The Biggest Clown

Today Putin shared with the public a fantasy of beating up a gay man in the shower. Then he declared that he doesn’t have bad days because he isn’t a woman. 

Don’t you sometimes get a feeling that world leaders are competing for the title of the biggest clown? 

Book Notes: Richard Russo’s Straight Man

People have been telling me for years to read Richard Russo’s Straight Man. I resisted because I don’t like the genre of academia novels and I especially dislike humorous novels. Finally, however, I gave up and read the novel and, as much as I tried not to, I fucking loved it. I didn’t find it funny, though. I found it terrifying because it hits too close to home.

Just the other day, somebody was telling me on Facebook that professors who lead no intellectual life, do no research, and only teach some recycled intro courses don’t exist. Russo’s novel was written 20 years ago and it’s precisely about this kind of professors. And yes, it’s the 1980s and the 1990s that gave us this model and it still won’t die. Seriously, are there any academics reading this blog who haven’t seen what happens to their colleagues when they stop living the life of the mind, stop reading, stop writing? We all know the problem is ubiquitous but we don’t like to say it because it’s politically inconvenient. 

This is a risk we all run. Intellectual stagnation can happen to anyone. And when it happens to really smart people, they go nuts like you can’t imagine. But you will be able to if you read this great novel. 

It Works

I want to put my response to the question of “How can it help to cure the problem just by understanding it?” in a separate post because many people don’t even know that it’s possible.

My friend, you are right, it is like magic. I have no idea why the magic happens but it does.

Imagine a person who has an addiction. It’s a serious addiction, it’s been going on for years, and it’s getting worse. And then the person goes into psychoanalysis, talks, figures it out and. . . He’s cured. Addiction is gone.

Imagine a person with 3 addictions, 5 self-destructive behaviors, and all central bodily functions compromised (eating disorders, sleep disorders, etc.) And then all of a sudden, it all begins to fall away and she can lead a normal life. No addictions, no self-destructive behaviors.

That’s how it works. And I wouldn’t have believed it had I not experienced it myself. I have no idea why understanding the problem has such potency but it does.

Of course, it all begins with a person wanting to get better. And as you say, if they don’t, that’s all there is to it.

Mind you, though, you can’t do it on your own. It takes professional help. It’s like dentistry. Tooth hurts like a sad m-fucker, you go to a dentist, she does something, tooth doesn’t hurt.