Exceedingly Cagey and Awfully Precocious

This month (um, circa) the Y.P.R. Book Club solicits your clever tricks satirizing or inspired by Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, whether you've read the book or not.

Foer This!

Please point your ingenuity this-a-way:
hasselhoff@yankeepotroast.org.

Recycled but relevant: "Everything is Translated."

Hidden Affikomen

"Lo! Bread of Affliction: How to Flirt with a Guest at the Seder"

"Some Things You Ought to Have Mentioned before You Brought Me, Your Irish-Catholic Boyfriend, to Meet Your Parents at My First Seder Ever with Your Orthodox Family" by Mick Stingley

& Recently . . .

If the Republicans Were Making GEICO Commercials by Will Layman

Airbag Warnings by Angela Genusa

The Night of Standup Comedy I Recently Saw, Reduced to Its Logical Abstractions, as per Freud’s Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious by Teddy Wayne

The Amazing Adventure of Michael Chabon and the Golem

Frequently Asked Questions: The Social Security Debate by Michael Ward

I Am a Terrible Person to Cheat on Your Boyfriend With by Matt Borden

Polish Fact

Industries:
Machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles.

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My bad.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005   |    Fiction

Reasons Why the Female Characters in Certain Male-Written Fiction Are Not Like Actual Women at All

by Brian Champlin

Cortazar's 'Hopscotch'The Logical Reason
We’re sorry, but trying to portray the thoughts, feelings, and motives of irrational people is actually impossible. Please, think clearly before you react. Irrationality precludes meaning, does it not? And meaning is what fiction is all about, is it not? So you—a person whose every thought, urge, action, and statement is consumed with a mind-boggling irrationality—really have no business in a piece of fiction, do you? Excuse us? Look, calm down. We can’t understand you when you scream and flail your arms like a child. Are you hyper-ventilating? Please, stop screaming, and take a couple of deep breaths. O.K., isn’t that better? Now, instead of standing there with that glare on your face, why don’t you go make us some eggs? Over-easy please. With toast. And the faster the better—it’s hard to write on an empty stomach.

The Pathetic Reason
O.K., the stories may be about us, but they’re dependent upon you. So you come off a bit flat and inhuman, and your sole purpose in the story is to reflect the thoughts, feelings, and motives of the male character. But instead of whining about what you aren’t, why don’t you think for a minute about what you are? You are the intellectual landscape of the story, its cerebral crux; without you, there would be no story. And look—your roles are so diverse! There you are, standing cross-armed at the front door as we pull up the drive. There you are again, asking vague metaphysical questions in bed while you stretch across us to retrieve a silky undergarment. And there you are again, pitter-pattering unseen this time across the hardwoods of the apartment above us, perhaps playing a Bach piece on the piano and stopping occasionally to murmur something unintelligible to what we think might be your cat. Hey—we’re trying to explain something to you, do you think maybe you can pay attention? What do you mean ‘the point’? All right, you want the point? We’ll tell you the point. The point is, without you as a kind of cute intellectual distraction our male characters and our stories themselves would be revealed for what they really are: bland, uninteresting, and unnecessary. Is that how you want people to think of our writing? Is it? What’s that? No, we can’t write any other way—and even if we could, why would we? People love this shit! Have you picked up a New Yorker recently? No, of course you haven’t, because all you read are those glossy little chick magaz—all right, all right, let’s stop. Calm down. Listen, why don’t you just go and make us some eggs? Later we’ll make some popcorn, drink hot coca, and watch some “Sex in the City” together. O.K., bunny?

The Freudian Reason
Ultimately, this entire issue is out of our hands. We, like you, are only human—and as humans we are uncontrollably egocentric. Maybe it’s nature, maybe it’s nurture—either way, if we are using you to gain a better understanding of ourselves then perhaps you should acquaint yourself with certain modern psychological theories before you go around throwing things and bringing up our mother every chance you get? We’re sorry, but this is the 21st century and human behavior is not as easily controlled as that electric hair-straightening device you use for a full twenty minutes every morning. So stop destroying your hair, and go make us some eggs. Seriously.

The Fishy Reason
Have you ever met someone who vehemently disliked fish? I mean hated them like some people hate cats or snakes or spiders? Probably not. In fact, fish are America’s number-one pet. We think this is probably because they are generally well behaved, undemanding, and agreeable. So, if we’re really serious about selling our writing, should we not be writing fiction that is in some way similar to fish? Now, we realize that fiction can’t be wet and slimy—but can it not at least be safely contained? Yes, we think, it can. In fact, we’ve concocted a a pretty simple formula. Here it is: you lose what you consider your “human” qualities (basically, stop being your irrational self—see “logical”) and take on more agreeable “fishlike” characteristics (become the intellectual landscape within which our male protagonists can be judged, and judge themselves—see “pathetic”) and suddenly—poof—our fiction is as well-behaved as a Friday night spent playing Trivial Pursuit, as palatable as an easy-drinking glass of Pinot Grigio. Do you not want us to support you? Would you not like our children to go to college? What do you mean what children? The children we’ll have as soon as you learn how to make a plate of damned eggs! Now please, shut the door on your way out, and don’t open it again until there’s a plate of eggs in your hand.

The Biblical Reason
Do we really have to get into the whole ‘rib’ thing again? We didn’t think so. Speaking of ribs, why not throw a steak on that plate, too? Yes, I love Sunday mornings with you too, honey. See: I can say it without sounding sarcastic, unlike you. Now please, shut the door and try to resist running the vacuum or stomping insanely around the place like my mother, O.K.? Thanks. I’ll see you in a few hours for some popcorn and “Sex in the City.”

Brian Champlin has been told many times by barbers that his hair is abnormally thick. He has also been told many times by his parents that he’s not vocal enough. So basically he’s a quiet kid with a lot of hair. If you're in Boston he might serve you a plate of dead fish. That is, if he's not out snowboarding or sitting alone on his bedroom floor, tapping steadily on his laptop.