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A month or so ago, I got a Facebook friend request from someone named Dan Zevin.  I’d never heard of him before, and we did not seem to have many friends in common.  But since I view my Facebook page as the 10-watt red lightbulb in a vast virtual De Wallen in whose dim scarlet glow I shamelessly pimp my  wares—and since Dan appeared to be a “Daddy Lit” writer and not a pedophile—I accepted his request, and promptly forgot all about him.

Some time later, this message appeared in my Facebook inbox:

I’m attaching an invitation to some readings I’m doing for my new book, “Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad.” Sorry if I already sent it, it just means I really, really like you—not that I’m internet impaired. It would be so great if you could make it to one of these, or to share it with friends who might be interested. Best to download it (or borrow my bifocals). THANKS.
-Dan

There’s nothing wrong with that email—it’s short, funny, and to the point.  The problem was, Dan clearly is “internet impaired,” because the message was prefaced by “Howdy, Facebook friend,” and sent to me and 45 other people.

If you’re a Facebook user, you know what happens when you get a mass email like that. The notification button goes off every time someone responds to the thread. It’s distracting, if not outright rude.  Certainly it’s a social media faux pas.  I quickly “left the conversation.”  (Dan is no longer on Facebook, I now see, so maybe I wasn’t the only victim of this minivan drive-by attempt).

~

Fast forward another few weeks.  I get a note at my Fathermucker address from Meg Walker at Tandem Literary.  It begins:

Hi, Greg. I’m getting in touch because I’m working with Dan Zevin on his new book DAN GETS A MINIVAN: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad (Scribner; May 22) which prompted Dave Barry to say: “This is the funniest book about parenting I’ve read in a long, long time. Dan Zevin is a major talent. I want to kill him.”

Dan is a big fan of your blog and your books. I noticed that errant parent recently reviewed both your book and Dan’s. I thought you might enjoy Dan’s book as well. Can I send you a review copy? Perhaps you would consider running a review or a giveaway on your blog? I can also help arrange a guest post or interview if that would be of interest.

Meg has obviously done her homework.  As the writer of Fathermucker, a novel about a day in the life of a stay-at-home dad, I am not only a member of the target audience for Dan’s book, but also what Malcolm Gladwell would call a “maven.”  If I read and enjoy Dan’s book, the thinking goes, I will inform the network of father-friends she assumes I have—my Insane Dad Posse.  This is standard practice. I did the same thing when Fathermucker came out—I tried to reach out to people I thought would like my book. So why, then, did her note fill me with an unpleasant cocktail of shame, rage, and dread?

Start with that opening blurb.  It’s Dave Barry, for Pete sake!  I love Dave Barry!  I’ve been a fan of Dave Barry’s since I was in high school, when the only other living writers I was aware of were Stephen King and Franklin W. Dixon!  I can still quote passages from his brilliant three-part Miami Herald series about visiting New York City!  But look again at what Barry has to say: Dan’s book of essays “is the funniest book about parenting I’ve read in a long, long time.”  That either means a) Dave Barry has not read Fathermucker, or b) Dave Barry read Fathermucker and did not think it was funny. Neither scenario pleases me.

Then there’s the bit about Dan being “a big fan of [my] blog and [my] books.”  Not just a fan; a big fan. Do you think I was born yesterday, Meg?  If the extent of Dan’s Greg Olear fandom was really so big, why didn’t he say so himself?  Why did he dispatch his publicist with the good news?  And my books—plural?  Really?  I’d bet dollars to Dunkin’ Donuts that Dan cannot even name the titles of my books.  (I’m a novelist, Meg; I fixate on one stomach-punch phrase in an otherwise glowing Washington Post review and let it ruin my day; hollow blandishments mean nothing to me.)

The point of the email was not that Dan Zevin thinks Greg Olear is swell.  What Meg wanted is for me to answer the question “Perhaps you would consider running a review or a giveaway on your blog?” with “Nothing would make me happier than to stop what I’m doing, read his book, write a thoughtful review about it, and post it on my page!”  Never mind that Fathermucker: The Blog is a series of guest essays about parenthood.  I’ve never reviewed a book there, I’ve never given away a copy of a book there, it’s not that kind of site.  Which Dan the Big Fan should be well aware of. Even if Meg the Publicist is not.

 ~

It doesn’t end there.  Like a freeform jazz solo, Meg’s email goes on, trumpeting Dan’s many impressive accomplishments, all of which make me seize up with such crippling jealousy that I want to curl up in my garage with the door closed and the minivan running:

 

Already optioned by Adam Sandler’s production company…

The same production company we sent Fathermucker to, in vain.

