Shea Swaps Book Pick

Two days ago, Mr. Bryant thought to mock the good Mets fans within the litblogosphere. Oh, but what a difference a few days make! In light of the 13-0 win over the Marlins and the — *ahem* — LOSS of the Phillies against the Nationals yesterday, I’d say we have ourselves an interesting situation here. A very interesting situation indeed. As a result, Flushing Meadows has changed its book club selection:

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[UPDATE: As of 2:00 PM on Sunday, things aren't looking very well. The Marlins are leading 7-1 against the Mets. The Nationals are losing 0-1 to the Phillies.]

Hell Hath Frozen Over!

Jonathan Franzen has accepted my Facebook friend request!

My work here is done.

I shall now direct my attentions to Dwight Garner, who has yet to accept my Facebook friend request.

[UPDATE: Correction. Franzen is not my Facebook friend. It appears that he added me and then, moments later, he removed me. I had thought that there was some kernel of bonhomie within Franzen's disposition. But apparently, this is not the case.]

Is There Any Purpose?

The Guardian‘s James Buchan has asked the question, in all seriousness, “Is there any purpose in translating poetry?” Which is akin to asking the following questions:

  • Is there any purpose in listening to someone outside my socioeconomic strata?
  • Is there any purpose in venturing outside Manhattan? After all, New York is the center of the universe.
  • Is there any purpose in sampling different food when I am comfortable with the bland meals I eat at home?
  • Is there any purpose in trying out another sexual position besides missionary?

(In case it wasn’t clear, the answer to all these questions is a resounding YES!)

(via Bookninja)

Roundup

  • Jeff VanderMeer and M. John Harrison: how can you go wrong with that conversation?
  • I couldn’t make the Lethem-PKD event, I’m afraid, but Matt Cheney has a lengthy report. The included novels in the second PKD LOA edition will be Martian Time-Slip, Dr. Bloodmoney, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, A Scanner Darkly and Now Wait for Last Year.
  • I have not watched Smallville in two years (this was a sad addiction and nobody in particular can be blamed for this, except perhaps an old roommate), but if this is the kind of nonsense they’re now putting out, I think I may have chosen correctly.
  • Things ain’t exactly cozy at the Poetry Society of America.
  • A new “unheard” series of interviews with Graham Greene have been released.
  • For a writer, the importance of cafes can never be underestimated.
  • Exhibit #562 in the Case Against Franzen Being Any Fun. (Come to think of it, Franzen’s starting to look like a beardless Tanenhaus these days.)
  • Carlin Romano on Exit Ghost.
  • The Westchester Library didn’t think twice about nailing Elizabeth Schaper with a 50-cent fine. Schaper had gone to the library to return a book that her mother had checked out. But since Schaper’s mother had died the week before, Schaper’s mother wasn’t exactly in the position to return the book on time. To the martinet man behind the desk, this was simply no excuse. He insisted on the two quarters. The library, spineless to the core, has not issued any public comment or public apology.
  • The AP is cutting its book review package.
  • Want your kids to read? Start them early. (I learned, no joke, to read when I was two. So perhaps there is some truth in this.)
  • Scorsese is making a film about George Harrison.

Over the Hump

Okay, after considerable coffee, a crazed ten-hour reading session, and several additional hours of research for one of two crazy deadlines, I’ve managed to grab four hours of sleep. And I’m now over the hump. Bear with me while I recalibrate to human time in the next day or so. If my emails have been terse or hallucinogenic of late, you now have your reason why.

Roundup

  • The sleeping schedule has gone to hell. So here goes.
  • Scott McLemee and Peniel E. Joseph discussed Harold Cruse’s The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, which in turn spawned a debate here. Jump in if you feel obliged. (via A Different Stripe)
  • Liv Ullmann is taking a leading role for the first time in 38 years.
  • So if you’re a newspaper and you’re contemplating this whole “How do I make money in the digital age?” question, a new consortium with Yahoo might yield surprising results — assuming that the good folks at Editor & Publisher aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid here. A Deutsche Bank analyst suggests that this deal could generate positive revenue for newspapers. If this is true, are newspapers dead? Or are the times (and, of course, the format) a-changing?
  • When I’m not so busy, remind me to dredge up some experiential data sometime to support the fact that Garth Hallberg is not a nice man and has been known to chow down on leftover human kidneys from time to time.
  • Joe Sacco on journalism. (via FLOG)
  • To the four people who sent me the article, hoping that I’d get riled up: Nope, ain’t going to link to it. Bigger fish to fry.
  • Richard Russo’s reading recommendations create films!
  • Audible has launched its first crime serial. The series, entitled The Purloined Podcast, involves the murder of a Web 2.0 company executive by an angry listener who gets a bill for audio files he expected to download for free.
  • I haven’t yet seen Ken Burns’s The War, in part because I was extremely bothered by the jingoistic tone of this alleged “regular folks” narrative. It turns out academics had issues with the film too about the inclusive nature of Burns’s story.
  • Heaven forfend! Books are too depressing. Middle-school reading lists need to have happier books. Because 14-year-olds simply can’t handle verisimilitude. According to Mary Collins, who is actually an assistant professor of creative writing, Shirley Jackson was “lazy” for writing “The Lottery.” Never mind that this short story is a pitch-perfect example of the use of irony in fiction. Never mind that if you keep pushing the standards about what is offensive further, that it’s a zero sum game. (via The Valve, which has a more measured response to this nonsense than me)

