the electronic renaissance
Last night I was ready to heave my computer through the window out of frustration with this novel. The premise, which I occasionally think is brilliant, I currently think is really stupid. It'll cycle back around, I know, but fucking Christ. The problem with my emotional situation vis à vis this book is: when you grow up used to scholastic achievement but also used to consistent failure in every other part of life (like say sports, or having friends) then you learn to use scholastic achievement as sort of a stand-in for your personal value as a human being, because that's all you have. And this carries over, duh, to academic or literary work in your adult life; and there the culture only reinforces it. If you're a seventh-grader and you believe that "I quickly solved this algebra problem" equates to "I am a good and kind person," that's a little weird even if you understand why you've come to think that way. But if you're a young adult and you believe that "I wrote a good story" equates to "I am a good and kind person," that doesn't seem so odd because John Gardner and Robert Stone and all the other Moral Fiction people have essentially been expounding the same fucking equivalence. Only the failures correlate too. If you do something cruel to your character, you have to wonder if you're cruel yourself. If women come out badly, does that make you a misogynist? Or (as I worry) if you're at work on a giant sweeping narrative experiment that turns 94 different kinds of formal tricks and synthesizes such obscure departments of human knowledge as set theory, poststructuralism, Central American history (1550-2000), neuroscience and solar energy, but you've populated this book with characters who are somehow flat and lifeless and inconsistent and uninteresting and take a back seat to the slow inhuman progression of ideas, does this suggest that you don't actually understand human beings at all, that at the core you're just a giant hypertrophied self-involved brain hooked up to a shriveled and impoverished heart, without real capacity for empathy or unselfish emotion? Probably not to that extreme. But you know. I can say this now because workshop is over for the year, and presumably by August everyone will have forgotten it and can continue to comment on my stories without feeling unduly weird or self-conscious.
The U.S. Army announces that "We are transforming today's most powerful Army in the world from a Cold War Legacy Force to an Objective Force with... the power to slug it out and win campaigns decisively." It will accomplish this goal by buying new hats. No shit.
To symbolize The Army's commitment to transforming itself into the Objective Force, The Army will adopt the black beret for wear Army-wide. It is not about increasing recruiting; we achieved our recruiting target of 180,000 recruits last year--without a beret. It is not about retention; for the second year in a row, we exceeded our reenlistment goal by a wide margin--without a beret. It is not about morale; Soldiers are ready today to go into harm's way. It is about our excellence as Soldiers, our unity as a force, and our values as an institution.