Friday, June 17, 2005

Phoniness Dept.

My main request is always that the puppets of the lit-world start behaving like real people. (That Galley Cat tell us, for instance, that she's not going to issue a correction to her false statements-- instead of continually promising Jeff Potter-- falsely-- that she will.)

These are people who have never discovered how NOT to be fake.

Case in point: Not so long ago, in her various "Gawker" and "Kicker" incarnations, Elizabeth Spiers was applauding the Will Ratblood-designed ULA t-shirt I sent her, or posting, "Wenclas?"-- inviting me to publicly comment about something she said. When she went to work for MediaBistro (she sure hops around climbing that ladder, doesn't she?) the political winds changed. Suddenly she was denouncing me from the MediaBistro pulpit for "barraging" her with mail (two zeens-- one of which she reviewed!-- and a t-shirt). One could say about her, "The completely mutable lit-world flunkie, as pliable as Gumby."

(They should put ads for such people on MediaBistro with just such statement, along with the additional note: "Order Yours Today!" What's that you say? They display those ads on their site-- every day? I'm sorry. My apologies.)

Judging by her photo on the MediaBistro site, I'd say Ms. Spiers is troubled. Note the worried expression, sign of someone who has to always be on the correct side. She's unsure what stand now to take. She's thinking, "Are we at war with Eurasia, or Eastasia, this week?"
* * * * * * * * *
Look carefully at all the MediaBistro photos. Look very closely, and you'll see, scarcely visible but there, the marionette strings attached to every one of them, from Head Puppet Laurel Touby on down. Do you see them?


Tao Lin said...

i know you are, but what am i?

- Leopold said...

Ug...This article would almost be tolerable but for the rediculous McS plug at the end.

Book review from the Globe and Mail titled: "A heartbreaking tale of staggering wealth"

"They were careless people ..... they smashed up things ..... then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess." That line, from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, describes almost every adult we meet in Sean Wilsey's shattering, lucid memoir, Oh the Glory of It All. But Wilsey, the son of a San Francisco millionaire and his society columnist wife, has written a surprisingly warm memoir about what it was like to be raised by careless people, and how he cleaned up the mess they almost made of him.

At first glance, there seems to be no reason to read this book. Another clever equivalent of a Bildungsroman about the spoiled only child of aggressively narcissistic parents? How can the reader identify with a kid dropped off to play by jet helicopter, one piloted by his handsome, adulterous father?

But Wilsey pulls you in, page 1: "In the beginning we were happy. And we were always excessive. So in the beginning we were happy to excess."

The first act concerns Wilsey's parents' acrimonious divorce, which at the time was one of the most expensive splits in modern American history, the details luridly splayed across San Francisco's society pages. "This was an eighties prime-time soap opera drama. Except for the pain," he writes.

Here are the rotten details: Wilsey's father, Al, left his mother for a younger woman who was also his mother's best friend, the venally portrayed Dede Traina, in whom his mother, Pat Montandon, naively confided. At the time, the budding socialite Dede was married to John Traina, a shipping magnate. When Dede left John, he married author Danielle Steel, but not before Danielle had a brief affair with Sean's father, Al, just before he finally married Dede. Exhale. That's page 37, classic Danielle Steel material, though Sean Wilsey rinses it through J..D. Salinger's literary sieve.

Wilsey's mother is a whirlwind of contradiction, a woman devoted to her son but emotionally abusive. In the throes of depression, Montandon asks him, at 10, to form a suicide pact, describing how both should jump off the penthouse terrace to avenge her abandonment. Eventually, Montandon recovers and embarks on quixotic global peace missions, trips she continues to this day, her latest stop Beslan to comfort children traumatized by last September's murderous hostage crisis at a Russian school near Chechnya.

Young Sean joined her on those trips at first, meeting Pope John Paul II, Indira Gandhi, Helmut Kohl and Menachem Begin, among other luminaries. All the while, his fantasy mission was to ask world leaders to come back to San Francisco to convince his father to rejoin the family. Eventually, as Al Wilsey became more consumed by his voracious bride, and his mother's missions took her farther from home, Sean was shipped away like an unwanted toy.