A Most Formidable Intellectual Organization

I received a mysterious text message earlier in the week from a British phone number. I was confused. I thought they all hated me in the United Kingdom. The message involved an event at The Drawing Center, a venue that I knew nothing about. Presumably, it was a safe place for lonely people to sketch on their pads or for reenactments of Shirley Jackson’s famous story. No drawing, not even of the lottery variety, was to be had on Tuesday night. (Honestly, if one must be stoned by a crowd, I can’t think of a better evening than Tuesday.)

Instead, about seventy-five artsy people were treated to a formal lecture, styled “Inauthenticity: The International Necronautical Society Reveals the Comic Secret of Literature, Art and Philosophy,” delivered by INS General Secretary Tom McCarthy and INS Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley — two men who were quite serious about their topic. No sherry was served. After inquiring about this with a few trusted sources, I was assured that the INS was a bona-fide credentialed world organization — of what authority, none of them could say. When I later asked the two INS representatives for appropriate accreditation, they ran away, suggesting that I was bifurcating the Hegelian ideal of dichotomous discourse. They may have had a point. I should have taken better notes.

ins.gifAfter persuading the person in front that I was “a friend of the INS,” I was then greeted by a gentleman in a crisp dark suit and sunglasses who asked me if I was a member of the press.

“That depends upon how you define press,” I replied.

There weren’t many literary people in the crowd, except some guy I knew who was obsessed with Mr. Critchley’s furrows. And what impressive furrows they were. Mr. Critchley, it should be noted, was quite bald and very serious. Perhaps more serious than Mr. McCarthy. In fact, if I had to trust one of the two INS representatives to kill someone, it would probably be Mr. Critchley. I was not close enough to see if Mr. Critchley had assassin hands, but it seemed pretty clear he was a carnivore in some sense.

The two men sat at a table, covered with the finest white tablecloth that a desperate run to Costco could get you if you were a particularly careless philosopher with a spending habit you were trying to control. Behind them were six framed photos of the Earth, as seen from space.

The crowd then settled down and McCarthy announced that this was “the first beachhead in the Americas.” Agents, sleepers, and moles, along with agencies, subcommittees and transmission centers were prepared to be unfurled in the United States, presumably under the employ of the INS.

“We’re in your house,” said McCarthy. And the gist I got was that this was some sort of intellectual terrorist organization to be feared or reckoned with.

Critchley promised a history of the beginning, a declaration about the INS, and a summation of what the INS could do.

McCarthy mentioned Queequeg’s tattoos and how Melville’s character represented a layout of the heavens which imputed a mystical treatise that Melville had openly pondered. I wondered how far we were from Melville’s place of employment.

Captain Ahab, Critchley noted, was, by contrast, a narcissist. Queequeg and Ahab were locked in a struggle representing “that of Western man in general.”

It didn’t seem evident to me at the time, perhaps because I was getting lost in the references to Aristotle and Baudelaire. But I started to get the sense that McCarthy and Critchley were switching off, perhaps because neither of them could speak about these important precepts for more than five minutes. The crowd stared in intellectual rapture, stunned by the almighty ideas and inauthentic import.

