June 9, 2011

What Your Favorite Author Says About You, Take 2

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What is the issue?

1. Ernest Hemingway

If you love Hemingway, you probably have a certain respect for Manly Men; for stoicism, strict personal rules, chivalry, traditional gender roles, men at war, the sport of bullfighting, drinking heavily, and, overall, (Hemingway’s version of) the Man’s Plight. Since the glorification of all/ most of these are generally frowned upon nowadays (in the Age of Irony and Equality), people who love Hemingway secretly appreciate and/ or fantasize about the way the world used to be; about being Hemingway’s Brett, or his Catherine, or Hemingway himself. But, because Hemingway’s agenda in regards to love, morality, masculinity and gender is so fully realized in many of his books – at least the classics – if you tried to pull some of the behavior that Hemingway’s characters pull, I suspect people would have some serious problems with you as a person. Full disclosure: I like The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms a lot. To a lesser extent I appreciate For Whom The Bell Tolls. Haven’t yet been taken by any of his short stories, and what I’ve read of his later work (i.e. Across the River and Into the Trees) seems terrible.

2. David Foster Wallace

If your favorite author is David Foster Wallace, you’re thoughtful, empathize with having low self-worth, harbor a nagging anxiety about how to most authentically represent yourself in social situations, take pride in maintaining a certain amount of self-awareness, are an MFA student (you idolize DFW if you’re an MFA student), have the ability to comprehend – and ‘get off on’ – self-aware, multi-level, narcissistic, gratuitous, circular, psychic digressions (while fully aware of the fact that you’re getting off on self-aware, multi-level, narcissistic, gratuitous, circular, psychic digressions), want to sincerely connect with the author (not the character), are faking being literary (in this case, you’re probably only interested in Infinite Jest), or all of the above. If your favorite author is DFW, I suspect that you almost definitely think of yourself as a Writer, want to eventually think of yourself as a Writer, and are known by your friends as Into Literature. Your personality varies, but if you really love him, you probably empathize a great deal with his endless and ultimately asinine search for ‘authenticity’ and lifelong struggle with individualism, and the fact that you’re reading Thought Catalog is somewhat of an anomaly. Full disclosure: pretty sure one of my favorite authors is DFW. Haven’t read Infinite Jest; a close friend tells me he’s pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. I believe him.

3. Tao Lin

If your favorite author is Tao Lin, you’re the type of introspective person who recognizes absurdity in typical daily behavior. You’re most likely a combination of all or some of the following: hipster, twee, Into Literature, shy/ anxious/ curious/ depressed, Poet, and under 35 years old. I suspect you read Vice Magazine, like mumblecore, enjoy quiet time over loud crazy time, treat your budding romantic interest awkwardly, and are highly sensitive to insecurities you may have. If your favorite author is Tao Lin, you’re thrilled by the way he shapes context without preconception, and just reading his work makes you want to spend all day on Gchat coming up with witty, existentially-enlightened banter to unsuspecting users on your chat list. You think the world is mundane, sad, and depressing; you think people are mundane, sad, and depressing, too. Despite this, both are somehow beautiful. Finally, if you love Tao Lin, you might be the type that goes all over internet forums and writes that you hate him (the paradox here is that you keep buying and reading his books). Another full disclosure: pretty sure one of my favorite authors is Tao Lin; he also published my first book.

4. Bret Easton Ellis

If your favorite author is Bret Easton Ellis, you might be depraved. You live in New York or LA, are into cocaine and pill cocktails, and obsess over Less Than Zero. Or, at the least, you have a dark side and are fascinated by seeing the crazy come out in other people. Out of all these authors on the list, people in love with BEE are probably some of the only ones who don’t identify or empathize heavily with the characters, and as such aren’t that interested in BEE himself. Instead, you read his characters with a sort of fascinated horror anticipating what pit of despair they’re going to fall into next, and get an unnerving bit of satisfaction each time you witness a BEE character’s downfall. If you’re into BEE, I suspect you’re also Into Literature; if you’re not Into Literature but your favorite author is BEE, then you’ve only read American Psycho. Yet another full disclosure: pretty sure one of my favorite authors is Bret Easton Ellis, and Less Than Zero and American Psycho are, in fact, my favorites.

5. Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski: dirty, depressed, funny, and a Man. If your favorite author is Bukowski, you like drinking red wine to excess, fucking to excess, and spending your money recklessly. You enjoy cigarettes and a can of beer after a “good fuck,” don’t mind living in squalor (secretly glorify it, even), and might try to get into horse racing if you ever get the chance. My opinion is that Bukowski shares some similarity with Hemingway, most especially in his hypermasculinity and efficient phrasing (one of the effects of both these authors’ prose is the hyperreal experience of cold reality and the ultimate ‘weightlessness’ of any one thing/ action/ being compared to any other thing/ action/ being, which culminates in many meaningful, cathartic moments for the reader), so if your favorite author is Charles Bukowski, Hemingway may be running a close second. Final full disclosure: Bukowski used to be one of my favorite authors – Post Office, Factotum, Ham on Rye, and Women were his novels I liked the most. Never got into his poetry or non-fiction, and eventually got sick of his voice and had to move on. TC mark

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