December 23, 2006

"I guess I'm going home for Christmas. Hope I don't go insane!"

The novelist serves up a Christmas "style" essay:
Every year I arrive at my parents’ house in Springfield, Va., armed with my healthy self-edifying projects — big leafy Penguin classics, Chomsky-explains-it-all books and a backlog of fortifying magazines. And every year I think I am going to actually read a paragraph of one of these things. But then I walk in the front door, say ‘hi’ to my mom and dad, stand at the kitchen counter and start eating cheese.

That’s not all that’s in the house. In case there is a terrorist attack at the Price Club, my mother has stocked up on boxed food, durable bags of meatballs, bins of croutons, an entire spectrum of cereal, jug wine and other pleasures that would never be reviewed in food and wine supplements.

After inhaling some combination of sustenance entirely made of carbohydrates and trans fats, I will go upstairs and change into an infantilizing outfit of fleece sweat pants and an old high school T-shirt that says “Go Spartans!” on it.

Then I go back downstairs and begin to watch television. In this consumer Green Zone, I can finally, really, watch TV. I am unfettered, and free of my ironic eye, op-ed anger and Web site snark, I can enjoy TV the way it was meant to be enjoyed — sitting there with my mouth open, too lazy to get up and go to the bathroom.
Well, maybe this Web site can serve up the missing snark.

31 comments:

Ron said...

Baked snark, boiled snark, snark flambe...The Althouse is an Automat of serve-your-self snark! A large part of the AltCharm is the snark in many flavors...it's why we're here!

ignacio said...

This guy's not a serious novelist so he shouldn't be described as one. Amazon lists him as a "performer" and a "monologuist."

He's a dork.

David said...

We can also unbutton our pants at the dinner table and 'snark away' with one hand in our loosened waistband!

Nothing better than snark in a jogging suit!

wv-paeapepa

What they wrap a dim sum meatball in!

ziemer said...

a grown man who reads chomsky hardly needs to go home to stultify and infantilize. that's his permanent condition.

altoids1306 said...

Essays like this (if this could be called an essay) only serve to confirm my suspicion that many liberals, particularly the far-left radicals, are simply the rejects and refugees from red states.

Their liberal belief is not borne of reason, but a psychological need to feel somehow different and superior to their kin. Apparently, high school and sibling rivalry never ended for them. What else can explain their desperate passion?

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see that, as some of us prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ,  Althouse has served up, as a recurring feature of this blog, the traditional Christmas snark.  Yes, as Ron says, it's a veritable Automat of Snark around here.  And it is occasionally amusing.

Now I think some commenters have been far too hard on the author of the piece under discussion, Mike Albo.

Mr Albo claims to read Chomsky, and ziemer, above, rightly notes the infantile nature of political followers of Dr Chomsky.  But for all we know, Mr Albo could be studying Chomsky's linguistics monographs from the 70's.  A quick perusal of Mr Albo's work would certainly lead a fair-minded critic to suspect that Mr Albo might have a deep interest in transformational grammars.

Ignacio impugns Mr Albo's credentials as a novelist, by noting that Albo also appears as a "performer."  Again, we should take a broader view.  A long list of writers including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Benchley, and most recently, Garrison Keillor, have all appeared in public, either on the lecture circuit, in movies, television, or radio.  These authors have each done comedic performances, so why should we grudge Mr Albo his chance?

I think a quick glance at this will help settle the viewer's mind about the talents of Mr Albo, who, I think, at certain moments, approaches even the comic genius of Jerry Lewis.

It's all so heartwarming that it inspires me to extend a wish for the Happiest of Holidays to everyone!

katiebakes said...

i actually can completely relate with that excerpt! i'm sitting in an old t-shirt in my parents house right now!

and i just stood at the counter and ate some brie!

(ducking head sheepishly) ... guess i can't pick on this one.

J said...

They still have Price Club?

Anonymous said...

Price Club was devoured by Costco more than a decade ago. Perhaps this feature story has been he shelved all this time waiting for room for it to be "fit to print" because nothing better was available, such as an essay on the importance of conserving navel lint.

