Friday, April 29, 2016

Anna Wiener really hit the nail on the head

I assume that, by now, you've read Anna Wiener's superb short story: Uncanny Valley.

It's been a long time, a very long time, since I've read something that is so accurate about these times, these emotions, these moments, as Wiener's story is.

This is not to confuse confidence with pride. I doubt myself daily. I feel lucky to have this job; I feel desperately out of place. My previous boss — breezy and helpful, earnest in the manner of a man who in his early twenties bequeathed $4 million to disrupt libraries — had encouraged me to apply for the role; I had joined his publishing start-up too early and needed something new. “This is the next big company,” he had said. “It’s a rocket ship.” He was right. I had been banking on him being right. Still, there are days when all I want is to disembark, eject myself into space, admit defeat.

I laugh, I cry, I recognize myself, or people I know all too well, in every paragraph, in every sentence, in almost every word.

Here's Wiener's description of an awkward blind date with an out-of-town developer. It so perfectly captures the wild mood swings from desire to agony; it so perfectly lampoons the desperate energy of our frantic, over-scheduled lives; and it so perfectly skewers the social awkwardness of our we-live-vicariously-through-our-social-media-selves, that my jaw drops with astonishment.

“There’s no menu, so you can’t just order, you know, a martini,” the developer says, as if I would ever. “You tell the bartender three adjectives, and he’ll customize a drink for you accordingly. It’s great. It’s creative! I’ve been thinking about my adjectives all day.”

What is it like to be fun? What is it like to feel like you’ve earned this? I try to game the system by asking for something smoky, salty, and angry, crossing my fingers for mezcal; it works. We lean against a wall and sip. The developer tells me about his loft apartment in the Mission, his specialty bikes, how excited he is to go on weeknight camping trips. We talk about cameras and books. We talk about cities we’ve never visited. I tell him about the personal-shopper service my coworkers all signed up for, how three guys came into work wearing the same sweater; he laughs but looks a little guilty.

I haven't read much of Wiener's work before, but I certainly shall be hoping to read more of it in the future.

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