The Netflix Obamas

I’m happy the Obamas will be doing a Netflix show. It’s better than trying to push Michelle into politics.

Anything they do that doesn’t include her running for office is great. I wish somebody signed their daughters up for a show or a Hollywood movie to ensure they won’t run.

Seattle Food

Also, on the subject of Seattle, I need to mention that it’s the perfect place for people with gastrointestinal troubles. Because everything is so gosh darn healthy! And delicious!

There was this place we went to for dinner that has a dish which consists of broccoli. That’s it. Nothing but roasted broccoli. And it’s an amazing dish that left me almost licking the plate. Mind you, I’m an “it’s not a meal without a hunk of meat” person. I eat vegetarian for health reasons but it’s not what I want to be doing. That broccoli, though, man, forget meat, it was seriously hardcore.

I haven’t felt better in a long time. Here, every outing is fraught with danger and I never know if I’ll be laid sick by the food on offer.

Book Notes: Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I read the novel on my flight back from Seattle just to find out if the author even has any literary talent or I am wasting my time defending him. I mean, if he’s not talented, then screw him. Let him be eviscerated if that pleases the consuming public.

In case you don’t know, Junot Diaz writes immigrant lit. In order to be successful in this genre, you need to be as slobberingly, pitifully servile to your US readers as it is humanly possible. You know those stray dogs who are so desperate to be thrown a few scraps that they roll on their backs, lick your arm, and affect cuteness and helplessness to appeal to your sense of disgusted pity? That’s what this genre is like.

All immigrant communities produce authors in this genre but some are much more successful than others. Russian-speaking authors stink to high hell at immigrant lit. They don’t make convincing victims. They can’t use the n-word on every page. They don’t have an appealing dictatorship to bitch about. I mean, they do have a dictatorship to put all other dictatorships to shame but it’s not the dictatorship that you are allowed to mention in a book addressed to leftie readers. And that’s who the genre targets. Whatever you do, don’t rub the Assistant profs at Vassar and Princeton the wrong way. They need to be able to pity you, so make yourself pitiful, lick their feet and wag your tail like you mean it.

Russian-speaking authors of immigrant lit suck at this game. It’s much easier for Latin Americans to play it because everybody at the English lit department at Pomona is used to seeing Hispanic maids and gardeners and finds it easy to slip into the pity mode the moment a Spanish-sounding name is uttered.

Junot Diaz’s success demonstrates that he mastered the rules of the game very well. The only problem is that, the moment you decide to play, you set yourself up for the moment when you will be outvictimed by a more pitiful and fashionable victim. And then you’ll be eviscerated by the formerly contented readers who will suddenly realize they have wasted their milk of human kindness on somebody who is not the victimest victim at all. And that will make them very, very angry. They believe they are entitled to real, high-quality, first-class victims. Being cheated of pitying elite status victims makes them quite loopy.

And this is what happened to Junot Diaz. Poor bugger has been outvictimed and is now shunned as the unfair recipient of the pity he wasn’t entitled to. Or defended as somebody who did deserve the pity after all. For those of you who don’t know, a debate is currently raging in academia and in the media as to whether he’s the victimest victim of the greatest victimization or not.

As for the question of whether he has talent, after reading the novel I can say that it’s not unlikely but in order for us to find out, he should stop ingratiating himself with the sated and fickle lefties, drop the immigrant lit genre, stop trying to sell “identity” and victimization, and finally start writing.

But hey, within the genre, it’s as good a novel as any. A cute airport read, but only if it’s your first ever book in this genre. After reading one immigrant lit gem, you’ve got to have ulterior motive to pick up the second one because they are all as identical as their target readers.

Leaving Seattle

This is a great city, folks. It’s beautiful, the food is fantastic, the architecture is lovely, the surrounding nature is out of this world. I still love DC more but that’s probably because I was there with N (and with Klara inside me), and that colors my perception.

On the negative side, the prices are ridiculous, the homelessness is painful to watch and a lot worse than in St Louis. It’s shocking to see people defecating in the street in the middle of a crowd of overdressed tourists. It can’t be that hard to provide free toilet booths in such a rich city.

I used to miss living in a city to the point it hurt. The wealth of sensory experiences, the crowds, the anonymity, the cafes, the culinary adventurousness, the people watching, the shopping, the used book stores, the intellectual rewards of a fast-paced environment – I would feel like being deprived of it all was like living death. Every time left a city to go back to one of the small college towns where I lived, I’d weep and feel like I was on a way to my emotional and intellectual funeral.

I haven’t felt like that for many years, though. A city is great but my sleepy little Midwestern suburb is great, too. I can inhabit both worlds and not feel like I’m losing the most important parts of who I am when I’m leaving a big city. This is a big part of my personal growth. Which, obviously, doesn’t mean that people who haven’t moved in this direction aren’t achieving personal growth. Everybody grows in their own direction, so I’d never condemn folks who suffer in sleepy rural towns or in big cities. Growth is whatever helps one to stay intellectually vibrant. And if that vibrancy is predicated on thriving in a specific type of place, that’s great.