 

Slated to be published just in time for Father’s Day…

As opposed to, say, early October.

 

…to see Dan’s recent blog posts which have been featured on The Huffington Post…

Hey!  I’m on HuffPo too, Meg!

Then there are the blurbs by Tom Perrotta—the same Tom Perrotta who declined, albeit with grace and kindness, to look at my book—and P.J. O’Rourke.  Actually, O’Rourke has blurbed all of Dan’s books, which means that Dan is either a) a friend or b) in possession of photographs of P.J. in a negligee from Frederick’s of Hollywood.

Plus, Dan’s writing bona fides—National Public Radio’s WBUR, Boston Magazine and the Boston Phoenix, Rolling Stone, Maxim, Details, Elle, and Glamour—dwarf my own (although I don’t see “L.A. Times bestseller” anywhere in Dan’s press packet, thank you very much).

Oh, and there’s the pesky fact that he is, in fact, funny.  Here’s the bio he wrote:

The least hip citizen of Brooklyn, Dan Zevin has a working wife, two small children, a mother who visits each week to “help,” and an obese Labrador mutt who prefers being driven rather than walked. How he got to this point is a bit of a blur. There was a wedding, and then there was a puppy. A home was purchased in New England. A wife was promoted and transferred toNew York. A townhouse. A new baby boy. A new baby girl. A stay-at-home dad was born. A prescription for Xanax was filled. Grey hairs appeared, grey hairs fell out. Six years passed in six seconds. And then came the minivan.

I mean, that’s not bad.  What I’ve read of the book, which came two days after I’d requested a copy, is also funny.  The essays have clever titles.  The epigram is a quote from Foghat (in Fathermucker, I quote Cheap Trick).  Dave Barry’s right: Dan is “a major talent.”

And his book is certain to do well—or, at least, to sell more copies than mine.  His last one, The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grownup, for which he won the Thurber Prize (!), was a quiet success, moving ten times more units than Fathermucker has.  His latest offering has an independent publicist and a hard cover and blurb from one of the funniest writers in the English language on the jacket.  Make no mistake: Dan’s Minivan is a well-oiled machine.

~

So why does this make me feel like shit?  Why can’t I just be happy for the guy?  Why can’t I—as he cleverly puts it in his acknowledgements—just get on board the minivan?  He’s trying to make a living as a writer like the rest of us, and he’s got kids to feed, and if he’s friends with P.J. O’Rourke, he must be a nice person.

I’d rather wrap these bad feelings in the Diaper Genie of my mind and throw them in the trash, but I find myself unable to let go the stinky Pamper of envy.  Is it because Dan’s driven his minivan a bit farther down the same road—my road?  Perhaps.  As Father’s Day approaches, I feel a bit like Tom from MySpace on the eve of the Facebook IPO.

Obviously, I envy his success—but I envy the success of many writers, most of whom do not fill me with rage and shame and dread.  So it’s not just that.  Is it me?  Am I just a jealous, bitter a-hole?  Perhaps. That Edison was more commercially successful than Tesla, if nowhere near as brilliant, is as much a testament to Tesla’s emotional shortcomings than Edison’s ruthless business savvy.  In my defense, I offer this: when one opens a shiny new brothel in an existing red-light district, one does not solicit the local streetwalkers to hand out fliers. It’s tacky. Like the cover of Dan Gets a Minivan.

Sorry, dude; that was a low blow.  I can’t help it.  I’m human, and I have feelings, and whatever Dan’s intentions, his minivan, with Meg in the driver’s seat, has run them over and poured half-eaten Cheerios on them. Dan’s clumsy generic Facebook note and Meg’s clumsy personalized email were intended to make me like Dan Zevin. They had the opposite effect.  Dave Berry put it best: “I want to kill him.”

 

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Greg Olear GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

74 Responses to “Throwing Dan Under His Minivan: A Tale of Writerly Jealousy”

  1. Oh, I feel for you. Envy happens, and there’s no easy antidote except time. Been there. A friend had a saying, “Take the high road. There’s less traffic.” Sometimes you can’t help but get stuck in the fray.

    The world was based on connections before, but that’s exponential now with technology. Imagine what it was like just a few years ago, requesting blurbs by snail mail or phone calls. Now–boom–blogs and review sites and on and on, everyone accessible with a few mouse clicks and glib words. The mind boggles.

