In the wake of the the death of David Carr, the New York Times, his employer, ran a series of reverential articles extolling his wit, reporting skills, craftsmanship, generosity, work ethic, etc. He was by all indications what my friend Jim Klein calls a “cat” — short for “hep cat” — what Cab Calloway defines in his Hepster Dictionary as “a guy who knows all the answers, understands jive.”
While I was checking out Carr postmortem, I ran across a video [VIEW HERE] of him and his colleague, film critic AO Scott, discussing “guilty pleasures” — in Scott’s words “the stuff you like but maybe you don’t want other people to know you like.”
They rattled off rather bland shit (the appropriate word) that they didn’t mind admitting they enjoyed, like reading the New York Post and watching Jersey Shore (more heroic admissions might have included Japanese Massage Porn or collecting vintage tampon cases, but who can blame them?).
Carr and Scott then roamed the Times Building “on a dirty Safari,” as Carr put it, eliciting from their colleagues embarrassing indulgences that no self-respecting cat would ever admit to, like listening to on a regular basis the Archies’ song “Sugar, Sugar.”
I bring up guilty pleasures because I’m re-reading Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism, a book I once defended in a published letter in Newsweek, a book that President Jimmy Carter cited in a widely panned speech accusing his countryman of suffering from a malaise, a book I had hoped in this second reading would prove Lasch a forgotten prophet, but, alas, Lasch’s cultural analysis turns out to be self-righteous, all-knowing, hectoring, in short, a heaping pile of Freudian gobbledygook.
Like when you read about a strange exotic disease and start thinking you’re experiencing its symptoms, I’m fairly certain now that me-myself-and-I suffer from a narcissistic personality, that I’m an utterly self-absorbed asshole in constant need for affirmation from others, someone who has constructed a way-too-cool persona to cover his pathetic insecurities. Unlike most narcissists, however, I have formed a couple of lasting relationships, and I don’t have any interest in celebrity culture, so perhaps there’s hope for me.
Therefore, in an attempt to remove the way-too-cool mask of my persona, I thought it might be therapeutic to admit to a couple of my guilty pleasures (despite the narcissistic indulgence of doing so in the first place more or less confirms my self-diagnosis). Nevertheless, here goes.
Guilty Pleasure #1. I love reading obituaries and consider myself a master critic of the genre. I read perfect strangers’ obits from the first sentence through their career recaps down through the survivors all the way to where memorials can be sent. I especially take note of verbs indicating passage from this life to non-being. Just last Sunday I read about some 98-year-old who “has stepped into the glory.”
Guilty Pleasure #2. What started out as an anthropological exercise of studying television series The Lone Ranger as an artifact from the Late Fifties has degenerated into a full-blown addiction. How can someone who earns his living teaching literature suspend his disbelief and squander hours watching a show where horses gallop from the wide open plains directly into a film set with fake trees? How can he ignore the never-ending chain of coincidences? The guns shot crisply from hands 20 meters away? Good questions. Search me.
Guilty Pleasure #3. The Monkees. Not as bad as the Archies, But close. I hasten to add I only own one song, “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone.” It could be worse. “Daydream Believer,” for example.
Okay, enough of this confessional shit. I need to get back to writing my memoirs.