gall and gumption

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ten Bucks Worth of Barf

So on Monday I cruised the magazines at the newsstand in Union Station, having some time before my train, and I picked up two magazines I had never read before and will never, if it can possibly be avoided, read again. One is called "Pages," with the subtitle "The magazine for people who love books." The other is called "Bookmarks" which claims to be "For Everyone Who Hasn't Read Everything."

The cover of pages has a takeoff of the Michelangelo's God creating Adam, you know that great image, but instead it's Tom Hanks lying on what looks like a lily pad, apparently suffering from constipation. God, inexplicably, is Liam Neeson, and he's handing the costive Hanks a copy of the book, "The DaVinci Code."

Also featured, some sort of interview with Gay Talese, and a peek inside the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Surely this cover should have told me that I did not need to buy this magazine. But sometimes my cravings get the better of my judgment; that is the only way I can account for some of the things I have eaten lately. Perhaps this can happen with reading materials. You can never get enough of the substitute for the thing you really want, Eric Hoffer said if not in quite exactly those words.

Between the covers, ads, fluffery and hackery. The other thing was that the articles were so weirdly edited, as though someone had assigned the cutting to some sort of editorial equivalent of an axe-weilding maniac.

It also featured, in the back, an essay by some woman named Catherine Seipp. Her essay is about manners and child-rearing.

She is annoyed by the presence of a teenage girl who is talking on a cell phone and then sort of picking at her face and hair. But she takes the opportunity to impart a lesson in manners to her daughter who is there with her:

On my other side, Maia [the daughter] sat quietly reading Seventeen. "I'm going to sit on the other side of the waiting room, away from the chimpanzee girl," I whispered to her. I dislike being near people who pick at themselves in public, like apes.

You might think that such surpassing cluelessness couldn't possibly get any worse. But it does.

The woman who describes herself as trying to set a good example with manners and morals, is in a shopping center in L.A. wearing a T-shirt that says, "Stupidity is Not a Crime, So You're Free to Go."

A mother with a small child smiled, hesitated for a moment, and then volunteered, "I'd like to send that shirt to our president."
"Well," I said pleasantly, "I wouldn't, I guess, since I voted for him."
"Oh," she said, flabbergasted.
At this point, her son, about four years old, began a pantomime of stomping on ants as he yelled, "Stomp Bush! Stomp Bush! Stomp Bush!" Evidently, he'd been trained to do this, like an organ grinder's monkey, whenever the word president was uttered.

What is it with her and the monkeys and chimpanzees?

Bookmarks was more of the same, with the addition of some really appalling letters. A lot of the reviews were really compilations of blurbs from reviews that had been written elsewhere.

Which is how I learned that our Bob B. has written a review of John McGahern's last book, his memoir/autobiography. It's in the Chronicle, but not online apparently. Next time just email me, Bob.

You cannot imagine how depressing it all was. I am still trying to get it off me. I'm reading Helen C. White's book, The Metaphysical Poets, which Al Stephens recommended to me years ago. It is good, but reading those magazines made me feel so discouraged and wretched. Why? I suppose that's how you feel if you think, well, it can't be that easy to screw up writing about books, and you pick these things up and you're spending the rest of the evening, way past bedtime, rinsing and rinsing the slime out of your hair. It made me feel lost, like I fell off the edge of the world into wherever the people live who read this shit. Does this happen to you? I'm geting to be morbidly sensitive as a reader now, along with everything else, apparently.

I'll try to think of something. Got.... to.... move..... on.


At 3:40 PM, Anonymous leslie said...

Good Lord. So amazing when people expose themselves in all their nastiness and then expect you to heap praise upon them or at least beam at them indulgently. I recommend lavender salt scrub.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Kia said...

I believe she expects her readers to look up to her as an example of morality and good manners.

I don't know that her worst enemy could have done a better job than she did of showing her utter unfitness at both -- teaching her daughter to call people names and then being so smug about it. That's really hitting the rudeness and immorality jackpot.

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous mike said...

Politics aside, the kid's song and dance make good comedy. I found the dismissal of the teenager much more unforgiveable. Once a week, I am lucky enough to glance through the window of a church nursery school and look down on a group of napping babies, snoozing on their "bankies" spread about on the classroom floor. They are such pictures of innocence, that I forget for a moment that a protion of them will grow into shit heads, dummies and bullies. Then I talk to people who have never settled an issue without using threats at least and most often their fists as well. They got hit in the starting gate, before they took a step. That is the way of their world. No one turned and walked away. And almost everything could become something worth fighting about. At least Seipp held her mouth in check and saved her vitriol for her essay. Her restraint notches her up a tick above some other fools.

And thanks for the Hoffer paraphrase.

At 11:13 PM, Blogger Kia said...

I won't dispute any person's right to be a total troglodyte or vulgarian. And Lord knows that there are worse people than this, just as you say.

But I know I will raise an eyebrow when a person wearing a T-shirt like that, who teaches her daughter to call people names, who cherishes malice, claims to be an expert on manners and morality. Among other things such people give the idea of good manners a bad name.


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