Thursday, September 24, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
But first, a bit more self-indulgent meditation on my own nature: To wit, when this perfectly nice kid I knew from back in the day became a famous (at least in Brooklyn and Silver Lake and Austin) hard-drinking indie rock and roller, I seethed. When this other, very sweet girl I knew from back in the day wrote a silly blog and then blew up and became something of a pundit, I seethed. When the jovial and dashing South African fellow who lived down the hall from me freshman year became an international correspondent on CNN, I seethed. I know I should be happy for these people and their successes, but I am human, tragic and flawed, and I am wickedly jealous when perfectly normal-seeming people whom I know stumble into fame and riches.
That said, once in a while, a supremely nice person comes along, he treats you very kindly, is humble about his own talents, and is gracious and laudatory of yours, meager though they are. Once in a while you meet such a person and you think this person deserves much from this world; in the least this person deserves fame and riches. One such person is Uwem Akpan.
Tomorrow he will be chosen as Oprah's newest Book Club inductee. His enormously moving debut short-story collection, Say You're One of Them, will be 2009's first Oprah selection, and he will be launched into the literary stratosphere.
I met Uwem for the first time a few years ago in the frigid college town in which I spent some time. I was doing a reading of a short story I had written for our law school literary journal (best not to ask), and he, friendly with the editor, showed up for the opening night event. Afterwards, he introduced himself to me, told me how much he enjoyed my story, and, eventually, revealed that he too was a writer. As a result of this conversation, I made my way onto Uwem's email list. This is how I learned that he managed to get a second story published in the New Yorker in June of 2006. I read this story, prepared to hate it or hate him for his success. But neither came to pass. I then read the first story he had published, "An Ex-Mas Feast," and I felt stunned by what he had achieved.
A couple of years later, Uwem's book -- which Oprah has now selected -- came out and I bought it immediately. I re-read the New Yorker stories and felt neither jealousy nor hate. I felt in awe. Then I read one of the final stories in the collection, "Fattening for Gabon," which ends in a way that arrests the heart, and I thought, everyone should read this. Everyone.
Thanks to Oprah, from tomorrow, about one bajillion more people will read Uwem's book. Uwem, who is also a Jesuit priest ministering to a congregation in Nigeria, not some latte-drinking malcontent in Park Slope, will have earned all his success, and I for one will come to know genuine happiness for another human being. You should buy his book.
Friday, September 11, 2009
(from a wall street journal interview with jon krakauer, who has just written a book about pat tillman)
WSJ: You end the book with a gloomy visit to Afghanistan in early 2007. What did Mr. Tillman's sacrifice mean?
Mr. Krakauer: It didn't mean anything. It speaks to the mythology of war and how we glorify it for our national interests. There is nothing glamorous or romantic about war. It's mostly about random pointless death and misery. And that's what his death tells us. It reminds me that the good aren't rewarded, there's no such thing as karma. Maybe it says something about the dangers of any sort of idealism that isn't tempered by pragmatism or experience.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
indeed, at our friend rachel's wedding, a bunch of us entered into a heated discussion over the movie rachel getting married. to no one's surprise, c4ts and i disagreed on this one. i think c4ts kind of wanted to agree with me since the movie seems so obviously annoying, but found himself actually liking it. you can't fight fate, c4ts!
anyway, so i'll vent. i don't think i've ever walked out of a movie. not even "shallow hal" or that second bridget jones movie where she goes to thailand or whatever. my usual thought is, i'm going to wait for that one redeeming moment. there were none in RGM. if i hadn't been sitting 5 deep in my row, i would've barged out. every one of the so-called poignant moments rang completely hollow to me. ok fine, i'll give you this. jonathan demme directed documentaries about the talking heads and neil young and the screenwriter is sidney lumet's daughter. perhaps spontaneous bohemian-ish band playing with robyn hitchcock and unattributable displays of ethnic clothing are the norm in their worlds, but certainly not in mine. this urgent desire to flaunt some semblance of authenticity, diversity and depth was so false on every single level. if i had rolled my eyes any more my contacts would've popped out.
ok, breathe. let's focus my annoyance:
1. connecticut? is there a yaddo in greenwich or fairfield that i'm unaware of? the closest thing connecticut has to minorities and/or artists is 50 cent (or 50 cents, if you're mike bloomberg).
2. saris? wtf with that?
3. yeah, ok, so nobody made a big deal about the groom's race. how come nobody made a big deal of the fact that he had negative personality? it only drew attention to his race. like, why couldn't they create a fully-drawn black character? the white people in this movie certainly had personality to spare.
4. and why did the groom ruin that neil young song for me?
5. i would pick on that dishwasher scene except that apparently it was taken directly from the screenwriter's life. it occurred between like sidney lumet and charlton heston or something equally implausible. (my badz, bob fosse--see? who has a life like this?)
6. don't forget: kYm. barf.
anyway, c4ts, the floor is yours. i'm sure you'll mount a lengthy defense of the movie. all's i gotta say is, someone should've told me that the director of philadelphia--my least favorite movie of all time bc it's the fakest--was involved. i would've saved my $12 or whatever.
oh yeah, this new yorker article: mind ~~blown~~. most disturbing article since that one about solitary confinement that still gives me goosebumps.