Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Failure of the Day: Looking ‘Till You Find It

Those of you who visit certain other blogs may have noticed the steady and steadily increasing drumbeat of Chris whipping himself into a full-blown frenzy, which somehow he will sustain for another full month, and that will increase until I am genuinely worried about his blood pressure. (I am familiar with this process; I remember the month before Episode I. And Episode II. And, you know, Episode III.)

So, I like Superman just fine, OK? Even the version drawn by that one guy who makes his head is just WAY to small for his massive body and it sort of looks like his neck is blowing a little bubble. (A bubble of pure goodness, though!) I found a toehold into him thanks to Michael Chabon, and I’ve been gripping like a champ ever since. But I’ll admit that the Big Blue Boy Scout is not so much a natural fit for me.

I am even less comfortable with Neil Gaimen, although I’ve never read anything he’s written—I base my discomfort purely on his fans, nearly all of whom badly need haircuts and new shoes, because dude? Uggs are for girls. And you should never, never tuck your jeans into them. Dear god, is this your first time out of the group home?

Anyhoo, so imagine my surprise when I found this article, with this choice graph:

"What’s important, though, is how Superman uses these powers. Compared to most A-list comic characters, he has almost no memorable villains. Think of Batman, locked in eternal combat with nocturnal freaks like the Joker—or Spider-Man, battling megalomaniacal weirdos like Dr. Octopus. For Superman, there’s pretty much only bitter, bald Lex Luthor, forever being reinvented by writers and artists in an effort to make him a worthy foe. Superman’s true enemies are disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, jet planes tumbling from the sky, enormous meteors that would crush cities. Superman stands between humanity and a capricious universe."

Ah, see now we’re talking. This is what I have always needed—A hero who fights nature. Fuck those morons with deathray guns and world domination plots; none of them have ever lost me a moment’s sleep. But stuff that just happens, acts of god, no-fault disasters, and c’mon now, disease? Fate, shitty luck, bad parents, lousy coordination? For this, I need a man in tights. Oh yeah. Tights. And preferably wrapped around Brandon Routh’s thighs, too.

For reals, though I’m on board. I wasn’t ever really resisting, but my last bit of “But I like books without pictures” snobbyness is smashed to smithereens. Nature is really big, and it can fuck you up; I know it as well as anyone. And I'll tell you what, I didn't do that great fighting it on my own, so I'll take all the help I can get. Superman, I'm yours.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Failure of the Day: Proximity to Exhausted Greatness

The cavalcade of south bay literary adventures continued this week when I found myself at a cocktail party with Gore Vidal on Wednesday night. Now, when I say “found myself at” you understand of course that I mean “went incredibly out of my way to go to the party where I knew Gore Vidal would be.”

SJSU sponsored an event with GV, and Chris’s store runs the literary concession at university literary events. Chris worked the event and I tagged along to see the lecture and then go to the reception. The evening was GV “in conversation” with a humanities prof, and I confess to being somewhat meh about the show. GV is witty and charming and encyclopedic and just what you expect, but the audience was just too easy and eager. Uproarious laughter at the slightest hint of cleverness, thunderous ovations for every obvious political critique—as though showing off their own cleverness by elaborately demonstrating their ability to appreciate him.

Afterward, he signed books at the table next to where we were selling them, so I had ample time to observe the man up close and at length. He’s moved beyond old and now completely embodies “elderly.” He is—or at least was for all of Wednesday night—confined to a wheelchair. He might have spoken five words during the hour he spent signing. He moved his pen so lightly across the book pages that I was surprised any ink got onto them at all—his hand was much surer with the tumbler of whiskey that never left his grip. I got a few books signed for the bookstore to sell; I met his eye and thanked him as sweetly as I could and then left him the hell alone.

At the author party, I was delighted by the petits fours and coconut shrimp. If there are ever fancy author receptions for me, though, instead of wine and cheese, I want miniature soft serve ice cream cones. GV endured a constant stream of admirers who literally knelt in front of him all night, but it was too late: the part of him that put on The Gore Vidal Show earlier in the evening had been turned off for the night. He weathered the fawning by looking alternately bored, aggravated, and actually asleep.

I can’t say I’m disappointed in the evening. I’ve never read any of his work so I really only know him from his pithy quips on Larry King. So there’s that. Oh, and also that I’m as shallow as an oil stain in a parking lot and wanted only to be able to say I’d been to a cocktail party with Gore Vidal. Which, by the way, I have been.