Brendan said...

Boy, did this a-hole go out of his way to show us he's a lefty or what? Can't you just drop the effing politics and be a normal human being? I pity his parents.

Tim said...

"Boy, did this a-hole go out of his way to show us he's a lefty or what? Can't you just drop the effing politics and be a normal human being? I pity his parents."

I suspect his parents, like most parents, love him despite his being an a**hole Lefty who cannot drop politics at Christmas. And despite their love, they probably can't wait for him to bug out any less than he can't wait to bug out. His alienation from his family's life is painfully obvious - and too bad he sees it as nothing more than grist for a 500 word essay in the NY Times to communicate how simpatico he is with everyone else reading the Times who embarrassed by their family and where they're from.

Just like all other adolescents are embarrassed by their family and where they're from.

dick said...

I wonder why his parents don't leave a note on the door saying they moved and left no forwarding address. I also wonder what they have to say about this child who is so ashamed of actually coming home. I don't think it would necessarily agree with his thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Unless of course you have connections through Denver.

In which case you will spend Christmas trying to sleep in those hard plastic chairs at the airport and hope you can get back to wherever you started from in time that you aren't late for work next week.

Anonymous said...

Ronin: It could be that it was Mr Albo, himself, who was "shelved" for all these years. He may be in hibernation, to emerge every decade or so, like some periodic insect, to infest his surroundings. At the very least he inhabits a parallel universe from which he manages to escape from time to time. I don't think naval lint would be an issue of interest to Mr Albo, as he seems to wear a bikini far too often.

Brendan: Do you pity Mr Albo's parents because of his politics, or because of what you saw on the link I provided? I think it's an open question, not easily answered. I see now that others have opinions, so we may have a full discussion here after all.

Also, I must apologize for the errors of usage in my first comment. They were the result of writing after a good dinner and half a bottle of a nice Australian chardonnay.

Instead of, "A long list....", I should have said, "Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Benchley, and most recently, Garrison Keillor, would be included on a long list of writers who have appeared in public...."

And yes, strike the first "I think" in the next to last paragraph. "A quick glance...." will do.

Seeing these errors, I tried to delete the first iteration of my comment immediately after it was posted, but the ways of New Blogger are exceeding strange, and the trash can cometh and the trash can goeth for what reason no man can say.

Brendan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brendan said...

Brendan: Do you pity Mr Albo's parents because of his politics, or because of what you saw on the link I provided? I think it's an open question, not easily answered. I see now that others have opinions, so we may have a full discussion here after all.

This is the line that pissed me off:

"For a brief week, I get to be as ugly and out of it as Americans are always accused of being, and no one has to see it."

Ah, the backward suburbs, home to Mom and Pop Bigot. A care-free zone totally devoid of compassion for the larger world. If only they could be as enlightened as the prodigal twerp who just stumbled back home for some free grub. And--gasp--no Whole Foods! How did he ever survive?? The problem with lefties is that they're always on the clock. They never punch out. Every event, no matter how humble, is an opportunity for smarmy lecturing. The sanctimonious little snot even managed to squeeze in a jibe about global warming and Darfur. Effing unbelievable.

It seems to me you should be able to write about a simple trip home without referencing your self-important left-wing activism or your sexual orientation, the latter of which was totally gratuitous since he clearly returned home sans partner. You're a homosexual approaching middle age. We get it.

Hey said...

It's a teaching moment. Lefties LOOOOOOVE military interventions, up until 10 minutes before the US actually does it, since it's actually just a tu quoque posture, rather than a real complaint.

If you're a warmongering imperialist like myself, there's nothing more fun than going up to a hippie with a "free tibet" sticker/t-shirt and saying that he's darn right, we should make China get out of Tibet, and invade/nuke them if they don't. Furious backpedaling then ensues.

Afghanistan under the Taliban was one of these causes until 9/11, and then the same people were going to "Not in our name" marches. Traitorous, posturing scum.

As for the writer. I hope he chokes on his free range turkey and artisanal cheese. Enjoy your family, bring some food and wine that you enjoy, and get off your G-D darn high horse.

Steve said...