As I said, I took poor notes, in large part because my writing implement was inauthentic, parched of ink, and otherwise pining for the rubbish bin. But here is a quick overview of some of the thirty-nine points laid down by the two gentlemen:

  • Failed transcendence was the first and possibly most important point of the INS dogma. Novels were not the plenitude of one, but ellipses, absence, incompleteness, and the experience of disappointment were the foundation upon all knowledge claims.
  • The art of consequence of failed transcendence followed the first point. An icon, not being original, was thereby a copy of the icon and a repetition of the copy.
  • The experience of failed transcendence represented the classical opposition of form vs. matter. As Plato had observed, knowledge is form (eidos) and, as Aristotle had observed, knowledge came from essence (fusio).
  • The highest knowledge is of God, the most real thing.
  • If form is perfect, then how does one explain imperfection? Matter then was our undoing.
  • How do we let matter matter? This was in the spirit of Maurice Blanchet, presuming that the spirit could be spirited.
  • Interestingly, the only subpoints came from Point 7. Point 7.1 expressed that separation involved importing all of reality into a single thought, the single goal shared by Hegel and De Sade. Point 7.2 represented the other option: Let things thing. Let flowers flower. Let oranges orange. Point 7.3 was “sponge.” Point 7.4 was “sponge.” It is helpful to know that a porous kitchen item might possibly be philosophical salvation.
  • The Necronauts are poets who reflect the antithesis of poetry.
  • How do we navigate? Inauthenticity. After a failure of metaphysical transcendence, the unified people will abandon the idea of people. Therefore, the Necronauts will be divided. (A person in this state can likewise be referred to as a “dividual.”)
  • Inauthenticity is the constant of self.
  • More positive, less heroic — this is comic advancement.
  • The key aesthetic is not the tragic, but the comic, which represents a mechanical splitting of self.
  • The sense of the comic can be represented in a person simultaneously tripping and watching himself trip.
  • Comedy is the temporal realism of death.
  • In referencing the facets of authentic death, the Necronaut does not die.
  • Freud pondered the prisoner condemned to be hanged, representing the self being hanged.
  • Ergo: “I am but I do not have myself. I find myself.”
  • How does one die properly? Wile E. Coyote faced an endless repetition of deaths, comparable to Vladimir and Estragon facing repetition in Waiting for Godot, with the possibility of a hard-on curtailing this repetition.
  • In death and dying, dying is something we cannot control. This is the paradox of suicide.
  • Tragedy is second-hand. It is the limiting of existence. Addie Bundren in As I Lay Dying is not presented with a scene in which she is permitted to die proper. Thereby, her self is denied.
  • Thinking begins with disaster.
  • In relation to trauma, the subservient life does not feel real.
  • Trauma bequeaths prosperity to repeat. All art from Aeschylus to Tristram Shandy is interconnected in this respect.
  • There are three Rs paramount to these precepts: repetition, repetition, repetition.
  • As McLuhan observed, the true content of each medium is the previous medium.
  • An ant’s dirty secret is inauthenticity. Everything must lose some mark, some accident of which we remember.
  • “Listen, the world is a sign of restless divisibility no greater than six.”
  • “Going once.”
  • SAFA — Taxes May Apply. Other Taxes May Apply.
  • Cities, countries and continents. We are going to crash.
  • How does one become a Necronaut? I’m afraid that I can’t reveal the precise details here.
  • Illusion is a revolutionary weapon.

As I said, my notes were wholly insufficient and perhaps, to some degree, inauthentic. One night later, I am left with the definitive empty vessel, sometimes a mug and sometimes a stein, scooping from a salty sea of ambiguity where the trauma is large, inconsolable, and predicated upon the blood, sweat, and tears of an undeniable bedrock of precepts.

Coming Soon to The Bat Segundo Show

Correspondent: In this title essay, you write, “Observation is my weakness.” And in the second essay, while you openly confess to stalking many of the…

Pollitt: Oh, you know! I’m sorry.

Correspondent: Oh, well…

pollitt2.jpgPollitt: I didn’t mean to interrupt you.

Correspondent: Well, go for it. Go for it. I’ll jump in.

Pollitt: I was just going to say, I was wondering, if I had called that story, instead of calling it “Webstalker,” if I had called it “Googling my Ex-Boyfriend,” would people have been so horrified by it? I really don’t understand this. Maybe you can explain this.

Correspondent: Well…

Pollitt: This is something everybody does. And yet somehow, it’s, you know, I have been called in reviews — maybe she’s insane, why would she reveal such a terrible thing about herself, maybe she needed the money. I mean, I can’t believe it! I thought I was sort of like, well, here we all are and, in fact, in the story — in the story, I have a young friend who introduces me to this word, which I had never heard before. And she was surprised I didn’t have a whole file on my boyfriend, which she had on hers, with a social security number and everything like this. I get the feeling that there are a lot of people that are very suspicious of their mates.

