or another woman). They fall in love with the desire of their own heart and then go about seeking out a man (or woman) to fulfill that desire. If (when) other that they select, and manage to ensnare, ceases to fulfill this desire or their desire changes then the woman moves on, seeking out a new vassal in which to satisfy their need(s).



2 GenX thinkers have new books out

Malcolm Gladwell (b. 1963) and Steven Levitt (b. 1967 [same year as me, which of course makes me feel like a loser, because what have I done, right?]) both have new books out.

Both are GenXer and both are innovative thinkers. Indicative of the GenX mindset they think quite differently than most others in their respective fields, which is why they are so successful.

Gladwell’s book , What the Dog Saw, is a collection of his essays from The New Yorker where he has worked as a journalist since 1996 according to his wikipedia page. I’ve only glimpsed the intro to this book but am very eager to read it. Loved The Tipping Point and Outliers especially. Blink is interesting but I’m still not sure I entirely buy into the premise. (ah, ever the skeptical GenXer, even in regards to one of my own — yeah, I wish I could consider MG a peer. HA!)

Levitt’s new book, SuperFreakenomics (nice little play on the Rick James song there) is the follow up to his his first book, Freakenomics (2005), which he co-authored with journalist Stephen J. Dubner (b.1963), also a GenXer. Levitt and Dubner turn economis on it’s head by applying the economic thought process or whatever you call it to non-traditional subject matter, from drug dealing to global warming — often to much criticism as well as praise. But they wouldn’t be a GenXers if they didn’t ruffle a few feathers in such a traditional field. Levitt’s economic take on things is fascinating, and he has the uncanny ability to remove all emotional/more predjudice from his researh, which perhaps sounds like a a  “not good” thing but it seems essential to this particular kind “pure thinking,” (whatever tha means, right) the results of which can be mucked up later with barnacles of emotion and sentimentality and morality — junk like that. I’ve just started SuperFreakenomics but am already ready to drink the Kool Aid a second time. Glug glug glub. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. And you will too!

too much coffee

Just got back from dinner and drink and coffee (twice) with an old college friend. Been walking around downtown Royal Oak and talking, about everything but personal stuff for the most part, which a great relief. Anyhoo…I’m not even sure what I’m writing about here. I’m just so wired on coffee that I know I’m not going to sleep right away. Not that I have to be up too early in the morning….

Shut up. No on cares about mundane shit.

I don’t know. Consider some of the crap people post on Twitter and Facebook, I’d beg to differ.

Exactly. That kind of stuff is for Twitter and Facebook. This is a blog and as such should be more substantive.


I don’t know if this is substantive, but my friend and I got stopped while walking around downtown Royal Oak by a group of young girls. They looked like late teens early twenties. They said they were doing a project and wanted to know if they could ask a question and then video our response. I  of course could not resist making a comment about how I’d seen this sort of thing on the internet and it always ended up in some kind of orgy. The girls, of course, assured us that nothing like that would heppen. And pretty much lost my interst right there. But still, I was willing to hear them out. And then they asked the question: What does God mean to you? I told them that I had not desire to answer that question under normal circumstances, nevermind to a bunch of strangers on the street while being videod. The promised us that the video would NOT be posted anywhere. Then why take it? I wondered, but did not ask. I didn’t say much of anything after my refusal, becaus I kind of irritated and didn’t want to go off on these girls. And had I had a beer or two more, I might well have gone off. It’s better that I didn’t, though.

Am I the only annoyed by this kind of presumption that you can just walk up to someone on the street and ask them to discuss God?

Anyhoo…we declined politely and walked away. And got more coffee, which is why I can’t sleep now. Ugh!

The Best Mind of His Generation

That’s the title of the article in todays’ NY Times about David Foster Wallace.

Some bits and pieces from the article.

The temptation to regard Mr. Wallace’s suicide last weekend as anything other than a private tragedy must be resisted. But the strength of the temptation should nonetheless be acknowledged.

Beyond this, Mr. Wallace was the kind of literary figure whose career was emblematic of his age. He may not have been the most famous novelist of his time, but more than anyone else, he exemplified and articulated the defining anxieties and attitudes of his generation.

That would be Generation X, of course.

“Infinite Jest,” the enormous, zeitgeist-gobbling novel that set his generation’s benchmark for literary ambition, is, for all its humor, an encyclopedia of phobia, anxiety, compulsion and mania.

This certainly seems true so far as I can see. I’m currently on page 66.

