Friday, December 27, 2013

Rule of threes

Probably good advice! Especially since I think Goodreads is largely stupid/pointless: This is on record. But I am kind of grimly fascinated by what's transpiring there w/r/t my second book. The French Exit has almost exclusively 4- and 5-star ratings. The Self Unstable is racking up 1's and 2's and 3's.

You'll just have to take my word for it when I say I'm not particularly offended or hurt by these; I don't take random strangers' opinions seriously enough to be. I wouldn't be checking Goodreads at all but my free Mention account (which usually only sends me flattering mentions!) keeps alerting me to these middling to bad reviews. That is sort of annoying, but on balance I find this gives me an odd sense of pride. I have always felt that there's some threshold of "fame" (relative fame, people; it's pretty damn low for poets) that, when you cross, means people are going to start disliking you. So 1-star reviews feel almost like a badge of honor. Some guy has only rated one book, and it was my book, with 1 star? Great! Someone cares enough to send the very worst.

~

I thought that I had heard all my parents stories, dozens of times each. But stories must be like memories, getting reinforced with every telling, so the old familiar stories are easier to each for and more deeply etched. This year, it's just me and my parents doing the Christmas thing; my one living grandparent is no longer well enough to transport home, John is in Connecticut, my brother is in Austin with his wife and dogs, and my cousins, etc. all had other plans. Over the past couple of days, I was surprised to learn a few things about my parents that had never come up before:

  • My dad is one of the last hold-outs, among internists, that still visits his own patients in the hospital. This is called, in the parlance, "making rounds." Over the years, all the doctors he knows have stopped seeing patients in the hospital and left that to "hospitalists" (a word I never heard before this year). I asked my dad why he still does it; I assumed it was just an "old habits die hard" thing. But nope: It's because he really likes it. He told me that hospital patients are the difficult and therefore more interesting cases, whereas most of his job is just managing long-term stable conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which is boring. And even though hospital life is hard and getting harder (hard because you might get called to go down there in the middle of the night; getting harder because hospitals have moved to electronic records and everything takes longer), it's worth it to him for the challenge. I love knowing this about my dad.
  • At Christmas dinner, fraternities somehow came up. My dad was in a fraternity. I mentioned being glad that there were none at Rice but that I wouldn't have wanted to join a sorority anyway. My dad looked surprised; I don't think he's absorbed the new cultural idea of frats as Douchebag Nation. Anyway, then my mom told me something she'd never mentioned before: For months before my parents met, at the wedding of a mutual friend (a night they refer to as "Some Enchanted Evening"; it was love at first sight), friends had been trying to set them up, but my mom kept saying that she didn't want to date a "frat boy." I love knowing this about my mom.

This blurry selfie is us:


And here's an old picture of my parents I found in an album, from some vacation or other. My parents are so adorable to me!


And as long as I'm at it, here's one of my brother, our two cousins who are about our ages, and me when we were all at our maximally cutest:



I can't stand it!

~

So, I'm sick. I never get sick in Denver, but last year the same thing happened: Holiday traveling did me in. It sucks to be sick on your vacation, but since I work from home, if I weren't on vacation I'd be sick and working which I guess is worse. And sick/vacating though I am, I feel guilty about not working. America sucks! 

10 comments:

  1. The thing about Goodreads is, it's not for writers. It's for readers. I use it because I like to keep track of what I read. I don't care about the ratings.

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    1. Well, right, but some readers do apparently care about the ratings. Reb Livingston says she uses them to help her decide what to read (and not to read, presumably). Also: no reviews are "for writers."

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    2. Yes, no reviews are "for writers," which is why writers shouldn't complain:) (I'm finding Gabriel Roth's book pretty meh, by the way.)

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    3. I'm not complaining. And we never like the same books.

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  2. I've been reading a bio of Andy Warhol, and it says that Warhol worked worked worked, like his immigrant father, but unlike his father made work a game, made it fun. That's how I want to be: work all the time--well, much of the time--but make work like play. That way I could at once accomplish a lot and subvert the puritanical underpinning of American culture.

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    1. I wish I could figure out a way to do that. Does he have any tips?

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  3. I've yet to come across any. Of course if your work is painting, filming Edie Sedgwick, working psychedelic strobe lights for The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, etc., it might be easy to see your work as play. Now when I have a pagoda of egregious and probably half-plagiarized essays to grade, seeing that as play requires some deft mental jujitsu.

    An archaic meaning of egregious is "remarkably good." Om...

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  4. What's the deal with J. Wahlgren's comment about TSA on Goodreads? What a dick.

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    1. Yeah, that was kind of weird. I think it's a joke? I don't know! My mom actually asked me about it, haha.

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