I would not begrudge any writer the opportunity to be published and paid for his or her work (a rare circumstance, in our business). This is why -- despite my previous post -- I feel compelled to comment on the plight of Kaavya Viswanathan, who is probably on the verge of blowing her brains out over the recent controversy surrounding her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.
As in the case of James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, the public has put the full onus on the author, as opposed to the publisher, which is about as fair as firing the summer intern for mismanaging your money.
I don't dispute the fact that a writer should be held accountable for his or her words and choices. But the plight of the author is that authorship is often misinterpreted by the public as authority, which is not entirely true. Authors have to answer to an editor and/or publisher, just as the rest of us peons have to answer to whatever asshole we work for.
While there is no excuse for plagiarism or for misrepresenting the authenticity of a "memoir," the reality is that we live in a world where these boundaries may be poorly defined--particularly when sales figures are a factor. Truth and fiction are not always black and white categories, and the line between "inspiration" and "plagiarism" may be subject to interpretation.
So when an author is 19 years old, and she is young and previously unpublished, is it her responsibility to interpret these boundaries? Or is it the responsibility of the individual and/or corporation that employs her? Probably a little of both.
Either way, she's lost her book deal, and may have to return her reported six-figure advance. Looks like my not-so-secret wish to screw Viswanathan out of her success has been granted. Watch out y'all. Smug can make things happen just by blogging about them.
Stephen Colbert has some balls. I've never been a huge fan, although I did enjoy some of his work on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He is usually funny, but generally more silly than satirical, which is what made his speech at last weekend's White House Correspondents Dinner as shocking as it was brilliant.
Never before has a comedian (and not a particularly famous one, at that) so brazenly mocked our nation's President TO HIS FACE and in the company of his peers.
Bush, it seems, had planned to be the event's show-stealer by bringing in a doppelganger to poke fun at himself. Unfortunately, the average-at-best look-alike couldn't hold a candle to Colbert, whose scathing remarks cut straight to the heart of many of this presidency's most controversial issues.
Like or dislike the jokes, you know a comedian is pushing the envelope when he polarizes his audience. Some laughed so hard they cried; others sat quiet and expressionless, arms crossed across their chests in silent allegiance to the President. Bush tried to save face with stoicism. He did not laugh; he did not scowl. He just glared at Colbert like a mob boss, as if daring him to continue. I'm no puss, but I would have wet my pants in a heartbeat. Colbert, on the other hand, kept going. And going. And going.
I might not believe the shit he said, if I hadn't seen it myself. Thank God I did. Cringing through tears of laughter is an incredibly satisfying experience.
See the unforgettable footage here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. You should have a pillow or cushion handy. You'll need something to catch your jaw when it hits the floor.
Who's got tickets to see Conan? Smug does!
Smug's pretend boyfriend, Conan O'Brien, is coming to Chicago to tape four shows in early May and I got tickets! Apparently NBC received more than 70,000 requests for about 15,000 spots. You know what that means: Only special people allowed.
Don't hate the player. Hate the game.
Chicago's lakefront is the best part of living here. Miles and miles of open space drape the city like a shawl and serve residents as both park and beach, depending on where you stop. Southern stretches are lined with trees and rich green grass, while the North side is mostly sand. They are distinct and separate spaces, strung together by a narrow winding path, which runs from the city's northern enclaves to its southern suburbs.
I was jogging north along this path last week, when I passed another runner headed south, who looked a lot like a guy I knew in college. It was a very surreal moment. Time slowed down. I felt caught for a moment between past and present. I realized I was STARING like an asshole at his face, trying to absorb every feature and make some sort of comparison, based on a spotty history and an unreliable memory, while I asked myself the following questions:
Was it him or wasn't it? Jogging causes bouncing and sweating, both of which can obscure perspective.
Did he see me? Would he remember me if he did? Perhaps he would recognize me, but not remember. In which case, he might be asking himself his own set of questions as he continued south along the shore.
The most perplexing question was, of course, "Should I turn around and run after him?" I concluded (almost) immediately that doing a 180 mid-run to catch up to another jogger (possibly a stranger) and tap him on the shoulder in the middle of his own workout would not only be inappropriate, but also weird and creepy.
Instead I opted for the less conspicious but still weird and creepy tactic, which involved spending the better part of my lunch hour today Googling his ass. And for the love of Google, there he was. I was right. He is in Chicago.
It wouldn't be so strange if I hadn't attended school in another part of the country. I went to college out East, and in my experience people from New England avoid the Midwest like the plague. So why was he here? Why now?
Why else? School. The only thing that can draw native New Englanders in from either coast.
The exercise inspired me to spend some time searching other old friends and acquaintances from the days of yore. It was incredible, or to quote a dear friend: "Best. Game. Ever."
I hadn't thought about some of these people in years, and suddenly, they were back in my life without their even knowing it. One is a web designer in New York; another a History teacher at a private high school out East. I found quite a few of them on MySpace (am I the only person NOT on MySpace?) and a few more through University web pages.
Anyway, this longwinded post is really just a consequence of spending too many hours staring at the computer screen, and I have nothing more to say. Except that Google rocks. And so does stalking old friends from high school and college.
Here I am! Sorry to friends and readers for my week-long absence. All is well in the world of Smug. I was -- how shall I say it -- detained? by other projects.
The full explanation is as follows:
My standing lay is a doctor. Correction -- a medical resident, which technically makes him a doctor, but really, he's more like a small child. He is often cranky. He needs to be fed and rocked to sleep during odd hours of the day. He has trouble articulating what exactly he needs, which often causes him to become visibly upset, even red in the face.
Lucky for Smug, she loves the poor bastard, although it often means much compromise. This past week has been especially difficult. Oh, the places he's been. IF ONLY I COULD BLOG ABOUT THEM. I would have a bizillion readers.
Anyway, the case of the missing Smug is solved. She was simply tending to her train-wreck of a spouse. Boring explanation, isn't it?