Pseudo (a short story)

One night, as my husband and I were lying in bed reading different novels:

“God, you’re lazy,” he suddenly said.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You’ve done nothing but slack off these last four years.”  We’d gotten married five years earlier.  “Why don’t you do something worthwhile for a change?”

“What the hell brought this on?” I asked, feeling like a no-good punk kid.

“Reading this book.  The author wrote it when she was twenty-eight and won a Pulitzer.  She also wrote the movie version and won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.”

“Which proves that people love pseudo-literary shit.”

My husband and I used to write pseudo-literary shit.  He worked at a mortgage company; I blogged for whatever progressive website I could.

“Oh, please don’t use your so-called discriminating taste to justify your laziness,” he spat at me.

“Let me guess.  You got turned down for a raise again.”

“How much money do you earn?”

“Enough not to be an ass-kisser.”

He grabbed my novel out of my hands and tossed it at the wall facing us, narrowly missing the framed chinoiserie print we’d bought at the antique store.

“Happy reading!” he shouted before storming out of the bedroom and sleeping on the futon.

Later, after the divorce, I would write a somewhat-pervy story starring a thinly-disguised version of him.  I sold the story to my old literary magazine.  We haven’t spoken since our marriage ended, so I don’t know if he read the tale, nor do I care, though I should have told him that pseudo-literary was better than non-literary—you know, more accessible for most people, easier for them to handle, like watering down their liquor.

* * * * *

August 20, 2015 (revised August 21, 2015)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews


The Donald, Doubled

When I read a Maureen Dowd column, I know it will almost always lapse into vacuity and never recover.  The lapse may occur early or near the end, but when it does, I feel let down, despite knowing she cannot help herself, that she cannot comprehend the world otherwise.  All right, I also feel a little jealous that having a vacant mind has not hurt her career in the very least.  The New York Times most likely would fire her if she wrote intelligent analyses of sociopolitical issues instead of giving the paper and its advertisers free publicity via those oh-so-provocative, nyah-nyah columns about how feminists suck, or how Hillary’s a bitch, or how name-of-male-Democrat’s a sissy boy, or how name-of-male-Republican’s a manly-man.

Speaking of manly-man Republicans, her column today has the presumably nudge-nudge title “Introducing Donald Trump, Diplomat,” and the lapse into vacuity occurs in the very first sentence: “Donald Trump gives me his Grumpy Cat look.”  Dowd loves outdated pop-cultural references as much as she loves power and glamour. Interviewing Trump “in his office in Trump Tower high above Fifth Avenue,” she gives him the opportunity to present himself as a non-misogynist: someone who may harshly judge women on their looks and who may accuse a tough female questioner of menstruating, but who otherwise loves the fairer sex.  Quoth Trump:

“I have many women executives and they are paid at least as much as the men[.]…I find women to be amazing.”

Swell, though Dowd doesn’t ask Trump about the business dealings his “amazing” female execs have presumably helped facilitate.  She asks him nothing about his not-exactly-uncontroversial financial past, instead giving him space to inveigh junior-high-style against his enemies, and he does not disappoint, referring to the “moron Rand Paul” and George Will the “boring person” and asserting that Carly Fiorina’s way of speaking hurts his ears.

Dowd does discuss an actual political issue with Trump, however. The column’s last two paragraphs, in their entirety:

I ask Trump if he can at least admit the President Obama was born in this country.

The Grumpy Cat face comes back.  “No comment,” he murmurs.

And we find out more about Trump’s views in an additional Dowd piece today, “Lightning Round with Donald Trump.”  “[I]t’s hard to contain the Vesuvial Donald Trump in 1,300 words of my column,” she explains before calling him “the birther of a nation.”  I’ll admit, I did find that “birther of a nation” line amusing, a bit of amusement before the serious, in-depth content to follow.

Or not to follow—Dowd uses most of that rare extra space to let Trump describe how he has trumped his Republican rivals and how hot Sharon Stone looks, though he does characterize the Iraq War as a waste of money and American lives (Iraqi civilian lives excluded), criticize Bernie Sanders for not standing up to the Black Lives Matter protesters, and discuss global warming:

I’m not a believer in man-made climate change.  And again I had uncles at M.I.T. and stuff.  By the way many smart people agree with me.

He doesn’t name any of those “smart people[.]”  I doubt Dowd pressed Trump the rich birther to go into detail about the military, American imperialism, race relations, or the environment. And in both pieces, she asks him nothing about raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, taxing the rich, or anything else that might help the non-Trumpish, not that The New York Times or any other corporate-dominated mass-media outlet would ever permit serious discussion of those issues.  And not that Dowd has ever cared about how the rich and powerful’s policies affect us all and the word we inhabit.  She loves her upper-class political and celebrity milieu—a milieu which, I have to admit, has its escapist, apolitical appeal in this era of debt, drones, and disappearing icecaps. 

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews


Movie Review #2

The two-hundred-million-dollar movie Crazy Climber will definitely entertain an audience too young to remember the source material: a 1980s arcade videogame where some guy scales the outside of a skyscraper while dodging closing windows, falling flowerpots, and other obstacles. Bro-centric comedian Reggie Glenn plays the title character, here named Ace Foley, an aging fratboy content to spend his days holed up in his parents’ basement, watching cyberporn with his buddies Stanky and Toker while listening to classic rock. Until one day—oh, God. Oh God, oh God, oh God. Ugggghhhhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek. Crap crap crap crap. Crap crap crap crap crap. American culture has entered an irreversible decline. If we don’t drown due to the melting icecaps, or die of radiation poisoning due to nuclear war, we’ll cause our brains to shrivel due to the obnoxious entertainment churned out by—hey, who are you? What are you—POW POW BASH BASH BASH KICK KICK POW PUMMEL BLEED BLEED BLEED—Hello. May I spend a few minutes telling you about the acclaimed author Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism? Essentially—JSGBCSKWIOI347KFKDGF;Q.WKR—and with an Eighties-rock soundtrack and an endless amount of CGI-aided battle scenes, Crazy Climber should appeal to an audience looking for the latest in comic-book-style fun.

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews