trying to look at the bright side.

i finally saw sarah vowell tonight. granted, i've only been into her for a few months, but i am a big fan. the funny thing is, though, i'm not really a fan of her writing. well, that's not entirely true. i really love her personal nonfiction stories, but then she gets really, really into history, and anything even mentioning history (or art, and especially art history), i just, for the life of me, can't get into. yes, this is me claiming to be ignorant and lazy. i don't really want to learn about charlemagne or historical civil wars. maybe it's just the dates and memorization of names and places that drives me crazy, who knows.

but i really do like sarah. once she put down her new book (which i'm sure is great, but i honestly probably won't read), the wordy shipmates, and started fielding questions, things suddenly became a lot more interesting. the first question someone asked was about native americans owning slaves. sarah talked about how the cherokee and some other tribes owned slaves, and how, while this was a horrible thing, actually shows the native americans in a more humanistic light (as in all humans are capable of evil), as opposed to this idea of the noble savage who was entirely good for the mere sake that they were completely "decimated."

the rest of the q + a session was a letdown of sorts, as sarah's sarcastic quips and "i don't know's" made it quite clear that she wasn't up for any sort of bullshit academic masturbation fest. seriously, you should've heard some of the shit they were asking. "why do you think the english have a better sense of irony than the americans?" what? what fucking planet are you on, buddy? audience members were treating her like she was some sort of deity, and i think that she made every attempt to undercut her authority in order to try and come across as a real person who longs for real conversations. but maybe that's just me projecting.

while i would've liked to stick around and tell her how i really loved hearing her read "shooting dad" on this american life, i didn't want to have to wait in line and fight crowds. i really don't think i'd deal with any crowd or line to meet an author, except possibly the chance of meeting jhumpa lahiri. all the best guys and girls are dead. but even then, what's the point? autographs are fun when you're a kid. i remember going to disneyworld and getting autographs from mickey mouse and cinderella and the ninja turtles, and it was a great time, until my older cousin said, "you know those are just people in costumes, right?" and i did know. i just hadn't put two and two together, i suppose.

i guess if you're a hardcore collector and need to have every first edition limited edition hardcover, you'd stick around for an autograph. but really, what's an author have to say to you, a random stranger in a random city? dear jeff, warm regards. dear alice, thanks for reading. dear mike, nice leather jacket. it's like the whole yearbook thing. you don't really know these people, so what are you going to write to them? remember that time we had class together and didn't talk? that class was fun. keep in touch.

i've start printing small labels at work and i've been sticking them on buses. they are like little fortune cookies except that they don't tell you your fortune. they give you the real scoop. like one reads: my life is more ordinary than yours. and i guess they're like post-secrets, but they're not really secrets. they're more like pleas or sympathies sent out to the world. another: i'm really sorry that you hate your job. i don't know why i'm doing this. i just like the thought of strangers reading something i've come up with. and maybe it will start a craze. it'll be better than that elitist poetry on buses shit because you won't have to submit your poem. you'll just need a label maker.

i was nervous putting my first one on today. i wanted the bus to clear out, so i could do it. it felt like i was trying to steal something, and i chickened out on the first bus, but not the second. i saw these little black half balls on the roof of the bus and recognized them as cameras. i hope i don't get caught. i'd probably just get a fine if i did, but then i also imagine myself having to peel off every single one myself, and that would be a real bitch. is it really vandalism, though? just a few words never hurt anybody. well, except for mein kempf. right before i exited the 7, i got the nerve to finally post one. it reads: i'm talking about hard times, please listen.

maybe it will help me get discovered and i can turn this stupid blog into a book. and then, yes. i'll be more than happy to sign your fucking book.


Tiffany said...

omg I am reading Jhumpa Lahiri's new book of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, and I am in love all over again. Have you read them yet? I couldn't put the damn thing down for like two days! I have been meaning to discuss this with you for several days, but it always slips my mind when I am relaying all the drama. Clearly, Jhumpa is much more important that my poor decisions, but I am self-involved.

ms.meggie said...

dude! why would you get in trouble for sticking a label some place on the bus? it would be an improvement from the graffiti and vandalism. besides, i once sat next to a purse full of puke. no joke. labels are the last of their problems.

sprout said...

i'm seeing sarah v read on thursday night...

Jacob Dempsey said...

James, you make me sick. Causing mischief on the busses. You're a degenerate. Makes me gosh darn sick to my stomach.

(Now this is where you get really annoyed, and WRITE IT DOWN, and then I make a comic of it)

be good

emily said...

Well, well, well, look who has suddenly become a little modern artist. You should check out Jenny Holzer's "Truisms".