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Our Man Reads Reports…

…Reagan’s ‘kitchen cabinet,’ assured me during the convention [the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit} that their man did ‘not read books. He reads reports’ “   This line from Earl Shorris’ Memoir “American Vespers: The ebbing of the body politic” published in last year’s December issue of Harper’s (probably one of my top three favorite publications, if I could and you’d all guarantee me you’d read it I would gift you all a subscription.) kept going through my head as I wrote the last entry I posted regarding Twitter.

I remember reading this piece, which is equally about Shorris’, a renowned author and founder of the Clemente Course in the Humanities and winner of the 2000 National Humanities Medal,  battle with Lymphoma and the political state of our country past and present as he’s seen it and thinking further of where our literary future keeps heading and how even “briefs” and “one sheets” are now too long in the 140 character limit world that we live in.   The good thing is we’re now getting to the point much quicker, the bad things are is who exactly is this making the point and also that sometimes the answer is in the details.

Anyhow, also while writing the Twitter post, I was also reminded of two “excerpts” I’d read not so long ago that were formatted not unlike a Twitter feed.  Granted, they didn’t exactly keep to the character limit rule, but nonetheless if both of these were actual Twitter feeds I would definitely subscribe as I would be intrigued to learn more about whomever was behind each of them.

The first was from a psychological evaluation released late last year on Anders Breivik .  A name you may recognize as the man responsible for the murder of over seventy people, primarily teens at a Labor Party Youth Camp in Norway in July of last year.  This was published in English via the arts and politics online magazine Guernica (another great magazine if you have an interest in art or politics).  Here are a few of the released observations that would’ve kept me reading more even if I hadn’t been familiar with Breivik’s story.

The observed uses number values and percentages more than is normal in common speech.”

My thoughts: Uh-oh, if this is the sign of some chemical imbalance I better watch out for our whole analytics departments while at work.

The observed thinks he has the responsibility of deciding who should live and die in Norway.  The responsibility is experienced as real but burdensome.  He thinks he has an overdeveloped sense of love

My thoughts: I’m slightly de-sensitized to the whole “martyr syndrome” as of late.  In the past couple of years, I think most everyone I know has felt an “overdeveloped sense of love.”  Thankfully none that I know of have yet to feel it is up to them who gets to carry on the human race and I hope none of them will.

After reading those two statements, I’ve decided that I would definitely follow a psychologist/psychotherapist if they peppered their tweets with anonymous observations of unidentified characters of the human specimens going about their everyday lives. In this day in age of sound bites, when short blips are taken out of context from our daily conversations it might be interesting and/or surprising/disturbing what underlying or implied meanings might exist within the statements that we innocently utter.

The second “excerpt” was from a memoir by Valérie Mréjen.  It was a semi-chronological account of not only the author’s life, but even more interesting was that of her family/lineage.  Just about every line made me want to know more.  It was full of intimacies such as:

“Every year my grandfather made a trip to Italy, from where he would send a postcard addressed to our dog.”

My thoughts – Quirky characters such as that grandfather always intrigue me the most.  I refer to them as the mad scientists of the world.  My favorite kind of people to converse with.

“My grandfather’s sister is named Nicole, but her nickname is Ligou.”

My thoughts – I always wonder about people with nicknames that seem to have nothing to do with their name.  I’m guessing this woman’s nickname stemmed from childhood.  I have unfortunately, encountered less common stories involving nicknames.  I remember having had people over once a few years back at which a guy introduced himself with his name, let’s call him “Eric.”   However, he then said we could call him a totally different name, let’s say “Jerry.”  I was expecting him to say something like “that’s my middle name” or something similar, but instead he told us that “Jerry” was his brother’s name.  That was strange, but I thought maybe the brother had died, or maybe they’re like the George Foreman clan and all have the same name.  According to “Eric”/”Jerry” his brother was still alive.  We asked no further questions and the confusion was far from clarified, but I for one wanted no further information for once.  The guy turned out to be okay and not a serial killer (as far as I know), and became the drummer for a band that I knew, but I could never quite forget that awkward exchange.

“At summer camp I met a girl whose parents left her with postcards they filled in before her departure.  They scribbled a message on the back of each one, such as ‘Everything’s fine,’ along with their names and address.  All she had to do was send it.  They were pre-stamped.”

My thoughts:

Thought #1 – The mailing things off is the part I am bad at.  The extra trips to the post-office are rarely convenient.  This is how I started my tradition of sending off New Year’s Cards in lieu of holiday cards. I could never get holiday cards off in time for the holidays.  So I decided that I better identified w/the promise of a fresh start implied by a new year and instead adopted that as a time to send greetings and gave myself the whole month of January to send those out.

Thought #2 – Did the girl remember to send these out? I genuinely wanted to know.  I should adopt this method.  I am very bad at letting my parents know how I’m doing for the most part, except for recently.  I’m pretty independent and have never really liked telling anyone what I’m doing, where I’m going, when I’ll be back, etc.  I’m not doing anything bad/wrong, but that independent streak is a strong one.  I know they worry about me, but it’s just not something I’ve ever been able to get in the habit of.  The only exception seems to be when I’m in a relationship.  So long as they aren’t trying to be controlling nor want to know what I’m doing every second of the day, I don’t mind willingly giving boyfriends all of this info.

“My mother remembered every poem she had ever memorized.”

My thoughtsWhat poems were her favorites?

I have a good memory, but it’s been a little while (aside from public speaking that I get coerced into every now and then) since I purposely worked at memorizing anything.  Songs I learn by singing along, but I’m never purposely trying to learn them.

When I was in elementary school, for most of those years because I got good grades I somehow got wrangled into participating in a bunch of academic competitions against other schools.  This started at about the age of 7 or 8 until I was about 14.  Memorizing things was a big part of this world (how does that qualify you as smart?).  I wonder if I’d still be able to remember all of that stuff.  I’m glad that my parents never forced this stuff on me and let me balance it all with having fun and getting into my share of trouble.

“For my brother’s wedding, my father sent an invitation to Aunt Ligou.  She read it distractedly and sent regrets that she would be unable to attend the bar mitzvah.”

My thoughts – One of my all time favorite shows was the B.B.C.’s “Keeping Up Appearances.”  I’ve loved it since I was a pre-teen.  I wonder why I’ve never picked up a dvd set of this?  Anyhow, this line reminded me of Mrs. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) and many of the situations that would arise and predicaments she’d get herself and those around her into in each episode.

While reading all of this in short order was greatly appealing, especially when I rarely seem to have the time to even sleep most of the time, and while Twitter feeds can be entertaining I hope that I will always make the time and have the interest to continue to read physical books as that’s something that I don’t think I could ever give up.  To me there is nothing like being inside of an old library replete with stories on everything and anything, enough ghosts and dust to aggravate your allergies, and a who’s who of the literary set lining the walls.   If any of you want to build me a library resembling any of the below I would run off with you immediately (actually maybe not immediately immediately as I’ve got lots of conference calls and meetings this week, but as soon as those let up I’ll run away with you immediately after).   If you stock it full of first-editions, I’ll even name it after you.

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