Saturday, December 10, 2005

a happy day ends in a muddle

It is impossible for me to regard the success of another without it throwing my mental processes into disarray. After I first heard Bernadette Peters sing for the first time at the age of 11, it was years before I could listen without weeping or raging (inside) that I'd never have a voice like hers. For example. Conversely, I overidentify very strongly with those who try and fail: it took a long time for me to recover from Bobby Baseball, a kid's book about a kid who wanted more than anything to be a pitcher but he couldn't, he just couldn't, he wasn't any good. And that's how it ended! No fake reassurances, no hope, just plain truth.

The book The Princess Bride -- though not the movie, which is why the book is better -- makes the same point: life isn't fair, some people don't get what they want or deserve. I remember being shocked by its matter-of-factness. Yet somehow I think fairness was never an illusion I had. Against all evidence of my well-cushioned childhood, I knew that into every life some hailstones must fall.

Applause in general, being antithetical to hailstones, still makes me tear up. Semiotically. It represents achievement -- and to my brain, recognition of same connotes that maybe whoever produced it will never be on such a peak again. Maybe I'll never be there at all.

The most recent trigger of this sort of embarrassing outpour of emotion is the novel Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I heard about while still working at the Very Important Talent Agency. (Before I had to, you know, flee like the Hebrews from Egypt.) The fact that it's been on top five lists piqued my interest in a way that its initial buzz didn't -- because, again, applause does that to me. You know how good it is? I read it all day today, from beginning to end. I scarcely did anything else. When I finished, before I finished even, I wailed.

Then I read Curtis Sittenfeld's pedigree off the back jacket and wailed some more. Stanford. Iowa Writer's Workshop. Prizes, fellowships. It made me start researching graduate MFA programs again and only the intense exhaustion that came back to me as I recalled how awful the experience was the first time around swatted my fingers from the keyboard.

I think my life needs to be about more than office work. For some people, I think the more is their children, and more power to them -- I just can't imagine that being enough for me. Oh dear. Life is going to be awfully disappointing for me unless I can wake up tomorrow morning trilling like Bernadette Peters.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Applause is overrated, even when the people on stage aren't. You make me, Adam Bisno, laugh, which is a good thing. And sometimes, when I talk to/see/read you, I feel things. Pretty cool, huh? In this world, let your validation be the thawing of my mostly frozen soul - I'm coming to New York very soon, with my friend Nico (aus GroƟ Britannien). We humbly request your audience.