The Great Derangement

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Making its triumphant return to the blog this week is:


Today's book was suggested by C. Thanks for the suggestion C.

I'm feeling a bit tired right now, but I'm going to try to write a coherent blog entry anyway. I'm tired because I stayed up until 3 a.m. last night finishing up the reports I had to do for work - and now I'M FREE. I'M FREE. I'M FREE. Starting today I went back to my normal part-time schedule, and I will finally have time to deal with the to-do list that has been growing steadily over the last month.

Around one o'clock last night (technically this morning) I got really tired, but I decided to press on because I thought it would be so nice to wake up this morning and have nothing to worry about except for reading today's book. I imagined a lazy Saturday morning and afternoon of lying around and reading, putting up my blog entry early in the day, and then having the whole evening to do whatever I wanted. And then I woke up this morning . . . to a flooded bathroom. I'm tempted to say, well at least tomorrow will be a relaxing day with nothing but reading, but I don't want to jinx myself.

Today's book; "With his trademark mordant wit, journalist Taibbi explores the black comedy of the American polis, where a citizenry shunted out of the political process seeks solace in conspiratorial weirdness and Internet-fueled mysticism. Trained from birth to be excellent consumers, Americans have become experts in mixing and matching news items to fit [their] own self-created identities, according to the author, who embeds himself in these pockets of people as he travels to the Congress press gallery, Iraq, meetings of the 9/11 Truth Movement, and goes undercover at a Christian Retreat. He pillories born-again Christians and the 9/11 conspiracy theorists, concluding that despite their differences: Both groups were and are defined primarily by an unshakeable belief in the inhumanity of their enemies on the other side; the Christians seldom distinguished between Islamic terrorism and, say, Al Gore–style environmentalism, while the Truthers easily believed that reporters for the Washington Post, the president and the frontline operators of NORAD were equally capable of murdering masses of ordinary New York financial sector employees. Thoughtful Democrats, Republicans and independents will find common ground in this book that punctures pretense, hypocrisy and know-nothingness."

Favorite passages:

  • "That's the way things work in America. You can literally stick a fork into your own eye in public, and so long as your check clears, no one will even bat an eye."
  • While at an encounter group, in which he was hesitant to share his real life stories involving trauma he had suffered, the author instead made this story up: "My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his over sized shoes. He'd be sitting there in his costume, sucking down a beer and watching television, and then sometimes, even if I just walked in front of the TV, he'd pull off one of those big shoes and just, you know - whap!"

I probably shouldn't say this because it makes me sound like a bad person, but I'm oddly fascinated - almost in awe - of people who are really good liars (maybe good isn't even the right word in the case of the examples in this book, but more like quick and efficient liars). I think it's because I'm such a terrible liar myself that I can't quite figure out how other people can pull it off. I can't even pretend to like some one's shoes when I don't, I find myself stammering and stuttering, unable to even choke out "nice shoes." I'm even more mesmerized people who are such good liars that they've convinced themselves of their own lies - those people fascinate me - because I can't figure out how a person even reaches such a point. I would love to sit down and have a conversation with them about their lying technique - I have so many questions I want to ask - How many years of lying did it take before you started to believe the lies yourself? Do you rehearse that stuff in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning, or do you just go out there and wing it? Do you get excited about the thought of almost getting caught, like a thirteen year old making out on the back porch with their parents just a few feet away (Not that I ever did that . . . okay. . . fine . . . maybe I did. . . once. But I got such a lecture about my unladylike behavior that it killed all of the fun. - Do you see what I mean, I can't even lie about that.) - Or is it more satisfying to feel like you've completely gotten away with the lie? But I guess that's expecting the impossible to want to have an honest conversation with someone about lying.

But here's my absolute favorite sentence in the book: "No creature on earth is more inclined to verbal diarrhea than a modern American. . . " - It's so true, and this blog is exhibit A. I don't know why it's so fun to spend day after day writing about every weird quirk I've ever had, every odd family moment - but somehow it is. There doesn't seem to be any filter in my brain that sorted out the things that were appropriate to say out loud and the things that I should be too embarrassed to ever admit publicly - in fact, the more that I should be embarrassed by something the less I actually am (that already seems like a sentence that's going to make no sense when I go back and read it later - I think the tiredness is kicking in and making me incoherent). I used to think this quality was unique to my immediate family - but I'm finding that to be less and less the case as time goes on. I've lost track of the number of times complete strangers in public have told me about their battles with cancer, their anti-depressant use, their relatives who are on drugs. And what is it about vacations that make people want to tell complete strangers on an airplane, or in the hotel lobby, about everything from their bathroom habits to how their last boyfriend cheated on them. So, in the spirit of celebrating how very American we all are, let's all admit one really embarrassing thing that we should really have the dignity to never admit. I'll go first: I was once wearing a dress that was dry clean only and I accidentally walked by a sprinkler, and even though the dress only got slightly wet it still started to shrink while I was still wearing it. For those of you who aren't Americans, go ahead and have a good laugh now, we deserve it for being so ridiculously chatty.