149. Self-Importance :: from Stuff White People Like, the book

Implied but not stated in virtually every entry here is the notion of self-importance. Magically, over the past half century white people have been able to mask much of this self-importance through the arts, charities, nonprofit organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and childbirth.

The life of every white person is worthy of a memoir. Being born into a middle-class existence, having some difficult experiences in college, and taking a year off to teach in Asia/work in the Peace Corps/volunteer with Teach for America are all life stories realized by a select few. Unfortunately, the publishing industry can only put out so many books each year and white people have had to turn to an alternative means: blogging.

Due to an undying need to share their life story with everyone who will listen, white people have taken to blogging in massive numbers, though it is no surprise that many have simply turned their journals/diaries into blogs where they talk about the latest episode of American Idol, Darfur, their experience at a coffee shop, and their concerns about the future. These were to be expected.

What has been less expected is the need for white people to document in blog format any experience that takes more than a week. Pregnancy, vacations to Asia and South America, renovations, child rearing, and car restoration have all become blogs that encourage the rest of the world to take notice of the astute observations and talent of the undiscovered writer.

When a white person shares their URL with you, do not say, “Do I have to read this now?” Instead, you should say, “I’d love to check it out,” quickly read one post near the middle of the blog, and return to the white person, saying, “Oh man, I saw that post on [insert topic]. It was great. I forwarded it to all my friends.” Doing this shows that you believe their life to be important and their presentation of that life to be worth your time. Sadly, the temporary boost in self-esteem for the white person is the only benefit to be gained from the blog and your interaction with it.

*

[Lander, Christian. Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2008.]

White Annotated Biography :: from Stuff White People Like, the book

Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius “Honestly, I’m not afraid to call this the book of our generation. He captures all that we are and aspire to be.”

Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated “The book is incredible. The accented English literally jumps off the page and demands to be read out loud.”

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay “His first book was good, but I think he really comes into his own as an author with this novel. It does this amazing job of combining all that I remember loving about comic books with all that I love about prose fiction.”

Henry James, all books “If you send me to a desert island, just make sure I have a page of James’s delicate prose in my back pocket. I promise you it can keep me entertained and thinking for months.”

All Victorian novels “So your favorite books are Pride and Predjudice [sic], Wuthering Heights, and Vanity Fair? Convenient that they’ve all been turned into movies, don’t you think?”

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma “The politics of food are fascinating, and this book will change the way you eat and the way you think forever.”

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake “I love Joyce, although I feel as though Dubliners captures the spirit of the Irish more than this book.” (Note: It is an old white-person trick to steer conversation away from books that you have not read.)

William S. Burroughs, Junky “Did you like Trainspotting? Yeah, well, Burroughs was doing that in 1960 with this book.” (Note: Do not bring up Naked Lunch; white people don’t even pretend to understand it.)

Jack Kerouac, On the Road “I read this book when I was sixteen years old. I would say that by the time I reached page 2, I wanted to be a writer.” (Note: Advanced white people are disgusted by people who like this book.)

Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby “You know, I’ve never read Fight Club. I find his other works to be far more engaging.”

Nick Hornby, How to Be Good “I fell in love with Hornby when I read High Fidelity in 1995, and I think he gets better with each book. This one is my absolute favorite though.”

Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City Note: This novel is written in second person (“You step outside,” etc.). This makes it very easy to test if a white person has actually read it or just watched the movie starring Michael J. Fox.

Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho “Reading Ellis is like watching an amazingly melodramatic soap opera and then realizing that it actually taught you something at the end. I can’t tell you how much time I really spent thinking, just thinking, after reading this book.”

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest “Did you know that this book is more than 1,000 pages long? I read it in high school, on spring break. A thousand pages.”

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past “I hope to read this one day.” (Note: Any person who has actually read all fifteen volumes has a graduate degree in English.)

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Source: [Lander, Christian. Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2008.]

138. Books :: from Stuff White People Like, the book

The role of books in white culture is perhaps as important as organic food — essential for survival. However, understand that this is not about literacy or reading, but about the physical object of a book

Try this out as an experiment. Show a white person a photo of a living room that features an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. They are guaranteed to respond by saying how much they would love that for their own home and that they are planning on having a living room just like that in the future.

This is because white people need to show off the books that they have read. Just as hunters will mount the heads of their kills, white people need to let people know that they have made their way through hundreds or even thousands of books. After all, what’s the point of reading a book if people don’t know you’ve read it? It’s like a tree falling in the forest.

As much as white people do not want you rifling through their medicine cabinet, they are desperate for you to examine their bookshelves. When scanning through the rows of books, the best things you can say are “You made it through Infinite Jest? Wow” or “I didn’t know you loved Joyce so much.” If your intentions are to grow your friendship either romantically or platonically, there is no better technique than to ask to borrow one of the books.

This is because lending out books is the only practical reason for white people to hold on to their entire collection. So by asking to borrow a copy, you are justifying their decision to save the book, allowing them both to introduce you to a new author and assert their status as a well-read individual. It is the perfect move.

But there are times when your visit to a white person’s house is not long enough for a full inspection of their bookshelves. How then can one gauge their taste? Simple, just look at the coffee table. You see, white people like to purchase very expensive, very large books that they can put on their coffee tables for other people to see and then use to make value judgments. If the coffee table book is about art, then the white person wants you to ask them about their trip to the Tate Modern. If it’s about photography, they want you to ask them about their new camera. If it’s about football or bikinis, you should politely ask to leave.

So now that you know white people like books, you might assume that a book is the perfect gift. Not so fast. There are a few possible outcomes from giving books, and few of them end well. If you get a white person a book that they already have, the situation will be uncomfortable. If you get them a book that they do not want, you will be forever viewed as someone with poor taste in literature. In the event that you got them a book that they want and do not have, they are forced to recognize that they have not read it, which instantly paints you as a threat. There is no way to win when you give a book to a white person.

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Source: [Lander, Christian. Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2008.]

George Saunders’ Amazon Blog!

[I like this George Saunders. He’s funny. I recommend his story “Winky” from his book Pastoralia. I’ll try to post it at some point. . .]

My First Blog Posting: In Which I Ventriliquate

I have to admit I’m a little unsure about this whole blogging thing. The whole idea of writing to an unknown and possibly nonexistent audience seems – I don’t know – a little narcissistic. Kind of mentally ill? I mean, it’s very similar to what I do, day in and day out, inside my head. But now here I am, typing it out.

Still, when in Rome, as the saying goes, one must blog, or people will start yanking on your toga and calling you a Luddite, in Italian.

So how about this – I’ll do this in an interview format, in which I ask questions of me. This should work well, as long as the questioner isn’t an idiot. Continue reading

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