Posts Tagged ‘hurricane katrina’

Paul Shirley Doesn’t Like Haiti Relief

Our old friend and adversary Paul Shirley has gotten into some trouble recently, for saying something even more controversial than that he doesn’t like The Beatles:

I haven’t donated a cent to the Haitian relief effort. And I probably will not. I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him. If I use history as my guide, I don’t think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either.

Not so surprisingly, this statement, which was part of a larger essay on the misguided nature of donations to Haiti, got Shirley into a lot of trouble. He was a trending topic on Twitter yesterday (a worse fate has befallen no man) and he lost his job at ESPN.

Part of me feels for Shirley. For one, I’ve always enjoyed his writing, and he was nice enough to respond to our blog review of him. I also like it when people take unpopular stances and generally hate when people get fired for them.

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Introducing Aught Lang Syne

“What is your destiny except to be dead? It is unfortunate that your generation had to be the one. It is unfortunate that for the better part of your days you will walk the earth a spirit. But that was your destiny.”

“Ad Astra,” William Faulkner

I rang in the new millennium as a 13-year-old over a friend’s house because no one in my family wanted to stay home with me and I was too young to stay home by myself. My friend’s parents had a party that night, and I remember having to kiss a lot of people I didn’t know right after midnight and those same adults drunkenly acting out the play at the plate to Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” some minutes later.

There were two thoughts that went through my head at that moment. First, these adults weren’t acting like adults. Second, they really liked “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” which I had only heard once before at a family wedding and had considered pretty melodramatic and entirely too long.

Ten years later when I think back upon that night, I understand the acute nostalgia my friend’s parents and their friends were undergoing at the time. Here was a group of individuals born in the 1940s and 1950s getting to live in the Year 2000—for them, more a concept than a year, always used as a symbol of some cold and distant future throughout their lives. And the only way they knew how to celebrate their endurance was with a song from the ’70s, and one that itself celebrated the bliss of youth.

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Zeitoun and the Art of the Soft Sell

Note to all potential readers of Zeitoun: It is located in the Biography section at Barnes & Noble, not, as one who has read Dave Eggers’ other more-or-less-based-on-real-life-if-slightly-fictionalized works might suspect, in the Fiction/Literature section. Furthermore, remember that, in the Biography section, it is alphabetized by subject and not author; this is because people don’t really care who writes a biography.

This is the weird circumstance of Zeitoun, a biography about a man—and more accurately, a family—who is much less famous than the biographer. Eggers is one of a handful of writers universally included in any conversation about the “Voice of the Generation”—consideration earned largely off of his almost-living-up-to-the-title A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Now, if you know anything about “VotG” discussion, you know that authors don’t stumble their way into such territory by keeping things simple and straightforward and understated. You have to do something pretty out-there, and you have to do it really, really well. That’s what Eggers pulled off in A Heartbreaking  Work, a memoir focused on how the deaths of the author’s parents and his subsequent raising of his much younger brother. It is a very personal book—obvs—detailing not only Eggers’ guilt-inducing desire to avoid walking through the room containing his dying mother, but also more mundane things like his unabashed appreciation for Journey* and his own masturbatory habits.**

*It was written in 2000, well before “Don’t Stop Believin’” was aired on Laguna Beach and became cool to like again. How do I know this? Because you couldn’t get away with writing something like “I worry about exposing him to bands like Journey, the appreciation of which will surely bring him nothing but the opprobrium of his peers” today.

**They were T.M.I. in his book; they’d be beyond that in this review.

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