Any serious self-examiner who may consider him or herself a discerning reader, will completely miss out on an uplifting and enjoyable reading experience if caught up in ignoring this book because of its title. Obviously, Mr. Kreider, on surface, could have come up with a better choice. But the hype surrounding it, and all the publisher’s included blurbs, at first made me excited enough to read this book regardless of the corny title. My rather lukewarm reception and relative non-engagement with the very first essay severely disappointed me however. But, in fairness, his second essay, titled Kind of Love
, happened and all was forgiven. In it the ex-cartoonist, Kreider, is reversely propositioned by a performance artist doubling as a successful prostitute, and the book definitely becomes for me a potentially interesting read. Her offer of a no-strings-attached appreciation-blow job followed by the fortuitous opportunity of his spending an entire week with her at his secluded cabin seemed to me to be an extraordinary proposition. They spend hours discussing questions of existence and relationships, not to mention a few other experimental behaviors. …We both suffered from bouts of abysmal self-doubt, and each sometimes lay awake at night wondering O what is to become of me?…
This second essay offered many reasons for self-reflection, and even as I continued on reading Kreider’s further essays, I was astounded by the quality and interest still generated by that amazing second one. …I’ve often thought that if I’d been impressed into an arranged marriage with one of my old girlfriends I’d’ve been perfectly happy—or at least no unhappier than I am now…
Kreider is so refreshingly honest on the page, and though he makes no excuses nor apologies for his being so forthright, he realizes his flaws and humbly submits them to a meaner reader’s criticism. David Foster Wallace publicly declared, “Kreider Rules
”. And the more I read of him I too get what Wallace was saying. …I suspect the more unsettling truth is that there are quite a lot of people out there you could fall in love and spend your life with, if you let yourself…The romantic ideal whereby the person you love, the person you have sex with, and the person you own property and have children with should all be the same person is a more recent invention than the telescope.
The essays keep getting better and better. Even if a reader believes he or she is involved in what could be considered a healthy relationship, Kreider provides ideas and anecdotes that further the discussion and examination of one’s self. An amazingly intelligent and interesting read. Not myself a cat lover, Kreider even suggests that feline romance might be looked into as well as he goes into great detail regarding his own nineteen-year relationship with a once-stray cat. …having been given up at birth…It wasn’t until I found myself still single in my forties, long after all my friends—even the most obvious misfits, womanizers, sots and misogynists—had successfully mated and reproduced, that I started to wonder whether it hadn’t had some more significant effect.
Kreider’s adoptive mother volunteered him at John Hopkins University for a psychological study as an infant. His brilliant and charming essay, The Strange Situation
, goes into great detail over his search for answers over why he is the way he is and his investigative research into a study that had been previously kept secretly protected. …“Whereas if I was securely attached as an infant”, I told Margot, “it would mean that I’m not a victim of some primal loss or trauma but just another dickhead.”
“My point exactly,” she said. “Even if you were traumatized, and even if you had some scientifically documented evidence for this, you are still ultimately responsible for any dickhead behavior.”…
Refreshing today to actually hear somebody state existentially that we are responsible for our own behavior, and our lives. So much blame on our mothers these days. Not to mention the trashing of our dads. A reminder that without these flawed characters reproducing we wouldn’t have had the opportunity of a lifetime. I am forever grateful my parents had me. Of course, things could have been better, but here I am working out my own existence, attempting to evolve, and struggling through my nagging frustrations. …Church was boring, make no mistake—the drawings I did in bulletins could fill a multivolume set of notebooks—but at least it wasted far fewer hours of my life than school…Ceasing to believe what your parents and all the other nicest grown-ups you know have always taught you, and still believe themselves, is initially liberating, but it’s also alienating. It makes you feel secretly snobby, and sorry, and alone.
Kreider especially touches a nerve in this second-to-last essay in the book. There are so many relative points he makes in his always entertaining and enlightening prose. He is funny even when deathly serious. It also becomes obvious throughout that Kreider is simply a pretty good man, still single, but who maintains a growing number of close friends. Relationships that might be rightfully construed as long accomplishments similar to a good marriage.…Although Lauren doesn’t love the idea of dying any more than the next person, it doesn’t especially upset her to believe that life is meaningless or the universe indifferent. She thinks people like me, taught as children that a just and loving God is watching over the sparrows, feel bereft, cheated of something promised. Which is why we’re the ones who suffer these chronic cases of existential despair.