He was smarter than anyone else, but also poignantly aware that being smart didn’t necessarily get you very far, and that the most visible manifestations of smartness — wide erudition, mastery of trivia, rhetorical facility, love of argument for its own sake — could leave you feeling empty, baffled and dumb.

I know the feeling, although certainly not to the extent that DFW did. Maybe that’s a good thing. Or at least a thing that will keep blissfully stupid enough to not implode.

Mr. Wallace, born in 1962 and the author of an acclaimed first novel at age 24, anchored his work in an acute sense of generational crisis. None of his peers were preoccupied so explicitly with how it felt to arrive on the scene as a young, male American novelist dreaming of glory, late in the 20th century and haunted by a ridiculous, poignant question: what if it’s too late? What am I supposed to do now?

He regarded the lions of postmodernism as heroes, but also as obstacles. “If I have an enemy,” he said in the early 1990s, “a patriarch for my patricide, it’s probably Barth and Coover and Burroughs, even Nabokov and Pynchon.” That’s a lot of fathers for one Oedipal struggle, and Wallace expended a lot of energy trying to assimilate and overcome their influences.

And here, in part, is the quote that resonated most strongly with me:

I suspect that Mr. Wallace’s persona — at once unbearably sophisticated and hopelessly naïve, infinitely knowing and endlessly curious — will be his most durable creation.

It’s the part set off by dashes — at once unbearably sophisticated and hopelessly naive, infinitely knowing and endlessly curious. It seems to go along with something I read in a lit crit book about Wallace’s work entitled Understanding David Foster Wallace, by Marshall Boswell. In the first chapter, Cynicism and Naivete. In this chapter “Wallace himself defines the multiplicity he wants to embody as a joining of ‘cynicism and naivete.'”DFW uses these terms in three of his major works: 1) his essay “E Unibus Pluram”, 2) his novella “Westerward the Course of Empire Take Its Way, and 3) his novel “Infinite Jest.” Boswell suggests that this notion of mering cynicism and naivete may be DFW’s core idea. Specifially quoted from the novella mentioned above, in regards to the character D.L., who is described as suffering from the delusion “that cynicism and naivete are mutually exclusive.”

Reading that was like realizing an idea that I’d had for a long time but hadn’t yet found the words to articulate it clearly. I read it again and again.

This notion of being both cynicial and naive at the same time seems the very definition of Generation X. Furthermore, it spoke to the piece of writing I am currently working. I realized that this was what I was trying to create in my main character, at least to some degree, without having known that this was what I was trying to do, a person who is both cynical and naive at the same time.

I never would have had that insight if I’d not picked up this book again. And I would not have picked up this book again if DFW had not died. Talk about an ironic bummer.

Anyway, read the whole article. It’s a good one. I agree with it, in as much as I qualified to, that DFW was the best mind of his generation (Generation X), at least as far as writers go.

In honor of David Foster Wallace

I’ve decided to finally read his rather massive novel, Infinite Jest.

I’m not usually one for grand gestures. In fact, I distrust them. But in this case, I couldn’t help myself. And lest you think that reading a book is far from a grand gesture, consider that it is 1,078 pages long, and we’re not talking a big font and a lot of white space. Infinite Jest is not some fucking James Patterson beach read. I’ve picked this book up many times since it was first published in 1996, and I was still living in Kalamazoo where I went to grad school at Western Michigan University, but have never gotten more than a few pages into it. The size of it just seemed too daunting. Not just the length, but the physical weight of it seemed like it cause a wrist sprain, even the paperback edition, which is what I’m reading now. And then of course there is the intellectual, philosphical weight. I’m sure much of it will go whizzing right over my head. But damn it! I’m committed to reading it this time.

What you don’t know you know

The subject of This American life this week is Life after Death. On my way home from the grocery story I caught the story about the guy who, when he was 18, accidentally hit a girl on a bike with his car, and that girl died. He charts the effect the experience had on his life over the years and he’d wish for the girl had things turned out differently, had he swerved a different way, rolled his car as the investigators told him he sure would have, and died, mainly for her to forget, to not be haunted by the event. It was a very captivating story, one of those ones that I sat in my car in the driveway to finish listening to.

Anyway. It got me thinking if it was possible, if you met someone like this guy, would it be possible to know this thing about him without knowing you knew it. To sense it at some level. I’m not necessarily talking about someone with extra human abilities or anything like that. Just the right person meeting this guy and somehow knowing without being told, or “getting it” at some level. To be able to say in some way that I know it is about him, I just don’t know what it is. Does that make sense? Can it?

