Dispatches | November 16, 2006
"People of Social or Intellectual Distinction"
Sometimes you have to whine about things. For a couple of days now I’ve been whining about the fact that tomorrow the TMR editors and Marketing Director are going to be the invited guests/presenters at a late-afternoon university-sponsored salon.
By the time you read this, tomorrow may have passed and it may all be over. We’ll have said our piece and eaten some hors d’oeuvres; it won’t have been so bad, and I’ll have quit complaining. But for now, looking into the future, the salon looms like a pre-planning session with a funeral director, and I’m not too happy about it. A lot of writing is basically whining, in case you haven’t noticed. Even some of the greatest writing is whining. What does that say about us as a species? Either that our griping produces aesthetic treasure, or that we like to gripe so much that we turn it into aesthetic treasure, or that we’re so inured to griping that we view it as aesthetic treasure. Sad, isn’t it?
Here’s the issue: I hate the word “salon.” Hate it when it applies to hairstyling businesses (big hairdryers, People magazine); and even more when it applies to cultural gatherings. Of course I looked it up in the dictionary. The pertinent definition in my American Heritage Dictionary is “a periodic gathering of people of social or intellectual distinction.” Now that really sounds pathetic. I haven’t told the kids yet that I won’t be home for dinner tomorrow. I’ll tell them in the morning: “Sorry, guys, but it’s ramen noodles tonight because I am a person of social or intellectual distinction and have to attend a salon.” They know me, and they know better.
Actually, Speer is the one who was invited to talk about TMR at this salon, and he is making the rest of us go with him. Speer is a person of social and intellectual distinction, and he has a strong personality to evidence it. I do not have one of those, and I usually, at this sort of thing, hang back and silently berate myself for being mousy and unimpressive.
Richard is going too. Richard has great hair for any gathering at which one is supposed to stand out. It’s nicely gray, but there’s still a lot of it, and it’s clear from his hair, especially when he dresses up, that he’s a person of distinction. Plus he’s sort of lean and tall, which helps.
Kris, our marketing director, has the most lavish and remarkable wardrobe of anyone in literary publishing. Great clothes also are proof of social or intellectual distinction. My own wardrobe is fairly sizeable, but this is mainly because I have no time to iron or accessorize or coordinate, so I mostly wear jeans, and nothing else gets worn out. And since I don’t have a clue about style and haven’t changed size much in the past thirty years, things hang in my closet indefinitely and acquire deep hanger marks — which make their own kind of statement: who’s that short, middle-aged-but-not-gray, mousy woman in that very ’90s skirt, with those weird bumps on her shoulders?
That would be me.
Wish me luck. Wish me a personality transplant. Wish me a fairy godmother who’ll tap me with her wand and give me a dynamite ball gown. I don’t need it ’till midnight, only until about 7:00.
Wish this event will be over.
And wish that we’ll do a decent job of spreading the word about The Missouri Review and what we do. We are, after all, a pretty good literary magazine. And some of us even have social and intellectual distinction.
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