Return from Brief Misanthropy

17 September 2002

Well, hmm. The good part of yesterday is that I learned that Florence King's With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy is a nice antidote for grumpiness. Funny book. I'm almost done with it, and I've liked it quite a bit. I picked it up at the library yesterday when I was looking for Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonder or Wonders, I forget which, it's written on my list so I don't have to remember.

The grocery store was filled with grocery store employees milling around, standing in aisles, pushing carts, and doing pretty much everything they could to impede actual grocery shopping. Everything, that is, short of putting things on shelves, taking things off shelves, moving shelves, relabeling shelves, or anything that might appear to have some actual function to grocery shoppers at a later date. Sigh.

We went to the library, where they had reinstated a fine on Timprov's card for Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede, which we returned last April ('01 April) and supposedly took care of last June. And when we pointed out to the librarian that the book in question was on the shelf, and we knew exactly where, he did not want us to go get it. No. He was merely interested in collecting a "replacement fee" for it (as if they would replace it -- hah). So Timprov decided he didn't need to deal with that for a couple volumes of pleasure reading and some CDs. I had checked out my books already, and I really do need to deal with the library for the nonfiction work I do, and for some of the fiction work. But I stood at the circulation desk to have the interlibrary loan books checked in. Next time I'll stand and have them check in all of my books. I know people lie about this sort of thing all the time, but the fact that the librarian did not even want to check the book was disturbing to me.

And when we got home, Mark had talked to my grandma, who said that her copies of my nonfiction children's books still had not arrived, and the post office people said I had to ask about it from my end. Grrrr.

So I put Warchild in my backpack to go up to Berkeley, but I also grabbed With Charity Toward None, and it improved my mood immensely. (Also, I could then poke Zed and say lookee what Iiiii got.)

It had bits in it about all sorts of lovely misanthropes, including but not limited to King herself. On the second page, she says, "My consultants recommended several nihilists and existentialists but I rejected them all. A black turtleneck sweater does not a misanthrope make. Nihilists and existentialists tend to be bohemians, who invariably run in packs; despite their alienated stance they have always struck me as a sociable lot who surround themselves with people because they are forever saying 'Nothing matters,' and they need someone to say it to." Ahhh. I relaxed, standing on the subway platform. It would be good, I knew then.

Then I came to, "Decades are full of people, so if you hurry up and hate the decade just past, you can hate just about everybody now alive, yet be accused of nothing stronger than a sense of history." Lovely. The chapter on tender misanthropes and their love of nonexistent "real people" while they keep hating the actual ones -- oh, wonderful. ("Seeing how much American madness can be traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau is like seeing how many words can be formed from antidisestablishmentarianism. In both cases the answer is: a lot.") The label of Tourette's Misanthropy (idealism with a short fuse) -- sublime.

I enjoyed the whole thing. And yet, I'm not a misanthrope, not really. Whenever I try, I find I'm not very good at it for more than an hour or so. Charlie Stross has an interesting, scary post in his diary, about the Six Day War and a submarine full of hallucinating Russian sailors with nuclear launch capability. He says, "Not only is the world an unsafe place, it is more unsafe than we know -- possibly more unsafe than we can imagine." Well, yes. And also no. Human beings are the most dangerous thing, yes, and we do incredibly stupid things when we give ourselves the chance. But human beings are also one of the most protective things, and we do incredibly creative things when we give ourselves the chance. What all this says to me is not that we're permanently unsafe in an abstract, objective sense, but that the types of things we need to cultivate to be safer are not the types of things we have been cultivating. At all.

I'm not saying that Stross is a misanthrope, or that he'd disagree. In fact, some of the entry makes me think he'd agree firmly with the last bit, although I haven't asked him. But it's just incidents like that, and my response to them, that make it clear to me that I'm not a misanthrope no matter how many stupid people get between me and my groceries or my loved ones and their books.

I suppose that's a good thing.

So anyway. I made a happy peanut dipping sauce from David's recipe and put green beans and red peppers in it, with our dinner. I'm going to have more of it at lunch, I think. And I got good feedback on "Things We Sell to Tourists" at the writers' group meeting, and nobody thought I should scrap it or even bits of it, so that's probably a good sign. I'm not sure I'm going to work on it today, though. I have a chiropractor's appointment at 2:00 (hooray for Dr. Bill!), and I also had a really, really obvious thought about something I need to do in the Not The Moose: I need to include some of the Kalevala's Sampo tales in some form. I'm not sure what form, though, and while it would be natural for Karl and Riina to swap tales in the third section on their grand Finnish road trip, that seems too late to start with them. So I wonder if Orvokki and Ansa don't take it upon themselves to educate the Brits with a story or two in the middle of the first section. It doesn't seem the sort of thing Sohvi would do. Maybe Vihtori. Maybe it's a sauna thing.

I realize I just took a left turn into external incomprehensibility there. Sorry about that. I'm sure you all managed to translate: "M'ris working on book, happy with work on book, will continue to work on book, something about a sauna."

I like to say sauna. Sauna sauna sauna. It's not nearly as much fun to type, though. (And you have to say it right: "SOW-nah." Not "Sah-nah.")

So yesterday, since I had mentioned Yom Kippur, Evan told me that "Shana Tovah" is the proper Yom Kippur greeting-wish. I'll try to remember. And as long as he was e-mailing, he also apologized for anything he might have done to hurt me or mine in the last year. I couldn't come up with anything. I don't know about this, though. I said if there was anything, I forgave him for it, and now I don't get to call spiritual backsies if I remember later. Then I remembered that I'm supposed to be doing that every single day in my own religion. Also no spiritual backsies there. Sigh. Just seems like they ought to be showing up somewhere. Maybe in a watered-down American version of a religion? I just don't know.

So. Working on the Not The Moose Book, getting the back fixed, reading Warchild, working on the tough essay from last week again. Maybe paying some bills and writing some letters. And maybe I'll look over the ASF artists' grant application again and see what I need to start doing in order to have that ready to go. And I'll probably call the Mailboxes Etc. people. I need to learn from an elderly Swedish man I knew who had the trick of saying "very fine individual" in just exactly the right way that you could hear what he really meant. I'll have plenty of practice, I'm sure.

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