Thursday, October 4, 2012

Up in the Air, Part 3 (Part 1)

Tobey Maguire, losing count of the number of Spiderman films he's appeared in

It's one of life's generally insignificant ironies that while most things that come in threes (fancy chocolates, travel-sized shampoo sets, children who can't dress themselves) are good, the third thing in a series often isn't. We look at the American flag, for example, and, without realizing it, think, "Red and White (that's obvious)... then Blue." Or we make a pot of coffee and the whole time thank our lucky stars for cups, which came along and made the whole thing more enjoyable. My point is we assume a logic, or a structure, to things that come in threes, an architect by inference, that may or may not be behind the scenes. Which doesn't exactly make sense of why third things that are deliberate tend also to be crap. Except perhaps that, once again, the architect behind it all is over-thinking things, a bit. 

I began with the premise in Part 1 that writers, unlike astronauts or winemakers, perceive themselves and thus their characters as empty of identity in order to feel, curiously, less alone. From there, I began drawing a line from Zadie Smith's novel NW (which got me thinking about identity in literature in the first place) to Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, which got me thinking about all of this in terms of race. Probably cause Chabon is white and male, like me. Was I nervous? Yes, of course. As Tanner Colby wrote in Slate last month, "Chabon’s white reviewers... seem nervous about being white people reviewing a book about race." Add on top of that the fact I have it in me, perhaps because I'm white, to become nervous ordering food off of a menu or while switching lanes in traffic, and you have a lot of cognitive room for disaster.

My hope is that Part 3, whatever it's about, doesn't pull a Pirates of the Caribbean or as it's known colloquially in Minnesota, a "Brett Favre," and flush the whole train of thought down a very expensive toilet. We'll get back to that essay in Slate, which gets to the bottom (in a good way) of what we talk about when we talk about running. Wait, no... writing. Namely, other people's lives.

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