Correspondent: Yeah?

Pollitt: Which I never was. All I did was I sat at my computer and I Googled. And for this, I am being pilloried as if I was a crazy person. I just don’t understand it.

Correspondent: I would think that people are possibly objecting to the fact — they seem to pinpoint precisely, like you guessing the password and wondering what it might be. And hacking someone’s email. Maybe it comes from doing casual Googling, which everybody sort of accepts. But even your friend having the social security number, well there, we get into invasion of privacy issues. So maybe that’s probably the touchy thorn that’s caused…

Pollitt: Well, you know, I hope that that story and the other ones are written in a humorous way. I not only did not manage to get into my boyfriend’s email system. It was really basically a joke. I would be the last person in the world to be figure out how to do that.

[RELATED: In today's Salon, Rebecca Traister offers a lengthy article about the hostile reception that has greeted Katha Pollitt's Learning to Drive. (via Bookslut)]

Roundup

Reason #426 Why Jonathan Franzen is No Fun

Jonathan Franzen does not want to be my Facebook friend. He is, however, Howard Junker’s Facebook friend. This is understandable, because Howard Junker is Howard Junker. Nevertheless.

Many of my former and current nemeses are my Facebook friends. For crying out loud, even Rick Moody is my Facebook friend. If Jonathan Franzen wishes to keep up this virtual Bartleby business, well then that is certainly his right as a human being. But I think Facebook may very well be a good judge of character. After all, if someone won’t be your Facebook friend, what does this say about the person’s ability to connect with the world at large?

I’ve taken to simply saying yes to anybody. I figure that most people in the world are pretty decent. I figure that anybody who seeks me out on Facebook probably has a good reason. And life’s really too short to deny someone their pleasure. It takes a fussy bastard indeed to say no to someone on this thing.

BSS #140: Naomi Klein

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PROGRAM NOTES: (1) Our Young, Roving Correspondent claimed that Milton Friedman supported the New Deal. Naomi Klein claimed that he did not. As it turns out, both Our Young, Roving Correspondent and Klein were wrong. In an October 2000 interview, Friedman professed his support for the parts of the New Deal that involved providing jobs and relief for the unemployed. This was the “very exceptional circumstance” that Our Young, Roving Correspondent referred to. Apologies on our end for failing to clarify. (2) For more information on United States suicide rates, here is a solid overview. If suicide is, as Klein suggests, linked explicitly to an economic downturn, what explains the slow rise in suicide during the Roaring Twenties — a then unprecedented period of prosperity? While it is certainly true that the suicide rate rose during the Great Depression, the point worth considering is that suicide is not completely linked to economics. (3) While Klein did not provide a supportive endnote in her book for the post-Solidarity Polish journalistic label “shock therapy,” here is a helpful reference point for those looking for more information: No less an authority than Jeffrey Sachs, who Klein identifies as one of the chief instigators of the “shock doctrine,” observed how “shock therapy” came to be in a 1994 lecture delivered at the University of Utah. Sachs believed that the journalistic label “shock therapy” played into the Eastern European belief that a drastic alteration of the economic system would produce results. While Klein is right to point out that this was a term in use, it remains our belief that it would have been more helpful to outline the specific points of causation.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Abdicating to journalists.

Author: Naomi Klein

Subjects Discussed: Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago school of shock economics, polarization of the superwealthy, consumer boycotts and “market democracy,” the New Deal, Augusto Pinochet, the good things about Friedman, Edwin Black’s IBM and the Holocaust, the damage from economic ideology vs. innate business corruption, writing an “alternative history,” relying too much on the “shock” label, Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell, post-Solidarity Poland and “shock therapy,” quibbling with Klein’s footnotes, whether suicide rates can be exclusively linked to economic factors, Israel’s defense export economy, Margaret Thatcher’s England, and whether reduced inflation or the Falklands War boosted Thatcher’s approval rating.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Klein: I’m not sort of just projecting Chicago school ideals onto a country. I’m talking about specific places where key graduates of the program…

Correspondent: Well, I’m not disputing that.

Klein: …came to positions of power.

Correspondent: I am not disputing that there…

Klein: I’m just not quite sure where IBM fits in.

Correspondent: Well, what I’m saying is is that it’s not exclusively this Friedmanesque ideology that is causing these particular factors. I mean, what I’m wondering is — is I present the IBM scenario as, well, here’s a case of, in my view anyway, clear unethical business practice and yet it has nothing to do with Friedman economics. Just as, I mean, yeah, there are plenty of examples you give. The various leaders who are listening to lectures on tape and, of course, all the Chicago Boys, and all that stuff. I’ve definitely read the book. I’m just asking, where does Friedman depart from some of the unfortunate shock treatment that you describe to various…?