    Sometimes we do things for other people because it’s the right thing to do, period. Pay it forward, you know. And sometimes we do it because there’s a genuine personal connection. There are writers I’ve “met” through TNB, social media, etc. with whom I have an affinity, and I’d gladly do what I could if asked to help in some way. But I’m with you that sometimes publicity-speak screams loud, you sense the game too strongly, and it’s a put-off. For you, this one was a doozy.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Ronlyn. It was hard for me to share his–the high road is usually a quiet one–but ultimately, I decided that people might benefit from me writing candidly about something we all feel but seldom admit. We’re all optimists to some degree — if not, how could we continue? — but optimism has its limits.

  2. Quenby Moone says:

    1. Thanks be to whatever that you’re here. Welcome back, Mr. Olear.

    B. I feel you. Holy crap, do I feel you. I’m compulsively investing in fish tanks because I find the whole publishing thing so depressing; at least I have some modicum of control over THEIR lives even if I have none over my own. Plus, they give me peace while my brain toils. They just swim in peaceful waters while my brain bathes in chaotic floods.

    Anyway. Yes.

    I feel you.

    • Hey Quenby!

      This has nothing to do with jealousy or Greg’s piece here (he knows where I stand on this whole thing – the
      whole thing just makes me sad and full of bad feelings.) – but I wanted to wish you good luck on your fish tank adventure.

      I was all up in that last year, probably for similar reasons you describe; my life felt swimmingly out of control.
      So, I got fish.
      And for a while it was all fine. And then I don’t know if it was this one snail we added (according to Dom, Taxes the Snail was the beginning of the end), but one by one they all got sick and died. No matter what I did. It was awful. I stayed up almost all night with the last dying fish, because I didn’t want Dom and Prue to wake up and see him there dead. But I didn’t want to kill him either. So, I waited until he finally died on his own and then I flushed him. And then that was it. They were all at “The Vet” and have been there since.

      But, obviously, this does not happen to everyone – and I sincerely hope your fish journey gives you the peace you are looking for.
      Love,
      Hope I haven’t bummed you out on fish tanks

      • Quenby Moone says:

        Ha! No, I understand the risks. I even lost a critter the other day–a salamander who hitched a ride in the terrarium I bought off Craigslist. (The numb-nuts didn’t tell me the “terrarium” was actually a “home;” It had Strong Bad the fiddler crab in it too.)

        I had found a second tank for Sallie, when it died on me. I was extremely bummed. I loved that little critter, albeit briefly. I’ve even written an epic essay on my adventures, which should go up somewhere soon, though I’ll have to revise it since it’s now down a member. RIP Sallie. I’m sorry, my friend.

        But yes, there’s a huge amount of terrifying science involved, with words like nitrates and nitrites and ammonia and pH, GH and KH, all terms I knew nothing about until the fish. Crash course!

        Here’s hoping.

        Miss you, Steph! Nice to see you!

      • Greg Olear says:

        There was at least one piscine mercy killing, Steph. Me, Bad Kids, “all toilets lead to the ocean.”

        [Note: Bad Kids was the name of one of our fish]

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, QB. I know, it’s been awhile.

      Steph beat me to the punch about our fish.

      Don’t get me started about the state of publishing. A few years ago, when our indie bookstore closed, a group of us got together to try and start a book co-op — a socialist bookstore, essentially. The spreadsheets were too daunting. I pored over them, and I just couldn’t see how a bookstore could stay afloat financially. It was beyond depressing. I’m starting to feel the same way about writing novels. The current system mirrors the economic system of the country — 1% vs 99%. Not that we all should make Rowling money, but it used to be, 50 years ago, you could place a few stories and live on that for a year. Now? We give it all away. Worse; we beg people to take it. I heard Arthur Miller speak a few years ago, and he warned against the impact on art when theater becomes solely for the rich (which it has). It seems literature is on its way to being the same thing.

      There’s my happy thoughts for the day. Please say hello to your fish for me.

      • Quenby Moone says:

        I started writing an essay to this very effect: the internet has killed our livelihoods. Democracy, in this case, sucks ass: when everyone shouts into the wind, no voice can rise, and no money gets made by anyone but the anointed few.

        I don’t know what the answer is, but damn. It’s bleak.

        If I weren’t so depressed about the whole thing, maybe I’d finish the essay. HA!

  3. Art Edwards says:

    Now we’re talking. I love it when a TNB post–or any internet post–cuts the shit and gets to the meat of things.

