What I Am Thinking About This WeekPosted: May 25, 2010
>Today, as I begin changing everything I can think of from my old address to my new address, I am thinking of every place my information resides–banks, insurance, magazines and post office, credit cards, AAA, more and more, and more that I surely have forgotten. I’m also thinking about all this Facebook privacy stuff, how everyone is going crazy reacting to the idea that maybe your “information” has been compromised, and what is going to happen when your “information” is leaked to “outside sources.” And, on top of that, I’m thinking of the census takers who I see walking around neighborhoods, with their clipboards and their open, hopeful faces. And also their begging and knocking on doors and talking to people who are too confused, or jaded, or suspicious to answer the questions. In short: I am thinking about all the ways in which we want and don’t want to be known.
I am curious about the shock and surprise people are having, or are at least expressing, when they find out that Facebook, a free service, has shared their “information” with third party websites in order to, well, sell you things. I only ask: What did you expect from a website that asked you to enter all your “information” and then tracked every click of here and there? Also, What information are you trying to protect? Also, it only knows what you tell it.
I am thinking about one of my favorite things in New York, which is the moment when you put something on the curb that you don’t need any more and then you go to get a Vietnamese ravioli, and when you come back, it’s gone. I am thinking about how I love, love, love the efficiency of this. And I am even imagining what the object must feel when it is given a new home, and suddenly made useful once again. This makes me think of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Famous” where she says “I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous/or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular/but because it never forgot what it could do.”
Right this moment, I am thinking: I should not have eaten the entire of bag of potato chips.
“Now you have to start letting it go,” said Peter, my editor, after I turned in the final draft of my novel. I thought I had been doing that since 2005, which was when I originally finished it. (I say that–originally–because not only did Peter ask me to write a new scene or two, and to adjust a thing or two, I think I probably could have tinkered with it for another five years. It’s true when they say you never finish a novel, you just stop.) But I hadn’t really let it go. Do you ever? I tell you this about Peter firstly because he was right (as per usual) and also because I notice myself wondering how I am reflected in the work, and wondering how to let go of that. Just tonight, I handed a galley to a friend of a friend and thought “Oh, there I go, into his hand, into his head, and digested.” (Of course, this is not really how we read books, and I know that, so I am aware that it’s me and not the real thing that’s happening.) What’s interesting, and hard to deal with, apparently, is how I want to be known for the book, but also distance myself from the book. Oh, art, you are so complicated and wonderful and I love you!