It took me like three weeks to read Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Admittedly, it’s long, but it’s not THAT long. And it wasn’t the fault of the book, either. I tried, on a few occasions, to switch books, but nothing was really catching my attention. I think the only reason that I defaulted to Piketty’s book was because I could read it even without being thoroughly invested in it.
But now my reading anhedonia has dissipated! This morning, I read two Simon Rich collections: Free-Range Chickens and The Last Girlfriend on Earth. It was pretty fun! However, being exposed to so much Simon Rich at one time made me see things that aren’t normally apparent when I’m just reading a three-page story in Shouts and Murmurs. Mostly, it’s that there’s a weird sexist vibe that comes off of a lot of his stories.
Simon Rich’s characters are all mid-twenties slacker guys–the sort of person who thinks of a woman as a black box that needs to be manipulated in precise and difficult-to-master ways if you’re going to convince her to have sex with you–and to a large extent, he’s making fun of them. But there’s an extent to which the stories can’t really escape their point of view. For instance, in “Center of the Universe,” God quits his job because his girlfriend keeps nagging him about how they don’t spend enough time together. And in “Last Girlfriend on Earth,” a guy’s girlfriend (the titular last woman on earth) slowly drifts apart from him until another woman appears, and she becomes jealous of the attention that this other woman is receiving. In “Sirens of Gowanus,” an aspiring artist is led to his doom by a siren who croons about her love for the man’s music. In “I Love Girl,” a caveman realizes that the only reason the girl is with the big, hunky, handsome caveman is because the latter is coercing her, and he needs to rescue her by bashing the handsome caveman to death with a rock.
Over and over, I’d get to the end of these stories and be like, “Uhh…okay? What’s the takeaway here?” I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like the story almost doesn’t work unless you think that women are either foolish or out to castrate you.
Anyway, in a few cases, though, the stories did really work for me. For instance, in “Victory,” a guy gets a congratulory call from the President after he (the guy) successfully picks up a woman at a bar and convinces her to sleep with him that night. To me, that’s a really sharp piece, because it’s picking apart something that I’ve never really examined: it’s really, really hard to pick up a strange girl at a bar and convince her to sleep with you, but we have a broader cultural myth that this sort of thing is happening all the time.
ANYWAYS, I’m just really happy that my apathy has been broken. For the last two hours, I’ve been happily immersed in Pere Goriot, by Balzac. It’s one of the two novels (the other is Sense and Sensibility) that Kiketty frequently refers to in his book, which piqued my interest. And it’s a fascinating read! It’s all about how an ambitious person can go about making a fortune in early 19th century France (HINT: you’ve pretty much got to marry it).