Every year I arrive at my parents’ house in Springfield, Va... There are no Whole Foods here

Ummm, there is a Whole Foods Market in Springfield, Va.

Anonymous said...

I am forced to ask:

Does our friend here go home for the holidays to enjoy Christmas and his family, or to inflict himself on his relatives and make sure they don't enjoy the Christmas season either?

Richard Fagin said...

I'm with Brendan. Parents can overlook the baloney when the kids are 20. But at 37 it's past time to grow up. Way past time.

Now if I could just get my 47 year old sister to burn her copy of "How to Read Donald Duck"....

J said...

"And--gasp--no Whole Foods!"

As a hard core suburbanite, I can assure you that Whole Foods, like all retailers of vanity products for wealthy consumers, has a strong presence in suburban America.

"Ummm, there is a Whole Foods Market in Springfield, Va."

It probably moved into the old Price Club site.

reader_iam said...

Wow. I read and took this piece entirely differently, it appears, than everyone else commenting on this thread.

I thought it was funny. I thought he was poking fun at least as much at himself, and arguably more.

I thought there was real sense of affection that came through.

I think it's the headline that's the problem (and maybe the illustration?), and I'm suspecting it's the filter through which the rest of the piece is being read. Editors write headlines and pick accompanying art; writers rarely get a say in those. That's why I tend to ignore those things until after I read a piece.

I also think you all are missing the significance of the third paragraph and the last two.

And, no, I'm not overly identifying with Albo. In my case, going home to my family would bear much more of resemblance to Albo's apparent day-to-day life (and yet I dread going there). Going home to my in-laws is more like what's described, and I love spending time there.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Reader_iam: Perhaps I was less than charitable when I compared Mr Albo's presence to an infestation. He may be more tolerable in real life than these clips of his performances would promise.

If, on the other hand, he acts at all in character, it is to be hoped that he would, indeed, slip over the event horizon into a parallel universe, never to return.

Being Christmas, and in the spirit of charity, I fervently hope that the parallel universe in which Mr Albo may find himself is well-equipped with Whole Foods supermarkets, where Noam Chomsky edits the newspapers, Keith Olbermann reads the news on television, Barney Frank is President, where everyone finds Mike Albo amusing, and that it otherwise resembles Provincetown on an early summer's day.

You see, in my heart of hearts, I wish no one ill.

tcd said...

Affection for what, reader? It doesn't even look like he talks to his parents. He sits in his parents' living room "drinking up the lack of intellectual stimuli". WTF? He goes home for the cheese and the "carbohydrate & trans-fat laden" food? How about spending some time reconnecting with his parents? Instead, he spends his holiday feeling smug & superior to the idiots in Middle America who raised him.

Old Dad said...

Fake news paper publishing fake humor by a fake novelist.

What's the problem?

tjl said...

"where Noam Chomsky edits the newspapers, Keith Olbermann reads the news on television, Barney Frank is President, where everyone finds Mike Albo amusing, and that it otherwise resembles Provincetown on an early summer's day."

In Provincetown on an early summer's day you would find little interest in any of these hypothetical situations, except at Andrew Sullivan's house. Everybody else would be at the beach or at the gym pumping up for tea dance.

Chomsky, in any case, would take a very dim view of a place whose main concerns are having fun and looking good. He would want to subject everybody to dreary lectures about how hedonism empowers imperialism and so on. Who would want that on a summer's day, except for Albo?

Anonymous said...

Well, in the spirit of Christmas cheer, I was imagining a place that had something for everyone ;->

Anonymous said...

OK, Reader_iam: I re-read it just because of you. And I hate to admit it, but you just might be right. I'm late for my own version of same, so I'll give it some more thought. (Maybe ;-)

But there's no excuse for the Price Club faux pas! And it's not Edy's. It's Dreyers. Or at least it should be for those of us reading in the West. No matter, I guess, as Nestle owns it now and they will undoubtedly cease using either name soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Theo:

Well, in the spirit of Christmas cheer, I was imagining a place that had something for everyone ;->

What a gentleman! Hat's off to you!
Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to you, too, Ronin!

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