I don’t know. I just feel as if there’s been times when I’ve met a person I’ve felt like I could say, I get what it is about that person that makes them the way they are, I just can’t tell you what it is.

I think I may be suffering from low blood sugar.

Feminst Generational Rift

Interesting article on slate.com by Dahlia Lithwick about the generational, uh, differences (to put it mildly) among feminists.

It begins by imaging what a feminist version of Obama’s speech on race, delivered by Hilary Clinton, would sound like. Instead of it being about the “battle between the sexes” as the author speculates, Lithwick concludes, sadly, that it should probably address the in-fighting between Boomer Feminists and their younger GenX and Millennial sisters.

Apparently, the Boomer Fems are pretty POd at these younger women for not towing the line and automatically supporting Hilary. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the whole point of a movement such as feminism to create conditions under which people (in this case specifically women) are allowed to make up their own minds? Based on the position that the Boomer Fems are taking it isn’t. The point was to create some sort of fembot army that would do their, ie the Boomers, bidding.

Lithwick speculates based on the comments on slate.com’s The Fray that:

Right now it seems there is hardly a Democratic-leaning woman left in America who isn’t feeling either bitterly sold out by her daughter, or henpecked to a scabby pulp by mom and grandma.


Lithwick goes on to say:

Most of us are hoping that today’s outrage and recriminations will begin to fade in the months to come; that our great-aunts’ threats to cast a ballot for John McCain—the man who voted against equal pay for women—will prove mere threats.

Yeah, ladies, you’re not the only ones. This sour grapes voting mentality is troubling, not to mention childish and annoying. Hey, I didn’t particularly like John Kerry but I voted for the guy. Why? To get Bush the fuck out of office. And I know, I know. It really isn’t the same thing because of course there have always been white men, such as myself, in office. Right. Yeah, only I doubt I can identify with very few, if any, of the former (and definitely not the current) presidents of this country. But I get it. I have no argument to stand on in this regard. Fine.

This next bit I thought was particularly poignant.

The worst of the intergenerational bickering of the past months has resulted from a failure of empathy; a breakdown in our capacity to acknowledge that the experiences of others are as compelling as our own. In a sense, we have simply been doing battle over whose stories are more legitimate—the second-wavers or their Pottery Barn daughters— or whose perceptions of gender discrimination are more accurate. Forgive me for saying that this is an argument that is singularly unworthy of us as women. Aren’t we supposed to be great and gifted listeners and connectors?

That is the popular wisdom, as far as I know anyway. Maybe the popular wisdom needs to be rethought.

But one of the parts that particularly irked me was the following:

I recently got tipsy with a group of ferociously successful second-wave lawyers, each of whom offered up blood-curdling tales of being one of a small group of women in her law school class; forced to walk great distances—uphill in both directions—to find the single ladies’ room on campus. They were never called upon in class (or they were always called upon) and denied clerkships and jobs and promotions explicitly because they were women. I can’t describe how angry they were at the generation that followed for our failure to support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. They truly felt that they had passed our generation a torch and we peed on it.

It was that last part that did it, that passing of the torch bullshit. I was pummeled with a similar gripe from some aging flower child at writer’s conference one summer when I was in graduate school getting my MFA in creative writing. The guy talked about how his generation had passed the baton and we, meaning GenX basically, had dropped it. In class sarcastic, ironic GenX style, I asked him if he was sure that the Boomers had actually passed the baton because it kind of felt to me, and others I noted, that they refused to let go of it. Maybe, I said, you all were just too high to realize it. We did not get on well after that.

The point is it is arrogant for one generation to assume that the next generation is automatically going to pick up their cause and run with it. We might — and this is whole new theory — have our own causes. And even if the younger generation does pick it up, don’t be surprised if they don’t run in another direction all together. That is, after all, they’re right. I mean, that is if you believe in things like, oh, free will, freedom of choice, shit like that.

Dahlia Lithwicks’ response was pretty the same as mine, although far more eloquent no doubt:

Younger women have, for their part, grown tired of the accusation that the simple act of supporting Barack Obama reveals them to be shallow and spoiled and ungrateful. When second-wave feminist Robin Morgan accused a whole generation of females of being “eager to win male approval by showing they’re not feminists” she pretty much said goodbye to all that respect and reverence we once felt for her feminist trailblazing. Since when do feminists accuse other feminists of being brainless bimbos? Isn’t that what men are for?

