Friday, March 25, 2005

Hit with the Shtick

I've been watching this stick be passed around, one in which people are asked some questions, the answers to which demonstrate that they have in the past read some books and are likely in the future to read some more. The responses have made me slightly uneasy, much in the way I was made uneasy back in college by the very earnest students who would ask me to sign petitions indicating my opposition to apartheid. Yes, I will sign this; I will also sign the petition indicating my support of Good and opposition to Evil.

It's not that things like this are invitations to totebaggery. Well, they are, or at least they could be. But few of the responses I've seen have toted the bag: nothing along the lines of oh how I would welcome being stranded on a deserted island so that I may finally in peace complete
Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften!
And it's not that things like this are more interesting to the author than they could ever be to any reader, because that's just a defining quality of blogs. What really bothers me about things like this is that I knew that sooner or later Lillet and I would be passed such a stick. Luckily, it was passed to us by Mika Cooper of Mikarrhea. Mika eschews the academe and post-academe mores that make this stick so nose-scrunching for me, while at the same time writing lucidly about literary topics ... and also about oversized penises and the Gilmore Girls. That is to say, she writes about what interests her rather than about what she thinks ought to interest her, or what she wants people to believe is of interest to her.

Lillet and I will answer the questions, partly out of vanity, partly because it is Mika who asked us to, but my uneasiness remains. Really: if anyone gives a shit about what it is I am reading they can send me an email and ask. Given the nature of the questions and the network in which this stick has been disseminated it's hard to read this as much more than a pep rally for the Smart Kids. God knows the Smart Kids need a pep rally right now: the Jocks and the Rich Kids are once again kicking our asses. What I have found interesting since Lillet and I have started blogging (very recently) is that the Smart Kids have adopted some of the strategies of the Jocks and the Rich Kids, namely, intimidation: I have read these books and attended these classes and here are these links so just shut up.

I can't help but believe that it is the changes in academia that have altered the Smart Kid strategies. Until my generation, the Smart Kids got tenure, always had a safe haven from which to express
their opinions. Mine is (or, was) the first generation of indentured servitude in the academy. And I think that this has made for some rather bitter blogs.

This is how I felt until I recalled sitting by myself in Junior High, reading who-knows-what and feeling impossibly alone. I'm lucky: I am no longer lonely. But if this stick is a way for even one of us who sat in the back of the cafeteria reading Beckett or Poe or Darwin or Weber or Feynman or Greene to feel less lonely, I'm all for it.


Blogger Mika said...

no pressure, loves. just pure curiosity about what you've been reading and what books are dear to you. and i absolutely trust you to answer truthfully (or at least cleverly) and look forward to learning something (as with perec) or laughing. because i too have always thought the Desert Island Question really stupid, i produced long ago a list of the sort of books non-totebaggers might really be inclined to take. well, anyway, take your time . . . .


2:24 PM  
Blogger J. Gannon said...

I've been reading the amazing Paul Shirly Blog.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Mika said...

um, "he"?????

2:54 PM  
Blogger Donkey Patrol said...

I'm commenting on this blog only to get attention-much like a little kid in timeout, who bangs his head on the wall so that people won't forget that he's there.

What's wrong with sounding pretentious and totebaggy when answering said questions? I think the fact that you are uneasy about answering questions belies your insatiable desire for intellectual masturbation. We all know that everyone who posts on your blog, or Mika's blog, or answers these questions even uneasily has a desire to be recognized for their ideas and contributions. Thus any answer you give further promulgates the Poindexter Pep Rally that nerds so desperately need. Don't front like you have an aversion to the questions, because the smart kids need you on their side! Answer!

So I say get over yourself and be a snot. That's what people are lining up to read-pretentious babbly blogs. And you know that you want to give it to them. I posit that any answer to the question is totebaggy because the questions themselves are, in essence, steeped in the realms of totebaggery. And I know that they are totebaggy because I see you and everyone else out there salivating over the chance to slap some leather straps on your answers and parade them around the internet in a gaudy, dumb way. I see you wrapping your totebaggy smarts in a blanket of nonchalance, but the faster you realize that you're in a vicious rinse cycle of totebagginess the more quickly I can find out...
seriously what are your top 3 favorite books and how have the helped to shape your worldview??

6:54 PM  

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