Nevermind me, overcompensating like a pro

 

2017-03-31_10.44.16.jpgWe all have certain mechanisms we like to use in times of need. What exactly  ‘times of need’ are will vary from one to another, but still: you put on your armor, get out your tools, and walk out into this world, doing your best to be brave, strong, and confident.
Or babbling bullshit nonstop. Which is what I usually do.

You see, for people who do not know me I may seem like a) a nice and funny girl who at times talks A LOT; or b) like an arrogant, smug bitch who obviously HATES being around people.
I am neither – and both.
I have huge problems interacting with people, which makes me insecure. Also, I don’t especially like people because I don’t understand most of them. 90% of the time I don’t know how to handle a “casual” social situation; if it seems like I’m all grown-up and mature, knowing what I do, that’s thanks to the fact that I try my best to imitate a certain conduct I think (and hope) is appropriate in certain situations. I like to observe and watch the world around me, and over the course of years I recognized certain behavioral patterns people commonly display in certain situations; now, repeating similar behavioural patterns is something I can work with (contrary to most emotions and erratic behavior in general). What’s more, during the three years I worked as  a bartender, I learned that you definitely do not want to be another nice little insecure chick behind a bar at 2 am, with a seemingly huge male audience waiting for your next joke/laugh/insult/mistake, hoping that you get off lightly, because: nope, fuck it, you won’t. Have the last word, be ballsy, put them in their place, otherwise you may as well get a new job and, depending on where you work and/or live, a new life.
So if you don’t want to deal with other people’s bullshit, drown them in your own. Which makes me the queen of blabla-nonsense-smalltalk in some situations and the absolute goddess of inappropriate, shitty answers and comments in tons of other situations. Because, why not.

So, as a sort of self-defence, when I feel insecure and I don’t know how to act and react appropriately, I talk like there is no tomorrow. Feeling the pressure to keep it nice and casual, I tell my vet that I wasn’t kicked out of an all girls catholic school because I am an atheist, but because I am an asshole, all while she is trying to inject my jittery cat some vitamins; I tell my new boss that while it may seem like I slept my way up to the new position because my boyfriend recommended me for the job, that is – of course – not the case, even though it would be really funny; I tell a heavily pregnant acquaintance of mine that she doesn’t need to worry about feeling fat and ugly like a whale because whales are beautiful creatures too, just like elephants or rhinos. I talk all this nonsense not to offend anyone or because I don’t like the people I talk to, I utter all this bullshit because I have no idea what people I hardly know usually want to talk about so I talk about stuff I know and think about. Only after I say things I realize that whatever I said could be offensive, inappropriate or otherwise pointless.

At times I think I want people to care. Not necessarily about me, but about the fact that one should think before talking. Because if you do, if you truly stick to the stuff you care/think/know about, there would be a lot less talk and a lot more action. The world would be a little less noisy …  And maybe, just maybe, people would pay more attention to WHAT is said and not so much to WHEN it’s their turn to say something again. 

Reading: Jennifer Egan “The Keep”, “A Visit from the Goon Squad”

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 Something less trivial for a change: Jennifer Egan, whom I just recently discovered thanks to wonderguy, who gave me A Visit from the Goon Squad to read. He thought I might like it because I love short stories and he was right. Though of course, it’s not a collection of short stories in the traditional understanding. I read in one review that Egan herself does not like to categorize this book, even though a lot of readers feel the need to know for sure – have the author tell them, so to say – whether they are reading a ‘novel’ or a ‘short story collection’. Tim O’Brien’s The Things they carried is another one of these works that often resist a clear categorization, yet it tells a completely different story.

I love books like A Visit from the Goon Squad, even though they are challenging for me because I am awful at remembering names and those collections of different life stories that work together to tell a wide-ranging story mainly work with a likewise extensive cast. So while I’m all for diving into the lives and stories of different people I’m also all about forgetting their ties to the story and why I’m reading about them because I can’t remember who is who. Egan lets those various chapters and stories dance with each other, like a well choreographed and fluent harmony of moves and interactions, so as to paint a giant picture of different lives that crossed and at times clashed with each other. With some protagonists one may think “well, he/she definitely got what he/she deserved”, not necessarily in a positive way (I will not give away names, because I don’t want to spoil all the fun; also, I can’t remember the names that well…). Then again, the fate of others may take you by complete surprise, as literature should do [maybe not all and not all the time, but you may get the picture). Long story short: A Visit from the Goon Squad is a harmonious composition of life stories that are anything but harmonious, glorious or even positive (in some cases), arranged in a versatile, diverse, and, in some instances, rather unusual tone and style. With  helluvalot of names…

After finishing A Visit from the Goon Squad I knew I had to read more Egan and I decided to go for The Keep next. What starts out as a seemingly ordinary tale of a guy who had to get away from his life for undisclosed reasons turns out to be a much more complex and polyphonic tale about life and what we make of it. Here too, people meet and get know each other, some for better, some for worse, and a surprising twist brings together two (and even more) storylines that initially don’t seem to have any connection at all. There are some  main features of the protagonists who seem familiar in one way or the other, not only in Egan’s writing; failed lives, losers, who don’t want to acknowledge or have not yet realized that their sole accomplishment in life is that they are still alive and breathing. Even though they hardly recognize it themselves, Egan’s failed lives indeed sound like failures; contrary to Willy Vlautin’s ‘losers’ (of whom I will write in another post), they are not lost, trying to fight their way back, but they DO lose, actively participating in their own downfall, and in some cases, fighting their way back, too. Of course, Egan does not limit her scope of characters to people fighting their own happiness; there’s the guy who overcame a deeply traumatic experience only to relive it once again; the mysterious countess who makes being a member of old German nobility seem like being a member of the A-Team (sans B.A.’s jewellery, of course, yet with much more insanity than Howling Mad Murdock); a protagonist who seems to be the epitome of the euphemism “professional teenager”; and a teacher who is overly committed for some unusual and unforeseen reasons. (Oh my, see, I spoiler! Though only because the cast of The Keep is more manageable than in A Visit from the Goon Squad).

As with a lot of other authors, I appreciate Egan’s voice, I can ‘hear her talk to me’ – or worse, I can ‘feel’ her voice -, to sound a bit corny. Not every voice is equally intense and captivating, since we all have different interests and characters. Sure enough, this is no special feature of the author, but rather just an ordinary question of personal likes and interests. So go, read Egan. Delve into stories that are intertwined and autonomous at the same time, life paths that run alongside each other, meet, divert, cross, and sometimes even clash, only to part and sometimes even reunite again.