    For what it’s worth, I think your jealousy is normal and natural and something to forgive yourself for. Dan the doppelganger is always out there, whether we know of him or not, and I personally doubt his novel is better than Fathermucker.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Art. I’ve resolved lately to just say stuff that needs to be said, which goes against my nature.

      You illustrate part of my point. When “King of the Hill” comes on, I don’t get jealous of you; instead, I think, “Awesome! It’s Art! Yay!” And it genuinely makes me happy. You, Art, are the anti-Dan Zevin.

  4. dwoz says:

    make no mistake, you are the one and only one mofo Fathermucker.

    MoFo
    Fathermucker.

    (tm) (c) (p) (llc) (inc)

    that’s a tee shirt slogan that will sell TEN TIMES what emasculovan dude will sell.

    Not that I bear him any ill will either.

    :-)

  5. I’ve always imagined a remake of Othello in which all the characters are writers. Jealousy has always been our lot it seems.

    With social networking and the new business of promotion though, it does seem like faux pas is a nearly irrelevant word. What we are and aren’t supposed to do is evolving at such a breakneck pace, it has become hard to accuse anyone of stepping over the line. From my angle, it seems we only have the word of the offended party to go on. And we writers are always getting offended.

    One thing that helps me personally in all this is residing so low down on the totem pole (and so literally far removed from the fray) that I really don’t care anymore. You meanwhile have yourself on a top-market bestseller list, high-profile praise, a vocal and supportive fan base and a good book, so who gives a shit if there’s another player who’s managed to score a few extra points.

    Meanwhile, if we look at one of the so-called top literary dogs of the last decade, Jonathan Franzen, he’s likely spending his Friday evening weeping over his birdwatching manual because there’s barely a kind word about him to be found anywhere on the internet. We all lose. And we all win.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Monsieur Missildine, wise as always.

      I read a thing about Larry David…he’d be feted at Yankee Stadium to a rousing ovation, but on the way home, some guy yelled at him from a passing cab, “Hey, Larry, you suck!” And all he remembered later was the guy in the cab. Why are we wired that way? I wish I knew.

  6. Greg – I totally get it, and you are more than allowed to be jealous. Dan has blurbs by Dave Barry and others, a film option, a freakin’ Thurber Prize… why does he need you to blurb about his book? Answer: he doesn’t. He’s just rubbing it in, as payback for the Facebook brouhaha. Hell, I think you’re allowed to hunt him down and bitch slap him. And his little Meg, too.

  7. James D. Irwin says:

    I hate sort of folksy, cheery, ‘oh I’m so whimsical’ sort of messages trying to advertise stuff. I got it a lot running a comedy night. I’m always more inclined to take on people who are polite, to the point, and confident but modest— rather than the reams of quotes from vaguely famous comments.

    There is of course a natural envy, but it’s a matter of class too. If I were in your position my reaction to Dan would be a negative one due to the complete lack of class shown. He may well be funny, but I’ll bet he isn’t as interesting or clever as Totally Killer. (Like Dan, I haven’t read Fathermucker. I can only apologise…)

    You’re right about the cover as well…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Jedi.

      I know how hard it is to do stuff like this, because I do it myself, but still.

      I do wonder what became of him on FB, though. Did he get 86′ed for spamming? Who knows.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I generally feel very uncomfortable about trying to promote myself to the wider world. I don’t want to feel like I’m spamming people, when I essentially am because I’m no-one, and my ‘product’ isn’t that impressive. I try and help other creative friends out though, which eases the guilt…

        Somebody probably flagged the message as spam. It reads like spam, and messaging 45 strangers is asking for it…

        • Greg Olear says:

          It’s a fine line, that’s for sure. I tend to err on the side of not self-pimping enough, which sometimes leads to a casual friend evincing surprise that I have books out. As for your ‘product,’ Jedi, it’s just a matter of time…

          • James D. Irwin says:

            I’d rather err on that side. I think over-pimping is counter-productive, and ultimately annoys people and puts them off. Particularly when you’re affecting the faux-folksiness I ranted about earlier. I really can’t stress how much that annoys me.

            Also, Dan’s bio isn’t funny, it is incredibly long and screams ‘I’m so funny and whimsical!’ Levity is fine, but whimsical descriptons of family life make the author sound like the literary equivalent of an indie band who wear hats ‘ironically.’

            I’m not sure why I’m so angry tonight— it must be the heat…

            But as for your final point, you’re very kind. I’m sure you’re right… I just need to start writing again…

  8. Man, are they pushing Dan and his van (is it tan?)! I got (almost) that same email — except the version for freelance writers without the “Dan’s a big fan” flattery. Everything else, same. I looked into it a little and thought, “Huh. I guess that’s funny. But Olear’s funnier.” Seriously did.

