Pretense / Lack thereof

So Dave Eggers is a funny guy.  Apparently I’m not his only fan (I had some idea of this, but really, I didn’t expect to be five minutes early (which was actually an hour and five minutes before the lecture was supposed to start), only to be #219 in line.  They let 250 of us in.  Lacey and I were pretty lucky.   They were going to have the books signed in order, too, and we were on the verge of parking-ticketdom, so we didn’t stick around for that part.  Too bad — I think he would have talked to everyone, even #218 and #219, for a while.  He said he was going to go to a bar after the signing, too.  He also informed us (after being asked) that his brother (Toph) is single, but really, I was always more interested in Dave, who is happily married to a gorgeous woman with a child.

I’m looking forward to reading his most recent book, too, What is the What?, which is based on the life of a Sudanese refugee.  It was good to hear the process of writing it — he felt like he was failing at making this completely journalistic piece, and so he opted to write a novel heavily based on the life of his friend, with some details filled in here and there.  Honestly, I think that’s what all memoir is, maybe even most non-fiction.  We fabricate a lot, not in a malicious sense, but it’s our way of making sense of the world.  James Frey haters, feel free to comment.

Honestly, I started to get a little annoyed at all of the “literary” people at the talk.  There were two professor-ish guys behind us saying things like “Oh, I hear he has a publishing house…” about Mr. Eggers, and talking about former adjuncts who are now adjuncts elsewhere.  It makes me glad I didn’t go that route.  I think academia (in that sense, anyway) is not for me.  I did like the girl in front of us with braids who pulled out her little blank book and wrote in it as we waited…   I guess I appreciate the actual act of being a writer, but the politics of it all is exhausting.

Speaking of politics, I’m the secretary for Phi Beta Kappa at school/work, and it’s been a pain in my ass for the last couple of weeks — the outgoing secretary apparently did everything, and now I’m expected to do everything (but I’m not going to!).  The latest is this lecture we’re co-sponsoring…  I had some posters printed and distributed last week, contacted some newspapers, etc.  And then today I found out that I’d neglected one of the sponsors, and the professor telling me this was quite upset over it — we really need to make their name prominent, so they’ll feel good about giving money to the university, it’s “unfortunate” that won’t go out to the press, and we didn’t catch it on the posters, blah, blah, blah.  I felt really bad about it, and at the same time mad at her for asking me to do all of this, but not giving me all of the information, and then blaming me when it wasn’t all there.  I didn’t have to do anything at all.  And then like four hours later it came out that this particular sponsor actually no longer sponsors lectures at all, hadn’t sponsored this lecture, and didn’t need to be mentioned…  Whatever.

This was offset by interactions with another professor, the one who ordered all of the concert poster images a while back.  What a fun, unpretentious guy (honestly, like most of my department, though some of them make me a little crazy sometimes anyway).  He thinks he might be turning into a modernist (he’s trained as a medievalist), but then figures the “real” modernists “wouldn’t touch this stuff!” (Meaning the art of rock and roll).  I think things might be changing, though — the establishment, recently joined by our own Denver Art Museum, is starting to appreciate this type of art…  Might be a good side project for him…  How many people are there who are equally passionate about psychedelic rock and St. Ursula?  Probably not many…

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6 responses to “Pretense / Lack thereof

  1. Funny that you should mention the politics of writing. Today Eric and I were discussing how disheartening it is to actually involve oneself into the politics of the art world. I feel like all of my love for art is washed away in the snobbery of museums, lectures, and who-to-know type events. Do you feel that way about the literary world? What happens to the love that draws us all into our little worlds? Do they train the snob into us and before we know it we are all looking down our noses at some youngster in love with a book or painting?

  2. I like to think that if you’re yourself, people will either like you or they won’t, but at least you’re being authentic, and people’s liking will be that much more likely to be authentic, too. I think that’s what I like about Dave Eggers — I might be totally wrong about this, but he seems like a pretty all-around likable guy who happens to have a successful writing career, and lots of successful (but seemingly less-pretentious-than-say-Kenneth-Koch-(RIP) (that’s a long story, and a bit of an inside joke, but anyway)) friends (basically, Kenneth Koch was the first pretentious writer I ever met, even though maybe all he was doing was putting my pretentious professor (who wasn’t pretentious to us, ever, at all) in her place). He really seems to do things (amazing things) because he wants to do them, and that’s what makes him successful. I obviously can’t give much advice, having not achieved much acclaim in any way, shape, or form, but I think the two of you are fabulous, and I would hate to see you stoop to shmoozing. Just be yourselves and do good work. People worth impressing will see how authentically wonderful you are, and I think you’ll live happier lives because of it, even if it brings you slightly less success (I think that it won’t). 🙂

  3. Also, doing good work for strategically selected people isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t mean to say people should be passive about promoting themselves, but I think that the strongest form of promotion is through one’s dedication and actions within any field….

    Or so I think… so I hope. I’m actually really far from an expert on this….

  4. You know I think that being drawn into the politics may have been an overstatement. I would re-phrase to say that I feel like a satellite. Satellites seem to have better perspective so I think it’s OK.

  5. Be a satellite, but as a satellite, also be yourself.

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