Nothing like having the first season of your own publishing company to make you feel somewhat giddy, and like you don’t know up from down. I mean, I DON’T know up from down, but generally I can hide that fact from myself fairly successfully.
Still, that giddiness thing is not unpleasant. Oh yeah, sure, there’s that sudden realization that in a tiny margin business you can make a mistake and kapow! That’s it for you. But you know, after a lifetime of bohemian excesses (kept in certain bounds by a prim middle class Catholic upbringing, to the extent that they almost can’t be called excesses at all…that is, until you look them over later), this kind of thing is quite exhilarating. We’ve got each other, Alex and I point out delightedly, we’ve got our health, we’ve got our dogs, we’ve got our friends and family, we’ve got our creative activity, and if we don’t have a particularly healthy bank balance, well, just exactly how much do we WANT to be that different from our neighbors?
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to be different from my neighbors. I don’t want to be that kind of artist whose main goal (we know who these guys are) is to be different from everyone else and acknowledged to BE different. Not only do I not want it because I think it’s bad for the community, that kind of attitude, I don’t want it because I know it’s bad for ME. I don’t like it. It gives me an unpleasant taste in my mouth to fantasize that I have any more rights or any more worth than anyone else.
In short, I don’t want to be Ayn Rand.
I was kind of surprised a little while ago, while guestblogging on the Powell’s Books Blog site, that the piece that got the most comment was a rather lighthearted one about our dog agility teacher and the home grown vegetables in her neighborhood. Almost as an afterthought, I titled it: AYN RAND WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND THIS POST. And immediately, IMMEDIATELY, got a comment sternly lecturing me about how Ayn Rand was for everything good and true and beautiful and I should read THE FOUNTAINHEAD RIGHT NOW.
Well, I mean, I’ve read The Fountainhead, which is saying something, since from a literary point of view it’s just about unreadable. From a sociological point of view, of course, it’s fascinating, and what’s more fascinating about it is why on earth it’s so popular with young people right now. I think a New York Times article today must have nailed it: the book promises you can be different from everyone else, a GENIUS, not constrained by normal people’s rules, if you just clap your hands and believe in Ayn Rand.
What about those of us who don’t want to be geniuses, and are damn sick of how many of them clutter up the public highways? What about US?
And speaking of them, Brian Griffith—who is a prime example of a wonderful, thoughtful, commonsensical PERSON who has no wish to be a genius, only a member of a sane community—has his wonderful, thoughtful, commonsensical book CORRECTING JESUS: 2000 Years of Changing the Story, out now with us, Exterminating Angel Press. Publishers Weekly gave it a good, commonsensical review. And it’s just like sitting over dessert with the most courteous thinker ever, who wants to share with you what he’s noticed in poring over historical texts of the last two thousand years. You know the kind of dinner guest I’m talking about. The one who is so into his subject, that you can’t help but be fascinated.
So do yourself a favor. Drop that copy of THE FOUNTAINHEAD off at the nearest Goodwill. Pour yourself a nice cup of tea. And sit down with Brian Griffith for an hour or two and have a conversation with him in your head. It’ll be way more fun in the long run. I promise. And it has the added benefit that you won’t feel any residual guilt for spending time with a book where the hero rapes the heroine and then blows up a public low income housing project just because it doesn’t meet his fastidious tastes.
You’ll feel much better being a person hanging out with other people, instead of being a genius all alone while he/she’s being looked up to by the mob below. That I can absolutely promise.