A response to Blake Butler's "I Don't Want to Read Any More Books About Straight White People Having Sex," originally published in Vice:
1. If I wrote these things in bullet pointed numbers I'd save so much time typically spent on transitioning from one thought to the next. Time I could be using to save money on car insurance. Or swimming.
2."Something in [How Should a Person Be?] seemed to want you to believe it more than it believes itself." Yes, if I recall, that "something" was the plot.
3. "The Sheila character (based on Heti, assumedly, but certainly not the same as who she is beyond the page) seems constantly more interested in what people think of her and what she should be doing than doing anything at all." Good reading, Butler. Well said. And while we're on the subject, I'm beginning to think Mary Oliver's new book A Thousand Mornings is some sort of metaphor for something. (The woman's nearly 80.)
4. "I couldn’t give a shit who you have sex with or how." First of all: Really!? A character shows up and says "I'm going to tell you all about the sex," meanwhile another, probably older character says "I'm going to debate going to the pharmacy for three and a half pages, if you're interested," and you vote trip to the pharmacy, maybe? Secondly, the sex in both Sheila Heti's and Ben Lerner's books is clearly a device for their personas to inhabit and express a carapace of inability and longing to connect with others. Duh.
5. I'm serious. I'm done with "buts" and "ors" and "ands" and "ifs," "therefores," "thoughs," and "stills." Oh, right. Damnit. Close.
6. "A book essentially about a privileged young man who pretends to hate himself while actually worshiping himself during a poetry fellowship in Madrid." Name one book that isn't about a privileged young man who pretends to hate himself while actually worshiping himself during a poetry fellowship in Madrid... Okay, name two... Okay, fine, but strip away the privileged stuff about Madrid and $20 says we're talking about the majority of novels written by white men in America. And, you didn't hear it from me, but the guy misspells "worshiping" in the original article. Check it out, I'm serious. "Wor-ship-ing."
7. "Regardless, these books exist. In some ways they are evidence to me of a more prevalent feeling that people now enjoy the idea of a thing more than they like what a thing really is." Far be it for me to argue or sarcastically belittle Butler here. This is exactly how I felt when Julie & Julia came out. It's a film about a blog about a cook! It'd be like if someone played me writing about my crush on Zadie Smith! Ha... John Cusack. I would like it to be John Cusack.
8. Would you rather watch this guy have sex?
9. "This is the world. The human is what happens. There’s much else we do not understand, so much more interesting than the ego of needing a definition of what we are." Now, while I'm inclined to agree that in addition to the ego there is a wealth of inhuman material to write about, not everybody didn't just start watching Modern Family on ABC. OMG SO GOOD. It's a TV show.
10. “Realism is perpetually hungry,” [James] Wood writes, and here I don’t think he could be more wrong. Realism seems wholly sated, lardy, and ready to be worshipped, spouting out its shitty kids and petting them on the head, as long as they don’t go spitting into the current father figure’s pudding." To be honest, from here on out I have a hard time making sense of what exactly Butler's getting at. I mean, I understand he doesn't want shit in his pudding. No one does. But what that has to do with James Wood is beyond me. Say what you will about his criticism, I hardly think the guy's intent on spoiling dessert.
11. Every time I hear "I Love to Move in Here," by Moby I can't help but think of it as a song about the oft-overlooked joys of apartment hunting. The first time was by accident, of course, but now I can't resist. Imagine movers tightening screws or looking for a parking space, while Moby dances his ass off in the kitchen deciding where best to display the Fiestaware. What? Butler started it.
12. "Too much satisfaction with one’s self causes boring art, but a lack of confidence is even worse." At a certain point this thing starts sounding eerily like every memory I'd managed to suppress of high school gym. Just me?
13. You know what else? I'm not writing shelf-talkers anymore. You spend all this time, and for what? From now on I'm just comparing books to other things that people like, like booze. "Like beer? Read this book," "Remember the '90s? Read this book," and so on. This entire post only took 15 minutes to write. The only thing I can compare it to is running, and saying goodbye to people originally from here. And occasionally, when fate is on your side, the two of those things put together.