Klein: Well, I think the key thing to understand is that I am not arguing that this group of people, that they are the first people to employ these tactics to advance their political goals. And I, you know, I piss off people on the left by quoting Mao and Pol Pot and all these, you know, Communist figures of the past who shared a similar desire to use shock and crisis to push through their agenda, dreamed of societies being a blank slate on which they could build their ideals. I also draw…I also talk about fascism and Nazism and you know, I think that, the reason why I’m focusing on this group of people of the past thirty-five years, as opposed to the book just being a history of everybody who’s ever used shock is that I’m trying to present an alternative history of how we got to where we are. I’m trying to present an alternative history of the ideology that is the dominant ideology of our time, so dominant that we don’t see it. It’s the air we breathe. And I think that we have been living with a fairy tale version of history.

Play

BSS #139: George Saunders

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Feeling a little dead down there.

Author: George Saunders

Subjects Discussed: Writing fragmentary travelogue pieces, trying not to pre-process experiences, observational criteria, Dubai, responding to Ben Ehrenreich’s claim of “pulled punches,” journalistic integrity, on taking people to task, writing comprehensive journalistic accounts vs. one-week accounts, Saunders’s “limited talent,” on “liking to be liked,” the difference between fiction and nonfiction, Minutemen on the US/Mexico border, on taking on a persona, Bob Dylan, the response that came from “‘Borat': The Memo,” on being called a “tool” and a “young fogey,” cheap edits, mean satire, political labels and satire, generalizations about everything between Los Angeles and New York, not going beyond the first impression, Donald Barthelme, Freitag’s triangle and rising action, why Saunders is savage in fiction, and writing rules vs. writing voice.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Saunders: Each one of the GQ trips was an eight to ten day thing. So really, in a certain way, the form would follow the experience. You know, you go to a place and you’re taking notes like crazy for eight days. And you don’t really know what’s good or what’s interesting and then you come home and start writing them up. And as certain things — you know how it is when you’re writing — sometimes, a certain thing would just lurch forward and it’s writable in some way you didn’t anticipate when you were there. So in a way, it was kind of like taking X number of those things, the ones that would sort of step forward and allow themselves to be polished, and then kind of trust that that was happening for a reason.

Play

Roundup (With Frequent Lyrical Interludes)

  • This year’s MacArthur fellowships include Stuart Dybek.
  • Oh, Norman Mailer, just go away.
  • The Internet is set to overtake television as the largest medium by 2010. Which makes me wonder why the NBCC doesn’t form a strategic alliance, Survivor-style, with the television medium to take out all these online upstarts who are apparently responsible for the crisis in book reviewing. A few strategically thrown grenades and Ciabattari and Freeman can take out Newton, Esposito, Asher, and that obnoxious Ed Champion guy in a few hours. Terrorism, you say? Not at all. This is the only way to resolve a crisis.
  • Now here’s a fragrance that will really make you want to go down on something. (via Smart Bitches)
  • Was Robert Altman’s Popeye unfairly maligned? (And for what it’s worth, I like Popeye. Not the least or the greatest film, but enjoyable on its own merits. If you want to talk nadir of Altman’s career, try Ready to Wear.)
  • John Rickards has a few choice words about Second Life author appearances. And I have to agree. Unless you’ve written Flying Dolphin Cock and Other Virtual Fiction, you have no business making an author appearance in Second Life.
  • The 1950s issues of Playboy will be released as a DVD archive on November 2. Persona Non Data talks with Bondi Digital Publishing about how this happened. Bondi is also responsible for the New Yorker DVD-ROMs. Hopefully, they have improved the clunky interface.
  • Edmund White on James, James & Proust. (via CAAF)
  • Guess what? Exercise ain’t gonna keep off the weight. Not entirely anyway. Perhaps John Barrymore and Peter O’Toole had the right idea.
  • Stage lights flashing / The feeling’s smashing / My heart and soul belong to you / And I’m here now, singing / All bells are ringing / My dream has finally come true
  • Alexander Cockburn on Naomi Klein. (via The Existence Machine)
  • I wasn’t able to make it to last night’s panel, for I had a far more important conversation to participate in. But Levi has a report on the seventieth discussion this month on the crisis in book reviewing. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe you’ll be finding a lot of serious criticism in the NYTBR so long as a humorless and condescending tool like Sam Tanenhaus is editor.
  • Yo, NPR, how about a little fucking headline clarity? Exit Ghost ain’t the last Roth novel, but the last Zuckerman novel. Unless this was a skillful ploy to get us to click over.
  • PFD and ivory. Work together in perfect disharmony.
  • Apparently, there isn’t much happening at book signings these days, but don’t let that stop you from writing an 800 word article about it.
  • Hadley Freeman’s a funny motherfucker, ain’t he?
  • You’re a dead ringer / Dream maker, drug taker / Don’t you mess around with me!
  • Terrence Rafferty on The 400 Blows (via James Tata)

