Archive for November 14th, 2007

Number of the beast

My bête noire (mentioned in my post “Envy”) is a writer whose success, for reasons entirely particular to my own twisted character, is personally offensive to me.  His offenses, in no particular order:

  • Has become a moderately successful writer, more so than I, though in my estimation he is less talented and less sincere;
  • Landed a good teaching gig although I find his speaking and writing about literature to be underwhelming;
  • Has many apparently warm writerly friends, including people who are not promiscuous socializers, and also including a couple of people I think of as friends (though not enough to grab them by their collars and shout “What on earth do you see in him?”);
  • Happens to be dear, dear pals with several 500-pound gorillas of the writing world*;
  • Has a delightful, supportive partner (no children–as yet, anyway);
  • Appears to have sufficient time and funds for travel and leisure.

I recognize that none of these characteristics actually constitutes an offense, except perhaps the one where he enjoys more success than I, despite my conviction that he is less talented, serious, and deserving than I am.  But in fact I could name you a dozen writers with more success than I whom I regard as less deserving, as well as twice that number with less success and greater deserts.  Most of the time I am able to shrug and let it go: this week Fortune’s darling, next week Fortune’s fool. 

No, my bête noire is nothing special, but whose is?  The point is that he’s mine.  He has things that I have, too: some writing success, an adored partner, treasured friends.  But I’ve convinced myself that he doesn’t deserve them, which is surely about my conviction that I don’t deserve them–right?  And then the things he has which I don’t are things I very much want: a good job and more time.  I don’t especially need more “insider” status, or much more money, though I’d like to worry less about money (well, who wouldn’t?) and I’d love to be able to travel more.  (Almost all my travel in the last several years has been either to take the Snork Maiden to see her grandparents or professional conferences, giving readings, etc.) 

I do have a shining treasure that my bête noire doesn’t, and that, of course, is the Snork Maiden herself.  If I didn’t have the Snork Maiden, I’d certainly have more time and probably a little more money; obviously I’d rather have the Snork Maiden.  My bête noire‘s childlessness is not in itself offensive to me, of course; no one’s is; but I suspect that his life represents to me, in some ways, the life I might be having if I had chosen differently, and that makes me severely critical.  But whom am I criticizing?

It’s not you, dear bête noire.  I’m pretty sure it’s me.

*Reference to the old joke:  Q: Where does a 500-pound gorilla sleep?  A: Anywhere he wants to.