    Also, I’m envious of everybody. And I’m envious of you because Dan’s a big fan.

  9. Meg says:

    How horrible it must be to realize there are other funny authors out there with a modicum of success. How insulting to be approached by a publicist who thinks your opinion and blog are of value. To quote one of your commenters, “I feel for you. Holy crap, do I feel for you.” I wonder why Mr. Sandler, Mr. O’Rourke, and Mr. Perrotta did not take to quoting your (or your little Meg’s) pitch messages word-for-word in a public forum in an attempt to insult and embarrass you. It is a classy move and one I can only hope to see practiced by serious writers, reviewers, and producers more often in the future. Politely declining or ignoring pitches is so old-fashioned–clearly a rube move for the “internet impaired.”

    • Greg Olear says:

      >>one I can only hope to see practiced by serious writers, reviewers, and producers more often in the future.<<

      I totally agree. We could all use more transparency and less bullshit.

  10. Jim Simpson says:

    I’m glad you brought this to light, Greg. Your honesty is refreshing. These mass-email-marketing campaign pitches (and I get this from music PR people too) are just plain digital junk mail, impersonal and most often unsolicited.

    Regardless of the accolades bestowed upon Zevin’s book, it doesn’t sound particularly interesting to me, perhaps because I’m beyond all that (my kids are older and I was never that cool in the first place) or because this is simply a tired subject. Besides, Fathermucker is an engaging novel with a very original story — and as for titles, Fathermucker beats Dan Gets A Minivan hands down. (You know Dan must have a bit of title envy.)

  11. Joe Daly says:

    Greg-

    With my myriad (and greatly appreciated) editorial music obligations here and my other assignments, I regrettably find little opportunity to read much of the work posted on TNB lately. I’m so happy I made time to read this, simply because I found it exhilarating to see a writer uncloak his petty side with such candor. Many writers will give you the token, “Look, I’m really insecure,” tidbit, but precious few give such raw examples without polishing everything up in the end with an, “Aw heck, I’m insecure but I mean well and writing is really, really important to me, so ultimately my pettiness is OK.”

    That alone rendered this a pleasure to read.

    Without piling on the guy, I agree that it seems a bit artless to hit up a professional writer, and a stranger, no less, for free publicity. Absent a personal relationship or some quid pro quo, I wouldn’t be too jazzed either. But that’s because I’m insecure too.

    But it’s ok, because I’m a good guy who’s just trying to make it as a writer, and I mean well, so it’s OK.

    • Greg Olear says:

      As always, I appreciate the read and the comment, Joe. I haven’t been commenting much, but I have been reading, and the music section here is kick-ass. Well done.

      Me, I’m petty sometimes, like everyone. As for Dan, he is the anti-Joe Daly.

  12. D.R. Haney says:

    A minivan in Brooklyn? Huh. Or is the minivan only symbolic shorthand for white, middle-class parenthood, as per the contemporary cliché?

    No matter; I’m with Quenby on what the Internet has done to writers, and what it will go on doing to writers and others who, not so long ago, might have made a living as artists of one kind or another. Our posts online are, of course, advertising, or so we tell ourselves, but now that almost everyone is advertising him- or herself, I think the Internet has pretty much exhausted its potential as a DIY launching pad. Here and there, innovators will materialize with new gimmicks that will, of course, be quickly imitated and rendered useless for all except the first few. The windows of opportunity have gotten progressively smaller, so that I find myself amused by PR coaches who preach, earnestly or cynically, that Facebook and blogs are to latter-day self-promotion what MySpace was circa 2004. They aren’t. Just as people stopped paying attention to DIY promotions on MySpace after being inundated with them (“Check out our new album!”), they’ve stopped paying attention on Facebook (“Just had a piece accepted by Twit magazine!”). I was observing less and less interaction on Facebook when I left it a few months ago; people weren’t commenting as much as they used to comment (just as they’re not commenting much at TNB), and they recently seemed to hit the “like” button only in the spirit of quid pro quo. The cultural products that reach a wide audience are the ones with a heavy corporate push, which was exactly the state of things before the rise of the democratizing (as technocratic myth had, and has, it) Internet. There are exceptions, naturally, but with books, at least, they almost always tend to feed the public’s insatiable taste for fantasy.

