Saturday, October 04, 2008

New Yorker Festival Part One

I am an obsessive reader and fan of New Yorker. It's a love/hate relationship because reading it takes up most of my free time which makes me resentful, but if I miss an issue I feel depressed and low. For years I've wanted to go to the Festival, but it always seemed too hard because it's right around my son's birthday.

But now, I have an in at New Yorker for tickets AND my son's birthday is self-sufficient since I'm not allowed anywhere near it any more (another story all together but let's all take a minute of silence and recall being 15... yes, it feels recent, and yes, my mother's revenge is up0n me.)

Last night was a lovely evening with three prominent writers talking about the American Dream. I chose this event because it was the only one where I had read at least one novel by each of the participants: TC Boyle, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jeffrey Eugenides. The host was some Brit who I don't know, but he was charming as he stuttered through his questions.

The topic of the American Dream is one that is part of all our psyches, being Americans. It is hard to get away from, and it is, in my opinion, the source of all my discontent. After watching these three incredibly successful writers, it occurred to me that the American Dream, the idea that anyone can reinvent themselves and become anything they want, to be as successful as the hard work they put in, only applies to people who have a special talent or genius for something particular, like these 3 writers. So while I admire their genius, their reflections on the American Dream rang a little hollow since there was nobody on the panel who was ordinary.

While there are some who stumble upon a successful formula, for most of us, the working Janes (you know who I mean - Joe Six Pack and the Hockey Moms), the American Dream is a Pipe Dream, something invented to make us feel bad about being ordinary.

As I sat through the discussion I couldn't help but feel even worse about not having a particular talent that has led me down the road to success. Don't get me wrong, I do ok, I make an ok living, I have an ok life with a nice family, a place to live, food in the fridge, 2 cats who fight, but I'm not particularly talented at anything particular, and I cannnot figure out how to make the American Dream work for me. My husband, who does have a particular talent, has never been able to figure out how to capitalize on it, to find a market for his life's work. So his American Dream is also empty, never to be fulfilled. I think this is more typical.

So fuck the American Dream. Destiny is history and let's just get drunk.

More tomorrow on political humor at the New Yorker festival. And Nick Cave. A busy weekend for those of us drowning our sorrows and reveling in failure.

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