Sunday, January 09, 2005


First, you’ll be happy to hear that since last week I’ve been in a much better mood and much more productive at work. Not to say that I’ve actually become productive, but I worked through all the pressing things with some efficiency and got some toeholds in the upcoming tasks. Then, it was Monday and I lazed around the office and perused the internet and felt pretty guilty about it. Still, it’s much, much better than the holiday weeks and I feel better about my job and life in the office. I have to say, I don’t love having an officemate, even though this one is very nice and unobtrusive. We get along ok, but are not going to be friends (or enemies). She is on the phone altogether too much, sorting through what seem to be an endless amount of family drama. It’s nothing that I want to overhear. So, the fancy new headphones I got myself for Hanukah are getting a good workout. Not my favorite way to be, but the only solution that I know of. I’m on the phone inappropriately many times myself (though not many times every day), and I don’t want to give her a hard time about it. Also, we don’t have enough work for her, and I’m pretty sure she is doing her job, so it’s not like all the phone time is cutting down on productivity (oh, and the absurdity of my even mentioning productivity does not escape me). It just annoys the hell out of me.

Max, at book group this Sunday had a good line about annoyance, “it’s a fine line between annoying and amusing.” I said, “I really need to get on the amused side of the line more often.” And I’ve been thinking, there’s support for the idea that people can choose to be happy. Well, why couldn’t I choose to be amused instead of annoyed? It’s not the easiest choice in the world, but if I could make it just some of the time, I bet I would be a lot more happy.

On that note, I think I’m grateful for Max in book group. I’ve grown to like him more and more over the (at least) couple of years I’ve known him. And even though we’re not buddies, he’s unfailingly good natured and flexible even when we rarely choose his book suggestions. He’s an interesting guy with an unusual perspective on things and it’s very good that he’s stayed in the group.

You may be wondering, what happened when MrF came to book group? He’d been emailing me daily, but I had not answered at least one or two of the messages. The last one was a request to meet a little early on Sunday (book group day) and have tea. I agreed because, well, it was easier than not. When I got there, he was talking to someone else, who, it turned out, was also having his own book group meeting at the same time and place. Funny. MrF and I ordered and started chatting. Then, Max showed up, also early. Ahh, that was good. I introduced them and the three of us went downstairs. Max asked me how I knew MrF and I said, “Oh, from the world.” Was I supposed to say Jdate (shudder)?

The meeting went ok. We were five, which is a perfect size. We talked about the book and MrF didn’t embarrassed himself too much, though his choice of how to read the book was the opposite of everyone else’s. I don’t know if you’ve read (or, like me, tried to read) Pale Fire, but it is a strange and annoying...whoops, I mean It has three main parts, a foreword; a poem, “Pale Fire”; and a commentary. It also has an index, which could be counted as the fourth part. The whole thing is fiction and an elaborate puzzle. Nabokov invents John Shade, who writes the poem. He invents Charles Kimbote, who writes the foreword and the commentary. It is hard to figure out how to read the book. Kimbote is a classic unreliable narrator. If you take his advice from the foreword, you will read the commentary three times and the poem, maybe, once. The thing is, the poem and the commentary are almost completely unrelated. It is confusing to say the least. Most readers, and most of our book group, concluded that the “real” story is in the commentary and the poem is more a vehicle used to tell that story. I read the book in order (though I still haven’t finished the commentary) and the poem stands alone as the story of John Shade’s life. Where I got lost was when I realized that the Kimbote commentary was telling Kimbote’s story and was unrelated to the poem. Nabokov is playing with the reader. Anyway, that’s how most of us took it, and some were amused, others annoyed (me), and at least one hated the book. MrF? He kept saying things like, “I really felt bad for John Shade.” And, “In canto four, line xxx, it says...” He read the book like the poem was the main point. He read the commentary as though it was notes for the poem. He seemed oblivious to the puzzle-like nature of the book—it’s like he said, "Too bad Nabokov, I’m not playing your game, I’m reading this poem. So there!" But, while there is something admirable about his approach, it sure made him seem dumb. Maybe because it wasn't like he rejected Nabokov's game, but because he didn't seem to get that there was a game afoot. Oh well.

When things wrapped up, I walked in the same direction as MrF for a couple of blocks. He said, “Sometimes I wish I could clone myself; there are so many things to do.” I just smiled. He shook my hand and held it rather too long and said we should get together when he gets back from out of town (Where is he going? When? How long? I don’t know). I said, “We’ll figure something out.” I haven’t heard from him since. No email, no nothing, so I think he finally got the message that I’m not interested. As it turns out, I’m not even interested in being friends. I feel a little bad. I wonder if he’ll come to the next book group? I can take it if he can.

1 comment:

  1. I think Max was one of the most amusing - yes for real amusing - people we met at your summer party back a while. I wish I had something other than a napkin and a pencil to write his email address on. (Because of course I've lost it.)

    I think if nothing else you'll come out of these experiences with a buffet of choices on how to reject - no that's too harsh - turn someone down nicely. But firmly.



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