    Anyway, I’m sure most struggling authors can sympathize with your feelings about Minivan Dan, though I have to wonder what you mean when you agree that he’s a “major” talent. I mean, he may well be—I haven’t read the book—but per what I wrote earlier about the symbolic shorthand of “minivan,” I’m reminded of this quote from Virginia Woolf—yes, I’m fucking reminded of Woolf with regard to “minivan,” all right?—in a letter about a friend’s poems:

    “Yes, they are exquisite, and a little anthology I have here of minor Victorian verse shows none better. But (you will expect that but, and relish it) there is something of ingenuity that prevents me from approving as warmly as I should; do you know what I mean when I talk of his verbal felicities, which somehow evade, when a true poet, I think, would have committed himself? ‘Enormous mouth’, ‘unimaginable repose’, ‘mysterious ease’, ‘incomparably dim’; when I come upon these I hesitate; I roll them upon my tongue; I do not feel that I am breasting fresh streams.”

    I happen to have that quote nearby for an essay that I’ll probably never write, following Quenby in this instance also. But it’s my bias that a “major” talent, even a hundred years after that letter was written, is one that, whether it’s expressing itself in highbrow verse or in “humor” pieces designed to be read on the john, will breast fresh streams, or anyway try to do so; and, again, “minivan”…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Duke, for reading and posting such a thoughtful comment.

      1. The concept of the minivan as some sort of emasculating vehicle is ridiculous. It’s an aerodynamic van; that’s all. Minivans are useful for transporting things like furniture, extra passengers, and large items. In this day and age, does anyone really give a crap if a guy drives a Honda Odyssey instead of a Corvette?

      2. The internet has managed to remove any hope for financial payout from musicians; it is doing the same for writers. The result will be a culture that celebrates mediocrity — or, put another way, a culture than lauds The Avengers, about as mediocre a movie as can be made without Will Smith’s involvement, for breaking box office records. (Although these box office records are bullshit; when adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” had the biggest box office of all time, and nothing will ever come close). I’m a third of the way into a novel I think it pretty good, but I don’t know how I can justify investing the time required to finish it. I know you’re in a similar boat; I suspect many others are as well. I’m a writer, and, as the saying goes, no one asked me to do this. Society owes me nothing. Artists have always struggled to get by. I know that. At the same time, it used to be, not that long ago, that one could eke out a living on advances and such. No more. The Bain Capital thinking has destroyed that. On the whole, America does not value art except as a commodity; hence all these stories about The Avengers making so much money. I would go on, but I know you feel even more strongly about this than I do, and anyway, no one will hear over the screech of the violins, and my post is self-pitying enough, as Meg so earnestly pointed out.

      3. Perhaps I was being generous in agreeing that his talent is “major.” Or perhaps I was thinking of military rank, where he is surely higher than a corporal or sergeant, but no match for colonel or general.

      4. What scares me about Facebook is that, once its monopoly is complete, it can shut you down, effectively removing your voice, or any voice, from the discussion on a whim. We are all depending on Zuckerberg’s good graces here, but now that the company is public, who knows? It’s a small step from Facebook to Fascistbook.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        So, Zuckerberg is the boy who can banish people to the cornfield? He wishes! And if I’m in the cornfield after leaving Facebook, I have to say it’s a much more pleasant environment. Facebook was causing me to hate people, which I would do ordinarily, of course, though I perhaps don’t hate quite as many people as I did when I was on Facebook. It’s like dropping out of a school that everyone insists you “must” attend, but what the hell good was it doing me? It certainly wasn’t helping to expand my “audience.” I don’t have an audience, and I was never going to gain one through Facebook, and as I somewhat wrote earlier, I almost never saw any “discussion” there. I mostly saw statements that were barely worth the ten seconds that went into typing them.

        Meanwhile, the culture that celebrates mediocrity is already here, I believe. It was always somewhat thus, of course, but it’s accelerated in recent years, and I think one of the reasons that the younger generation takes pride in its “collectivism” (to use a word that it largely can’t summon to describe itself) is that it’s unable to produce singularly dynamic personalities. Contemporary kids look to each other to a degree that even the boomers didn’t do; every view is instantly aired for widespread approval or disapproval, and if it falls too much in the latter category, without ever having been fully explored, it’s dropped. There used to be a word for this kind of thing: groupthink. But of course that’s been dropped, too, though it’s never been as relevant as it now.