Self-Pity’s a Great Justification for Passive Behavior

Rachel Kramer Bussel: “Garnering publicity for your book should not be the ‘wait and see’ situation Sacks seems to paint it as. There is always something you can do to raise your profile, and connect with readers. Search for blogs and sites related to your subject matter, and offer to send a review copy of the book. Create a contest, give away an excerpt, run a serial. Keep talking and trying new things; the beauty of the Internet is that you can keep trying and finessing your promotional efforts for free. Amazon lets authors blog directly on their site, so Sacks could be posting about issues in the news and follow-up research into the topic he explores in his book, the class divide in education, so anyone reading about him on Amazon would see this information as well.”

Roundup

  • I can assure you. The J is pronounced like Alaska’s capital.
  • Foolish thinking debunked by Weeks.
  • First Committee Purges: “James Flint and Hari Kunzru are expelled as they have become complicit with a publishing industry whereby the ‘writer’ becomes merely the executor of a brief dictated by corporate market research, reasserting the certainties of middle-brow aesthetics (‘issues’ of ‘contemporary culture’, ‘post-colonial identity’ etc.) under the guise of genuine creative speculation.” It appears that Tom McCarthy is running a very important organization.
  • The National Post, which ain’t exactly the bastion of liberal thought, devoted a series of columns devoted to attacking Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. But here’s the funny thing. They also paid for excerpts of Klein’s book, essentially paying Klein dinero to slam her to the ground. So who’s influencing whom? (via Bookninja)
  • Facebookers are all narcissists! And other ways of overthinking social networks.
  • Eli Roth is on board for the Heroes spinoff.
  • Are today’s journalism undergrads creating their own alternative media?
  • Colin McGinn on Steven Pinker.
  • In fact, when I type in a sentence like “X on Y,” I cannot help but think of randy intellectuals twitching lustily between sheets. But there appears to be no better shortcut in the English language to describe one person writing about another. I have similar problems with the phrase “in conversation with” (two prepositions!), which suggests a needlessly formal way of simply saying “talking with.” Apparently, “talking” is not good enough. One must be “in conversation with” in order to say anything intelligent, uplifting, or otherwise seminal to the human species. But very often, the people I find “in conversation with” another tend to be full of hot air. (In fact, when a person is telling you at a party, “I’m having a conversation with so-and-so,” a not so veiled way of telling you that you don’t matter and that you should go away very soon because you’re not all that interesting, it’s quite a rude thing, isn’t it?) Perhaps these various organizations avoid direct verbs because what’s being celebrated here is not so much two people talking with each other, but two people being “in conversation with” each other. Meaning that, due to legal reasons or other factors, an institution cannot promise something as vivacious as “talking.” Meaning that an event billing itself with the “in conversation with” moniker may very well be boring. Meaning that the audience members are not part an important part of the experience, because one of the participants is essentially saying to them, “I’m having a conversation with so-and-so.” Please shut up and listen. Pontifications are the order of the day.
  • And while I’m quibbling over this subject, I should point out that I try never to say that I am “talking to” someone, but that I’m “talking with” someone. “Talking to” implies that you are speaking down to them. “Talking with” implies a shared conversational experience, which is more human, when you get right down to it. Then again, I’m usually the guy at the party who is introducing people to others. (Aha! Another trap! Should I not be introducing people with others? Well, in this case, I can’t, because it sounds wrong.)

For Tyra Banks, “Experts” Are Plastic, Unreal & Non-Threatening People

Violet Blue: “As I told the producer (who I saw quite quickly), I will not lie about my appearance or who I am, for anyone or anything. It does my readers, my listeners, my viewers, my friends and the sex-positive, non-judgmental message I bring and represent a disservice to lie. And, I told her, I have to look at myself in the mirror when I wake up the next day and look at myself. Would she have me change my appearance to look ‘less Asian’ to seem more of an expert?”