Yeah. I think us guys got the covered. I’m being snarky because Dahlia is. It’s something GenXer’s do. We know you Boomer’s don’t really get it, but then we don’t get the big deal of Woodstock, so we’re pretty much even.

Ultimately, Lithwick is making a call for reconciliation between these two factions of feminism. The problem is the faction that needs to set aside it’s bitterness and anger and resentment at not getting their way are Boomers and swalloing their immense pride will no doubt induce a fairly strong gag reflex.

I’m vest more of my hope into Replicans crossing over to Barack.

X. Lit: what I’ve been reading…

Finally went back to finish Jennifer Government, Max Barry’s speculative novel about corporations run amok and dominating the world, or at least trying to, but of course the evilness of soulless companies is thwarted, to a degree anyway, by the will of individuals to do good blah blah blah. Not supremely original but a fun and funny read. And definitely an X Lit. novel. I’m curious to read Barry’s more recent novel, Company, described thusly on Amazon:

From Publishers Weekly
With broad strokes, Barry once again satirizes corporate America in his third caustic novel (after Jennifer Government). This time, he takes aim at the perennial corporate crime of turning people into cogs in a machine. Recent b-school grad Stephen Jones, a fresh-faced new hire at a Seattle-based holding company called Zephyr, jumps on the fast track to success when he’s immediately promoted from sales assistant to sales rep in Zephyr’s training sales department. “Don’t try to understand the company. Just go with it,” a colleague advises when Jones is flummoxed to learn his team sells training packages to other internal Zephyr departments. But unlike his co-workers, he won’t accept ignorance of his employer’s business, and his unusual display of initiative catapults him into the ranks of senior management, where he discovers the “customer-free” company’s true, sinister raison d’être. The ultracynical management team co-opts Jones with a six-figure salary and blackmail threats, but it’s not long before he throws a wrench into the works. As bitter as break-room coffee, the novel eviscerates demeaning modern management techniques that treat workers as “headcounts.” Though Barry’s primary target is corporate dehumanization, he’s at his funniest lampooning the suits that tread the stage, consumed by the sound and fury of office politics that signify nothing. (Jan.)

The corporate-based novel is not unique to X Lit nor Generation X, but it is a significant part of the X Lit lexicon. Consider novels like jPod and Microserfs by Douglas Coupland and the more recent Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, which I’ve not yet read but based on the amazon description I feel pretty confident citing it:

Amazon Best of the Month Spotlight Title, April 2007: It’s 2001. The dot-com bubble has burst and rolling layoffs have hit an unnamed Chicago advertising firm sending employees into an escalating siege mentality as their numbers dwindle. As a parade of employees depart, bankers boxes filled with their personal effects, those left behind raid their fallen comrades’ offices, sifting through the detritus for the errant desk lamp or Aeron chair. Written with confidence in the tricky-to-pull-off first-person plural, the collective fishbowl perspective of the “we” voice nails the dynamics of cubicle culture–the deadlines, the gossip, the elaborate pranks to break the boredom, the joy of discovering free food in the breakroom. Arch, achingly funny, and surprisingly heartfelt, it’s a view of how your work becomes a symbiotic part of your life. A dysfunctional family of misfits forced together and fondly remembered as it falls apart. Praised as “the Catch-22 of the business world” and “The Office meets Kafka,” I’m happy to report that Joshua Ferris’s brilliant debut lives up to every ounce of pre-publication hype and instantly became one of my favorite books of the year. –Brad Thomas Parsons

No doubt Gen Xers will continue to produce these types of novels. It will be interesting to see how they evolve, as the corporate world changes. And how they compare with the ones that Millennials will no doubt write as well.

I’ve also been reaidng the novel The God of War, by Maris Silver. Set in 1978 about a 12 year old named Ares Ramirez who lives with his mother, Laurel, and little brother, Malcolm, who happens to be autistic, although as Ares narrates they had no name at the time for what he was, made it seem like it could qualify as X Lit. Even more to that point, Ares doesn’t know his father, who is out of the picture. Same goes for Malcom’s. Ares calls his mother by her name and bares much of the responsibility for raising his brother; he also bares the burden for Malcolm’s condition, having dropped him on his head as a baby, although I’m not sure that this is even possible. Anyway, they all live out in the desert near the Salton Sea, which for me echoed Coupland’s novel Generation X. This novel seemed like a sort of Gen X coming of age tale. But I’m having a hard time getting into it, you know. It’s okay, written well and all that. But there’s something about it that doesn’t really give me a chubby, you know. It just seems like a really good MFA project. Still, I’m going to try and stick with it.

