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Q and A

Jan 11, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

Are you familiar with the work of Nick Hornby? Now that catch-22 is behind me I have started reading Mr. Hornby's latest, Juliet, Naked?

Stacey answers:

I did not read Juliet, Naked though I think maybe you asked me about Nick Hornby once before, Tom. I think you recommended him so I read How To Be Good and found it a little programmatic for my taste, though everyone is allowed to write a few books that are not as wonderful as their other ones. (Yes Haruki Murakami, I'm talking to you).

Is Hornby your one true love? Can I say "Hornsby" instead? Do I have to keep reading him?

Jan 06, 2012; Pickles Asks:

Yesterday I paid one dollar, U.S., to sit in a movie theater and watch Moneyball, which I did not hate. I didn't even hate myself for liking what I liked about it. Half the trailers shown beforehand were for t.v. shows. You been to the movies lately?

Stacey answers:

Moneyball is a good title--reminiscent of Rollerball, yet also like it could be about a giant ball of money, or else a testicle filled with money. Obviously I did not see it. I haven't seen anything.

Dec 22, 2011; Pickles Asks:

Yo, Stacey, have you checked out the flying videos made by the man called Jeb Corliss?!! Man, oh Manischewits!!!! Have you/ would you ever jump out of a airplane? Do you enjoy Danger these days?

Stacey answers:

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles. Yeah, I have seen that guy. He's awesome but I'm mad at him because I think that if anyone should get to fly, it should be me. I should be able to fly without jumping off of anything, maybe even just hovering a few feet above the ground until I get the hang of it. Then I will take a nap in midair.

I don't enjoy danger! Sometimes fake danger is okay, like getting on a giant Ferris wheel, but having happened upon a terrible car accident just yesterday I feel confident in saying that danger is frightening and disturbing. Even though I think everyone was basically okay in this crash, but the cars were ruined and it looked like hell. Happy New Year!

Dec 15, 2011; Tom Hancock Asks:

Hi Stacey1 Have you read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller? I am rereading it and really enjoying it. Happy Holidays! Tom

Stacey answers:

Yes, I reread it recently too. I really liked it too though it's so circular and repetitive that I was kind of thrown off. I swear one of the chapters was repeated in its entirety. But this can't be right, right? Will you let me know?

Also it's aged amazingly well, I think because it's one of the few major novels of the mid 20th century that's not about men and women. (In the foreword, Franzen says he cringes at the book's attitude toward women, but it just seems satirical to me). Of course there's also the irony and lassitude and cynicism--that makes it feel current too. And the ending is phenomenal, the one real thing that all the unreality revolves around. Yet still funny.

Dec 05, 2011; The wonderer Asks:

Hi Stacey. Awhile back on here, you were answering someone's question and you said that the person shouldn't cut off their mother (or maybe father). You said, don't do that. And that if the person wanted to know why, you would explain. Could you explain? I would never cut off my mother or father because I think it would make me feel too horrible (even if they were horrible, which they're not) but I have cut off someone else in my life who, according to professionals, is verbally abusive. But for a good long time, that verbally abusive person was also my friend, in between moments of being an asshole. I feel bad about cutting this person off, and sometimes even miss the person, at the same time I feel kind of free and kind of like "well why was I putting up with that crap in the first place?" about it. My self image feels better for it at the same time it feels totally guilty. Cutting people off, even crappy people, feels bad when you care about them, even if you care in a complicated don't-want-to-return-their-phone-calls or divulge-personal-information-around-them way. Could you elaborate on whatever it is you were going to say before? I really hated this person when I did it, and can still think of stuff she's done that makes me hate her again, but that wasn't all there was too her. Sometimes I feel like getting back in touch, but trying to find a way to not get sucked into the whole thing again. Is that nuts?

Stacey answers:

Hi Wonderer. No, you are not nuts. Not only are your ambivalent feelings understandable, it takes sensitivity and courage to perceive them. It’s still a loss, even if your friend was a jerk—why wouldn’t you feel that? And of course your friendship meant a lot to you—if there wasn’t love, you wouldn’t have bothered to get angry.

As for cutting people off, I have different opinions for family vs. friends (& exes). With family, I think severing a relationship is a false solution with potential for bad-soul reverberations. (Obviously I’m not talking about family members who’ve done things we all agree are really fucking bad). The problem isn’t that it's too mean, it’s that estranging yourself from a parent isn’t the same as being free of them. Instead of vanishing, they’re likely to take up residence inside your head and become symbolic (i.e. the Bad Daddy). At that point, you’ve stopped dealing with the real person, so nothing can change. There’s no chance to grow up or watch them become doddering or get a nice china set out of the deal. It’s just you and Bad Daddy, locked together in a weird psychic room, forever.