        As for Meg, well, you expected something like that, right? But I don’t personally see the piece in terms of self-pity. Nobility, which precludes self-pity, is an ideal, and if we take the high road in one instance, we’re bound to take the low road in another. I mean, nobody’s perfect.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Your exile is self-imposed. A business that depends on FB could, in theory, be frozen out on a whim. This is very dangerous, I think. (My own view of FB is covered in the first few sentences of this post).

          Re: collectivism…I read this fascinating book called GENERATIONS that argues that there are cycles of generations, four in each cycle, and where you fall in that cycle informs how your generation behaves. The young kids now are supposed to be collectivist. It’s the way it is (the last time there was a Gen X cycle, BTW, it was the Lost Generation).

          Maybe we’re in for a return to the printed letter? Wish I knew…

          • D.R. Haney says:

            You’ve mentioned the fourth-generation model to me before, but I’m skeptical. I believe in revival, as in “We haven’t had any of this in a while so let’s bring it back,” but I find it hard to believe that revivals occur with that sort of precision. But it would require an essay for me to explain why I feel as I do.

            As for Facebook: as a child, my one complaint about Bond movies was that the villains always wanted to control the entire world. Surely they know that isn’t possible, I thought. As an adult, however, I see how accurate the Bond movies were.

            Have you ever seen the clip of Steve Jobs announcing the launch of iTunes? I never did until a few days ago, and it is something. It’s as if he thought that to “own” music, he could own inspiration and nostalgia and every emotion in between, and a few others besides. And Apple does, for all intents and purposes, own music now, and Jobs spent the last few months of his life buying the copyrights on schoolbooks, so that Apple would not only own “emotion” but “knowledge” too.

            In that sense, your Facebook scenario doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

      • dwoz says:

        The thing about the “emasculating” aspect is that the author himself is trading in that trope.

        The idea of it IS annoying to those of us that will drive whatever vehicle actually starts up in the morning, be that a Bucyrus-Erie backhoe or Chevy Silverado dually or Mazda minivan or Hyundai gerbil-powered-sneaker or BMW 733i.

        The problem seems to be that the author doesn’t hope to bust the stereotype by BUSTING it, but rather seems to be thinking that he’ll do it by EMBRACING it. To do so means he has to agree that it has value, before owning it. It has zero value, thus his celebratory owning of it is meaningless.

        Who knows though…maybe there actually still are people out there that derive gender identity from their choice of transportation. Certainly the car marketers think so, judging from the obvious gender bias of car advertising toward one demographic or another.

  13. jmblaine says:

    I love Amadeus because
    I so often
    feel like Salieri.
    I agree with Daly up
    there in saying that while
    plenty of writers will
    own up to a bit of insecurity
    there are few who throw open
    the door & rant it all out there.

    I confess,
    I sure was hoping to see
    comments from the Minivan Man
    at the end….

    The most painful part,
    Dan quotes Foghat —
    that just hurts, dude.

  14. Irene Zion says:

    I just drove over Dan. I couldn’t help it.

  15. I’m so very glad you said this….. ;-)

  16. Sean Beaudoin says:

    Seems to me your comments were an ideal entry into genuine promotion (people being interested, talking about the book, actually giving a shit, etc.) vs. what’s to be gained by a nice word or two from you on your blog. A smart publicist might even have seen the grumpier aspects of your post as an opportunity. Do I want to read about Dan or his van or any given paragraph of publicist boilerplate? No. But Meg might have sold me by laughing along and maybe even fessing up about some of the ankle-grip necessities of the publicity industry in general. I mean, sure, everyone knows Guest Blogs stir up a firestorm of sales potential, but an honest interchange and a look at what we all do to flog books could have sold a few copies.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Good point, Sean. I’ve been thinking this over, and if Mssrs. Perrotta, Sandler, and O’Rourke were to air my pitch letters, many more people would be aware of my existence. Also, is my piece here not a guest blog? Have I not done exactly what I was asked to do? You can’t win…

  17. Steve Bieler says:

    What always gets me is how the writers who win the prizes and land the blurbs from the even bigger writers get all the marketing mojo behind them. As if publishers are aboard a ship, observing writers struggling in the water with the sharks and the current and the discarded needles and the red tide, and all of the dead fish that have been mentioned here, and as soon as they spot the one writer who is doing OK, having climbed into a raft or onto some debris, they throw that one the rope. And it’s not as if they only have one rope.

    Dan Z and his Inspector Clouseau publicist could’ve won you over with a warm and respectful phone call. Instead they unknowingly carpet-bombed your ego. Now that’s what I call PR. Always call for the experts.