That is if I don’t get completely sucked into Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. I’ve already seen the movie with John Cusack a couple of times so I don’t know why I snagged a copy of it. But then I started reading it and got hooked, or so it would seem. I want to keep reading. And that’s the real test after all. Besides High Fidelity is very Gen X, dude.

Finally, I’ve been reading this non-fiction book — Against Happiness, by Eric G. Wilson. It is basically an argument against the American maniacal pursuit of utter happiness all the time and how the denial of sadness and melancholia is the true path to hell. Maybe it sounds depressing, but for a GenXer like me it is pure bliss, validating (ugh, I hate that fucking word!) my own melancholia while supporting my theory that too happy people are phonies, and probably not really happy at all, but repressed and afraid to let themselves be sad, worried of what other might think of them — as weak. It’s good stuff.

On “The Road” again

I just finished rereading Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road.

I did so for a book club coming up later this month. Don’t misunderstand. I have not joined a book club. Such an act would go against my Gen X lineage. No. I simply plan to sit in. For Cormac McCarthy I would do that. We’ll see how it goes.

As always I wept at the end of the story, when the man realizes that he is dying and when the boy has to say goodbye to his father. And when the boy is welcomed into the arms of a woman who is part of a clan of people that can take him — the good guys, the boy decides they are worthy to be called. A tragic story but beautiful too, and ultimately hopeful. Not easy to pull off when one is essentially writing about the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it. But perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Who knows?

I’ve written previously that I consider The Road to be a X Lit novel. I still maintain that belief. For the simple reason that when I was younger I, and other people that I knew, fretted about the end of the world, specifically via a nuclear war, which is suggested at in this novel. It’s a theme that comes up in Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X as well, visions and fears of the end of the world. Also, I consider Cormac McCarthy himself to be an Xer of sorts. At the age of 74 he doesn’t really qualify as a member of Generation X by standard definitions, but if you consider being Gen X to be more a way of looking at the world then I think he more than qualifies. His status as a writer of serious fiction qualifies him, but also he has spent a good part of his life opting out of mainstream life, at one time living in a wood shack with a dirt floor. Living on the margins of society is a big part of Coupland’s novel and thus part of the Xer ethos. McCarthy continues to live more or less marginally. He rarely gives interviews and prefers to not move in modern literary circles. He resides in the desert in New Mexico. All this has an air of X to it as far as I am concerned.

But of course, The Road is more than an example of X Lit. It is a remarkable novel and much more complex than that. At it’s core it is a domestic tale, about a parent trying to raise a child in an uncertain world, a theme so universal it seems almost ridiculously obvious. It is also a tale of survival, and the lengths human beings will go to continue living. Some people slip to the depths of degradation while others, like the man and his boy, struggle to maintain their humanity and some notion of grace. In fact, at times during the novel it is difficult to tell who is really looking out for whom. Of course, the reality is that the man and the boy are looking out for each other, in different ways. The father’s task is essentially about physical survival — food, shelter, clothing, etc. Whereas the boy’s concerns seem to be more spiritual, for their souls and humanity. Both the father’s and the boy’s concerns are legitimate and important, both are necessary, and yet they are at times in direct opposition to one another. And I think that as much as anything is what makes this novel great.

I admit that I am hesitant to attend the book club while at the same time eager to hear what other people think of the story.

Difference between Gen X and Boomers illustrated

Working at a library, I see a lot of books. Some of them worthwhile, some not so much. Anyhoo… today I came across two nonfiction books that seem to illustrate the difference between Generation X and Boomers.

First, the Gen X book titled Against Happiness, by Eric G. Wilson.

And then the Boomer book titled Dancing with Life (it has a lengthy, windy, annoyingly feel-goody subtitle but it nauseated me so much I decided, fuck it, I’m not going to include it. If the author had a fucking beef he can let me know), Phillip Moffitt.

From the my impression of the content (I’ve not read either) to the authors (I don’t know exact ages or anything but I’m pretty confident, based on what I’ve read of each, that Wilson is a Gen Xer and Moffitt is a Boomer) to the titles to the dust jacket art, these two books set side-by-side illustrate the difference between Gen X and the Boomer sensibilities.

I’d have included a Mellinnial book but there wans’t one. Perhaps they exist, but I’m not really interested in seeking them out. Suggest one, if you don’t like it.

Incidentally, I’m only reading Wilson’s book. I have precious little time to read, and if I want to read about Buddhism, the Dhali Lama has several books of his own authoring.