The Idiot

“The Idiot”

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in, that you didn’t get the memo, didn’t realize there was a manual, that everybody else is comfortable in their own skin and knows how to get along?

I do. I always feel this way. Maybe that’s why I’m addicted to art.

I like people. I like to hang, exchange ideas, but I’m always self-conscious, unsure whether to talk or not. Then there are the boring sots who won’t shut up, I don’t know how to make them stop, I endure their prattle, they believe I’m their best friend. And then, now and again, I’m inspired, feeling my oats, telling a tale that could go on forever, with tangents, believing my audience is entranced before I ultimately become doubtful and shut up. I used to talk quite a lot, but I don’t think it worked for me. Somehow I alienated people, going on about what I was excited about, having opinions. So now I’m quiet. But I’m not happy about it.

Now when I was growing up we were all apart. There was no internet, long distance phone calls were expensive. You lived in a community where everybody had your number and this drove me crazy, because they formulated an opinion about you and it stuck, forever, until you moved to a new place. Somehow they were all on a path. Maybe not to anywhere exciting, the law firm, or their daddy’s business, but they were resigned to it, didn’t complain about it at all, me, I wanted to get out, I felt there was something bigger out there, more exciting. And there is. But too often I still feel uncomfortable, like I don’t belong, I don’t know how to behave, what to do.

And I know, I know, you tell me everybody feels this way, but I’m not so sure. My father was not a member of the group, although my mother was the straw that stirred the drink, to this day, she’s the center of activity, maybe there’s just not room for me, or I’m playing the role of my father, that’s what’s scary, the older you get you realize you’re just like your parents, no matter how hard you try not to be.

I used to love to go to the movies alone, back when that was a thing. Sit there in the darkness and bond with what was on screen.

And the records… Especially when we hit the FM era and it was no longer about ditties, but opuses. Have you ever listened to a Moody Blues album? The band is denigrated, they belong in the R&RHOF ages ago, but when you listen to their albums you get taken away. Start with “Days Of Future Passed,” yup, the one with “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin,” but however great those cuts are, and they truly are, it’s what surrounds them that makes the album such a great listening experience. Like a classical village where the players understand you.

Kinda like a Yes LP. Sure, they had a hit with “Roundabout” but when you were listening you felt like you were in a cave, or in one of the cover paintings, alone with the sound, it was so magical. Which is why I liked going to the concerts, to bond with the acts, sure I wanted to hear the hits, but even more the album cuts. And my concertgoing is not littered with hangout experiences, going in a group, meeting new people, it was mostly a solo endeavor, where I connected with the acts.

And I could quote legions more acts.

But one thing’s for sure, that’s not what artists are selling anymore, that’s not how our society works. Now it’s all about the team, your network of friends, helping each other out, the rugged individual, the outsider marching to his own drumbeat, is nowhere to be found. So when I glom on to something that rings my bell, speaks to me, I can’t put it down.

Kinda like “The Sopranos” the very first year, when there was no hype and no general acceptance. It was the nuances that put the show over the top. How Meadow had her parents twisted around her little finger, suggested they take away her gasoline credit card as punishment, and then bragging to her friend on the phone how her ‘rents were clueless.

Every Sunday I comb the “New York Times” Book Review section looking for things to buy. And I always do it electronically, I don’t want to go to the store, where the help wants to be your best friend, I’m looking for a more private experience. And I read the “Wall Street Journal” book section too, but it’s mostly non-fiction, I don’t care about that, I don’t want to know about what once was, I want to be taken away to a new land, where it’s only me and the author.

And I don’t know why I downloaded the sample chapter of “The Idiot,” but when I opened it up and read the first few pages, I knew this was for me, I bought it.

Selin goes to Harvard, her lineage is Turkish, she falls for Ivan, a Hungarian, but she just can’t get it right, she doesn’t know how to act with a man. She’s got the urge, but none of the chops. She’s obsessed with him despite his having a girlfriend, she believes they share something special, when she doesn’t.

And she can’t stop pursuing him, but mostly in her mind.

Do you know what it’s like to be obsessed but unable to call? Because you don’t know what to say, because you’re fearful they’re gonna laugh in your face?

This is not the story of a dropout who conquers Silicon Valley.

This is not the story of someone who graduates at the top of his class and dominates Wall Street.

This is the story of a smart person who worked hard to get into a good college and realizes other than book learning, they know nothing.

That’s the weird thing about elite institutions, the grinds who get in are often compromised, they’re looking to spread their wings, some do, some fall flat on their face.

So I’m not gonna tell you any more plot. I don’t want to ruin it.

And I will say the book has so many literary references you feel inadequate unless you have a Ph.D., and what bugs me about books is they’re all sponsored by foundations, what I like about music and movies, TV too, is they live and die on their appeal. Either you dedicate your life trying to make it happen or you get out. You succeed or you don’t. Your movie hits or your record climbs the chart or you find another path. Not that overnight success is rampant, it’s just that you get signals, that you’re on the right course.

Maybe you call that capitalism. And I don’t want to get into a political discussion of economics, but when something rings my bell I want everybody to know, so it can be given a chance, so these artists can give up their day jobs and focus on their work, because being an artist is a full-time job.

Most people hate their jobs, they live for the moment when they can turn on the TV or play some music and now…

Now this is getting too complicated, too dense, when really I wanted to capture the concept of alienation, how I feel it and when I see it expressed in art I resonate.

I resonated with “The Idiot.”

“In high school I had been full of opinions, but high school had been like prison, with constant opposition and obstacles. Once the obstacles were gone, meaning seemed to vanish.”

“Human beings, all of us, hate to take risks. We all want to hide.”

Yup, all the wankers telling us to just jump off the cliff like them, quit our jobs, go our own way, they don’t understand we’re not like them, WE CAN’T!”

“I’m hearing a lot of contradictory emotions from you. It seems to me that your sense of other people’s awfulness might be compensating for your own sense of inferiority and fear of rejection.”

This stopped me in my tracks. Why do we behave the way we do? Who’s gonna explain it? Certainly not the winners who say to put your head down and keep marching, what ever happened to the life of contemplation?

“At a table near the door, two students were slumped over their books, either asleep or murdered.”

There’s a sense of humor, a turn of the phrase, the protagonist is her own best audience, that’s what happens when you grow up alone, in your head, you create a whole way of seeing the world that no one else comprehends, even though you’re eager to share it.

“Did anyone ever get as much of anything as they wanted?”

“I was troubled by the Beatles, by the contradiction between their jaunty, harmoniously innocent warbling, and the calculating worldview that seemed to underlie it.”

Bingo, it’s the darkness that made the Beatles superstars.

“Beautiful people lived in a different world, had different relations with people. From the beginning they were raised for love.”

If you know any beautiful people you know this. And looks matter. But being yourself leads to its own rewards.

“But, to me, nineteen still felt old and somehow alien to who I was. It occurred to me that it might take more than a year – maybe as many as seven years – to learn to feel nineteen.”

I’ve never felt my age, have you?

“Almost everything that was interesting or meaningful in my story was, in her story (her mother’s), a pointless hazard or annoyance. This was even more true with my aunts. They didn’t take anything I did seriously; it was all some trivial, mildly annoying side activity that I insisted on for some reason, having nothing to do with real life.”

Did your parents understand your need to follow the music, to throw away everything else in pursuit of the sound?

I rest my case.

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