    On a more personal note, I can’t abide Cheap Trick, Foghat, minivans, or bad manners. That makes the score 3-1 in your favor, buddy!

    • Greg Olear says:

      That’s how the system works. Remember that drinking game called Asshole that is played in college? The system works like that. The ones with the most power find it easier and easier to accrue more power. Not just in publishing, but everywhere.

      I’m not in love with Cheap Trick, either, but “surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away” is about the best parenting advice I’ve read anywhere.

      Thanks for the comment & the read.

  18. Anne says:

    Goodness! I logged on to TNB for interesting well written pieces. As a lay person(only a reader)I am astounded at the green slime emanating from you all! Perhaps directing the vitriol towards what should have been ignored as a tacky move into positive energy in writing something wise would make you feel better,the Dan man left in unpublicized absentia and me with something to read that would encourage me to read more by you. Just saying.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I thought being honest about something I’d much prefer to dismiss might prove interesting and beneficial. I’m sorry you didn’t agree. If you’d rather read interesting well-written pieces in which I am less personal, please do check out my archive. The one about Arthur Miller Time is pretty good.

      Thanks for reading & commenting.

    • Sir_OPR says:

      yo yo yo anne this lay reader befuddled by yo unintelligible verbosity wtf

  19. Oh, Greg, this is awesome. You are brave. xx

  20. It’s all just so frustrating.
    Do people realize what goes into the books they read and the music they listen to?
    And how we’re all broke?
    And what’s her nose up there is disappointed about green slime?
    Because you didn’t spin this into something rosy for all of us to feel good about?

    And today I found out that Fiona Apple also wrote a song about Jonathan Ames called
    Jonathan and it’s on her new album. Dammit. That was MY song, that was MY Jonathan.
    I still think he’ll always like mine more. Because mine’s about how much I love(d) him
    and hers, I hear, is about their break-up. The only way this would be worse, is if her publicist
    wrote me telling me that she (Ms. Apple) was a big fan and would I spread the word about her to my
    fan(s) because we both have these songs about Jonathan Ames.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      The “slime” is green apparently because everyone who’s commented, other than Anne, is jealous. I take exception to that. I’m not consciously jealous of anyone, and I’m certainly not jealous of Dan, who’s a stranger to me in word and in person, though I’ll allow that I’m bitter in a general sense. I’m unaware that bitterness has a color, but if someone wants to assign one — Anne? — I’ll gladly don a jersey in that color. However, I’m afraid I can’t ooze slime through the jersey, or otherwise. I sweat a great deal, being a passionate sort — passion is usually associated with heat, which, in humans, leads to sweat, yes? — so hopefully that will suffice, as if it hasn’t already.

      Oh, and here’s a ransom note to Olear and all you green-slime others: as a reader, I demand that that you give me exactly what I expect of writers or I’ll go read writers elsewhere. I pay forty dollars a month for access to millions upon millions of websites, and less than a penny of that forty dollars is going toward TNB, and I don’t feel like I’m getting my less-than-a-penny’s worth. I want pretty writing, with quotable similes and positive emotions. That’s what good writing is all about. I thought, as professionals, you knew!

    • Greg Olear says:

      If:

      a. Fiona Apple is cool. (premise)

      and

      b. She copied something you did a few years ago.

      then

      c. You are cooler than Fiona Apple.

      QED.

      But I’ve known that for quite some time.

      The story about your “Jonathan” is much more interesting, too. Much much more. If you’re gonna write a break-up song, and you’re a big pop star, you better aim for “You Oughta Know” or else write about smiles and happiness and other topics of which Anne would approve.

  21. Zara Potts says:

    I’ve never heard of him.

    You, on the other hand, are big time where I live.

    Minivans will never catch on.

  22. Darian says:

    (Not sure if my avatar thing will kick in, but it’s really me.) I’m glad I’m not a writer. I’m glad I don’t want to be a writer. I’m glad I don’t have to be a writer. Seems to me the Internet works like one of those zoom shots in the movies where the background rushes up to meet you. You get to see the far shore of disappointment in vivid (slime green?) detail even before you put your canoe in the water. So, yeah, the paddling part really sucks even more…

  23. Tawni Freeland says:

    Thank you for sharing your honest green slime with us, rather than slapping a fake-happy bow on your box of pent-up displeasure and gifting us with a bunch of words you don’t really mean. I’ll take truthful, heartfelt vitriol over positive-sounding lies any day.

    And Fathermucker is waaaaaaay cooler than Dan and his van could ever be. I’m sure of it. :)

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