He writes of a lonely journey through a myriad of private schools, each by turns useless and horrific. He escapes from a semi-juvenile detention centre, but after a stupid stunt lobbing fruit off the balcony of his mother's penthouse, he's finally packed off to Italy to reluctantly live in a so-called "therapeutic community" in Tuscany. For four years, Sean wails through self-conscious, primal-scream-type exercises, designed to release anger and express heartbreak, two things he'd never done before. But there he receives attention and guidance (and an inordinate amount of hugs), and graduates a calmer, wiser man.

"Crazy and silly as it all was, thank God there was a place, briefly, where tenderness was possible," he writes, wryly adding, "in exchange for money."

Wilsey's memoir is a testament to the resilience of children, and the fact that money is no insulation against the psychic turmoil damaged adults transfer onto their offspring. It should be noted that Wilsey is an editor at McSweeney's, the Dave Eggers-helmed publishing empire of fictional whimsy and pop-cultural detritus. Say what you will about its sometimes twee, often hyper-verbal output, McSweeney's taps a vein with Generation X because theirs was the first to be raised during the soaring divorce rates of the late 1970s and '80s.

Much of the writing in McSweeney's comes from creative minds who suffered childhoods likely interrupted by despairing adults and their loud concerns. And because the stories are often elliptical, code-like and steeped in trivia, they feel as though they're honed by writers who refuse to grow up, or have never learned how to, unable to let go of the coy trappings of innocence and curiosity.

Still, Wilsey's memoir carries none of the so-called "McSweeney's characteristics." Oh the Glory of It All is clear-eyed, linear and (mostly) pitiless. Divorce can leave children feeling like world-weary soldiers, but a bad one rattles their very cores. Wilsey wanders through the early pages as damaged and angry as an unlucky war vet, suffering the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: aggression, withdrawal, severe depression and, I would suggest, a little-discussed symptom called hypernesia.

Hypernesia is the opposite of amnesia, which can protect the brain from fully absorbing horrid facts. Hypernesia leaves its victims unable to forget anything, a curse for Wilsey the boy, a blessing for Wilsey the writer — but a challenge for his editor, who, frankly, was not up to the task. That's my only quibble in an otherwise ridiculously compelling memoir. There are a few too many details and some frustrating repetition; sometimes Wilsey's memoir is more stew than sauce, but the whole damn thing goes down easy nonetheless.

Lisa Gabriele is the author of the novel Tempting Faith DiNapoli.

Anonymous said...

Where are you, King? Have you seen this new article on mobylives?

I sent Clementson a supportive email--I think. I mean, I sent it to Ig Publishing, but maybe that wasn't the correct thing to do.

Eh, already some are criticizing the article (too often with fallacious arguments, IMO). Oh well. What else is new?


King Wenclas said...

I've only scanned the article. (As I've found, this can be hazardous!-- but I have little time on-line.)
From what I can see, Clementson is saying things which writers like Jack Saunders and myself have been saying for many years.
Note how the lit-world is slowly but inevitably moving in our direction.

Tao Lin said...

i should join an MFA and then when i get there be all satirical and self-conscious and try to parody everything in the middle of workshop

who will fill out an application for me?

i feel so useless because of laziness

Jeff Potter said...

Yeah, those Demi-Puppets are something.

Galley is not only stringing me along, she's slamming herself at the same time. So very weird.

Here's from a recent email: "Being disorganized and slow is very, very different from being disingenuous. ... I'll post a correction in my own time."

Hello? If you can't do it right, why do you have a blog, Galley? Don't post a correction if you're going to do it late. Duh, it's nothing then. Just say "Screw you. I'm an idiot and I don't care." Post stupid slander about people if you're just going to be a simple moron---foot-dragging only makes it worse.

I mean, Galley and Ed Rants both thought that because King and Hotpockets' blogs had the same IP that they were the same people! THAT was their insider news scoop! Ed Rants could've seen that HE had the same IP, too! --Everyone with a blog does! Doh!

So Galley declares that we're spoofing ourselves for cheap PR. I prove her hilariously wrong. She says she'll apologize. Then doesn't. Clever!

Kids: we don't do cheap PR. We do great PR! The kind that money can't buy! Our PR doesn't spoof potty-talk. What's nothing! Where's your judgement Galley and Ed Rants? Our PR exposes Dave Eggers as a hilariously inept slanderer on Amazon and gets on the cover of the NYT! And we don't even TRY to get it. See the difference?