Thursday, May 1, 2008

Writing, bad

PMG summed up my feelings about the Pulitzer for feature writing rather nicely. I actually went back to read it and found, in fact, that it was worse than I had remembered. I do think part of the blame lies with the readers for taking the discussion in the wrong directions. I for one wanted to know why it is that classical music remains so wedded to the idea of the composition to the point where I feel the performers are all marginalized. Beethoven is Beethoven. Other corners of music inspire much more passion much more consistently about covers, which performance you're listening to, live albums, etc.

Anyway, I'm not writing to complain about a story from last year, but rather one from last week (hence my recalling the post and rereading the article). Like the Joshua Bell article, it has such an interesting premise, and then dashes any hope of actual substance, and this one's even worse. It's an article on young gay marraiges. And it's the most vapid bit of journalism, with equal bits Cosmo gossipiness and pretentiously swank name-brand dropping. Enjoy these choice passages:

"It was a cozy, festive affair, complete with some 20 guests and a large sushi spread where you might have expected the chips and salsa to be. “I beg of you — please eat a tuna roll!” Joshua barked, circulating around the spacious apartment in a blue blazer, slim-fitting corduroys and a pair of royal blue house slippers with his initials. “The fish is not going to eat itself!”
Spotting me alone by a window seat decorated with Tibetan pillows, Joshua, who by that point had a few drinks in him, grabbed my arm and led me toward a handful of young men huddled around an antique Asian “lion’s head” chair. “Are you single? Have you met the gays?”

I realize it's exposition, but it just sounds like you're doing everything to point out how fantastically materialistic these people are. And it only gets worse.

Several couples lamented the fact that they had never met another young gay married couple. This left them without a model to help them shape or understand their own relationship, and it seemingly left them without anyone who could relate to their unique circumstance.

Wait, I can understand wanting a community, but do people really need a model? I don't think I've ever heard anyone claim that their marriage was modeled on something. That seems, actually, like a terrible idea. He continues...

“They see other married people like them everywhere. We don’t. It would be great to have young gay married couples who we could hang out with.”
“I actually met one the other day,” Daniel, who sat by Anthony on the couch in their apartment in Brookline, said matter-of-factly.
“You did?!” Anthony said, nearly spilling his glass of wine. “Did you get their number?”
Daniel hadn’t. This momentarily crushed Anthony, who seemed to yearn to interact with other gay people — single or married — more than Daniel did. (Anthony joined Boston’s gay flag-football league the previous fall, partly in an effort to meet other gay people.)
Other couples, like Joshua and Benjamin, had an abundance of gay friends of all ages and clearly reveled in having their cake (marriage) and eating it too (a social life that rivaled that of many of their young single gay friends). It was hard to keep track of the many social engagements the couple invited me to.

Good, we can safely dodge the issue by noting the glass of wine (I wonder what kind) and the bountiful social life. It makes it hard to take this seriously.

When I finally did hear from Marc and Vassili in February, they had good news. They had filled out the requisite forms at City Hall and were just waiting the three state-mandated days before collecting their marriage license. In the meantime, they were celebrating by luxuriating for a night at an upscale Boston hotel. They invited me to drop by.

Oh goody. Don't worry, what follows is precisely what you expect, and again a genuinely interesting point about conventionality is swept humorously away.

When the clerk finished typing up the marriage license, she walked back to the counter. “Are you going upstairs?” she asked the couple.
“What’s upstairs?” Marc asked.
“The city clerk. She can marry you.”
“Does she like gay people?” Marc said.
“She loves gay people,” the woman assured them. She looked at the document in her hand.
“Is that our marriage license?” Vassili asked excitedly.
“Yes, it is. Do you want it?” She started to hand it to him and then stopped, toying with him. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, please!” he said.
“Wait!” Marc said dramatically. “I think I’m having second thoughts.”
The woman froze.
“He’s kidding,” Vassili said.
“Totally kidding!” Marc assured her.
The woman laughed, handed Vassili the license and wished the couple well. As we walked away from the counter, Marc, who had tried to mask his nervousness with humor, looked as if he might pass out. “I need to go to the bathroom,” he said. “I’m feeling lightheaded. Don’t get me wrong — this is very cool. But it’s actually happening. I’m actually getting married — to a man!”

Does she like gay people? That was the point at which I decided I could not let this pass. So consider me one up should this ever win a Pulitzer.


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