Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I wrote this three years ago, and am posting it because the subject matter came up in "comment conversation" on my other blog.
This morning, while linking to my online bank account to correct a GIGO error in my automatic billpayer, I noticed a little-used link to the Pajiba review site. I couldn't think of any movies/books I was interested in, but it had been so long since I'd been there, I clicked the link.
And goddamnit, there, large as life, was a review of Sarah Vowell's newest book "The Wordy Shipmates". Funny? Irreverent?? When the hell did this happen? I remember going to college honors english classes with Sarah Vowell at Montana State University and can tell you she was probably one of the most humorless people I'd ever met.
I remember debating the merits of an author's argument in one of our assigned texts (the text itself is lost to my memory) with her during a classroom discussion where she was frustrated to tears. Or angered to them. Someone told me about it after class.
So here is Sarah Vowell. . . geeky, awkward, Sarah Vowell transformed not just into a writer (my absolute dream "job") but a fucking GOOD writer. . . with positive NYTimes/Kirkus/Washington Post reviews, a syndicated gig on NPR radio, and magazine columns. And I'm envious.
The ultimate revenge for Sarah Vowell (who I strongly suspect could not give two shits about getting revenge on me for something she doubtless has pushed from her memory or got over immediately following the class in question) is that she won. She's doing what I wish I was doing, and is doing it better than I could hope to do it.
College was a long time ago and I certainly have my regrets, but it occurs to me that my regrets with regard to Sarah Vowell are not so much that I hurt a kid who was away from home and feeling lost and a little lonely. . . awkward and exposed by a verbal bully (ie, me) . . . but that I did all that to someone who's made good, gotten famous, is successful. . .
I don't know. I think to myself, if I didn't know Sarah had gone on to much bigger and much better things, would I even give it a second thought? I flatter myself and upbringing by thinking I would to some extent. I mean, I can think of dozens of kids I bullied with my brain (hindsight being twenty-twenty, however, nobody with brains quite so big as hers) and made look silly or feel miserable that I DO feel bad about and do think about from time to time. But I don't know if I feel nearly as bad about any of them as I do about Sarah.
And part of me thinks. . . I should reach out to her. . . apologize for the boy I was and congratulate her on her success, but I REALIZE that there's some part of me that's just doing it because she's famous. Like I want to be acknowledged indirectly as an influence in her life or something by REMINDING her about something I did that affected her (at the time). And because I can't be sure that it's not more about trying to get her to acknowledge that she remembers me from college. . . getting an ego stroke from a celebrity, so to speak. . . I'll never do it.
Soooooo. . . Because this will never make it back to Sarah:
Sarah, I hope you don't remember what a douche bag I was in college. I was (if you can believe it, dear reader) even more shallow then than I am now. I didn't see a cool, funny girl, who was shy and probably could have used an ally. I saw someone I could use to boost me up in the eyes of my classmates by making her look silly. I'm really sorry about that. You weren't the only one. I think what you're doing with your life is amazing. I wish I was talented/intelligent/broad enough to be doing it. I will be buying one of your books in the very near future. My daughter loves Violet from "The Incredibles", by the way. Good luck with your life and your career.
Okay okay. . . i'll leave that last part out. I'm envious.