Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Impressionable Youngster

Yesterday I celebrated another successful Authors@Google event, starring luminary sports writer Frank Deford. This is a man who's won more awards than I've ever even wanted, and written extensively and intelligently - nay, beautifully - on a subject that rarely even catches my interest (the notable exception is when the Seahawks make the Super Bowl. Never again, guys).

Luckily, this time I managed to avoid asking an embarrassing question, instead impressing Frank with my wily intuition by spotting him, lost and in rental car, in the labyrinth of Google's many parking lots. I went up and knocked on the window.

"Are you Frank?" I asked. There were 3 minutes until the event was supposed to start, and he was late, due to a delayed plane. I had picked him out by looking for the face most disconcerted by all it saw.

"How did you find me?" He seemed genuinely impressed. I decided that the day was going well.

As I mentioned, I'm not much one for sports chatter. I like to pretend that I'm knowledgeable when it suits me, but I doubt I've often fooled anyone. Hearing Frank Deford speak fluently about the intricate psychology of the sports world was an illuminating experience - it almost made me wish I knew a statistic or two to make myself sound well-spoken. But moreover, it reminded me how much I value (wisely or not) the perspective of a person fully immersed in their subject.

To me, sports are sports. I neither think them vapid nor fascinating, crude nor essential. Occasionally I might like to play pick-up soccer or ride my bike, but that is all peripheral. All of which is to say, any sport I participate is part of me - I am not making myself part of it.

What am I missing? I may never know. Certainly I don't believe that an intricate understanding of the sports world is worth more than an intricate knowledge of anything else - education, violin making, artificial intelligence. But as a person still seeking a place in the world, I'll take my intangible envy wherever I can get it.Publish Post

**If you're interested in Frank Deford, I encourage you to read his work, including his newest book The Entitled. He's a real sharp guy, a classic sort of human being, and his writing looks beyond individual games into the very morality of the sports realm.

He's a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, a commentator for NPR's Morning Edition, and a correspondent on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Among other things.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Awkward Chic

I know I haven't posted here for awhile, and for that, I apologize. But in order to make it up to you, I have decided to recall here an embarrassing story. Well, two parts embarrassing, one part great. Let me preface this by saying that when I do something embarrassing, something that I'd truly like people to forget, I tend to just tell a bunch of people to get it over with. It's a knee-jerk reaction, but it works for me.


Today, Aimee Bender came to read at Google as part of the Authors@Google program. Bender is a writer I've admired from afar for quite awhile. Her prose is cozy somehow, comforting in its darkness, familiar in its fairytale qualities. She mentioned, during the Q&A session after her reading, that she hopes readers come away from her work feeling oddly satisfied; that is, satisfied without knowing quite why. And indeed that's how I feel when I read - for example - Willful Creatures. It's as though I've woken up from a particularly allegorical dream, but there's no rush to examine it, I can still lay in bed awhile longer.

At any rate, after the reading I got to have lunch with Aimee, showing her and several of her friends around the bizarre labyrinth of Google's main campus ("On your left you'll see our dinosaur, surrounded by pink flamingos..."). She was very conversational, nice enough to answer the questions that me and the other Authors@ team members peppered her with while we ate.

So what's the embarrassing part? After lunch as we were leaving, I asked Aimee Bender to be my best friend. I don't know why I phrased it that way - what I meant was "A bunch of wonderful authors come to visit Google, and when they turn out to be incredible people as well I feel like I know them, and I wish I could hang out with them more" (that's one of the liabilities of the Google sense of entitlement - it feels like people should want to just hang out with us).

But I phrased it "Be my best friend!", because deep down I am just an awkwardly enthusiastic girl who occasionally speaks before she thinks. Obviously, not too very deep down.

Anyway, that is my story. If you want, you should reply to this post with embarrassing stories of your own, turning this one silly post into a teen TigerBeat type forum for humiliating self-discovery. Doesn't that sound fun?

***In the meantime, you should check out this one other Aimee Bender story/collaboration, because I think it's great:

Hotel Rot