With friends, the situation is less dire. You’ve already had the experience of breaking up, moving away, changing schools, quitting tennis team, or whatever it was that taught you that friendships can come and go without anyone dying or maybe even feeling that bad. And friendships are predicated on enjoying each others company; if it becomes torture, what’s the point? The truth is that people change and it can suck. A bad personality trait that was almost imperceptible once, like an ear poking out of their hair, may expand to cover their entire head. Then you change. Qualities you once found endearing (binge drinking, dissecting sexual encounters, extreme lateness) lose their madcap charm. There’s nothing wrong with moving on. I say do that. But it usually feels better to try non-extreme measures first. Distance, negotiation, telling them to stop it, that stuff.

It's kindhearted of you to wonder if your relationship can be redeemed. But it brings up questions about your objective chances of pulling this off. Have you gained some hotshot diplomacy skills lately? Because whatever happened before is likely to happen again. And do you think she’d be open to it, or is she too pissed at you for dumping her? Was she undeniably abusive, as in stealing your things or locking you in her car and driving 100 miles an hour? (Really bad). Or did she use abuse-style language while you were free to complain, leave, or use it back? (Obnoxious, but some people can deal with that). Would it work to try a more distant, fun-type friendship instead of an intimate one? Or would that just send her to Crazy Town? Are you idealizing her now? Did you over-react then? Did you give her a reasonable chance to reform? Even if you don't become friends, does she deserve an apology? Or are you just a nice, gentle person a who feels guilty easily?

You know Wonderer, it sounds like that feeling of half-wanting to get back together with an ex-boyfriend. Sometimes the longing isn’t so much about the boy himself as it is about being lonely and boyfriendless. Do you really miss her? Or are you feeling lonely and friendless? If it’s the second one, maybe it’s better to put more energy into your existing friendships, eat chocolate, surround yourself with stuffed animals, and buy a dog. If it’s the first, maybe it’s worth getting in touch with her to see what happens. That’s admirable. But brace yourself, Wonderer, because she might be really angry at you for dumping her.

Nov 22, 2011; Jon Asks:

Nice to meet you for lunch! I like the site. Best, Jon

Stacey answers:

Jon the songwriter! Yes it was. Thank you for letting me eat your hummus.

Nov 08, 2011; Julia Asks:

Aloha Stacey, First, I must flatter you: You rock! All right, enough of that. I am writing an undergraduate argumentative essay on the ways in which you use irony in your work, which will incorporate ideas from Barthes's pleasure principle (boring, I know). If you have any inclination to tell me how you personally feel about irony, even if your opinion is a snippet, a haiku...whatever comes to mind. I would simply like to have the benefit of your opinion without waiting for you to write your memoir (or a book 'on writing.') Thanks! -Julia Grace

Stacey answers:

You, Julia Grace, rock as well, and your paper sounds good even though I can't remember what Barthes said anymore. Didn't he like Japan? More boys should be named Roland. Here's what I have to say about irony: it can seem subversive, intelligent, obvious, or cutting, but really in the end, it's simply impossible to avoid. Try it. Good luck. We live in a world where there is no one thing we all believe in. Irony is inevitable. Amen.

Nov 02, 2011; Diego Castro Asks:

What is your take on the prospects of a graduating college student given the current job market (or what you've heard about the current job market). On a more personal level; I have almost completed a major in Biology along with all the necessary research experience, publications, internships, and positive academic recommendations but now find academia boring and the sciences dull. Have I wasted my time? I do like sea creatures.

Stacey answers:

No, you haven't wasted your time! Sea creatures are awesome, and liking one thing is better than liking nothing at all--which describes some people when they were fresh from college like me. Another awesome thing is that the job market is in the crapper! All entry-level jobs inherently suck anyway so it's not like there ever would've been some fantastic job-plum just waiting for you to pick it. A shitty job market gives you time to think about what you want to do, rather than just going with what will make you a good income quickly-ish--there's nothing like that now! So you don't have to have the "should I go to law school?" dialogue. Lawyering's over!

Honestly Diego, there's nothing wrong with trying things, flailing, failing, succeeding, and changing your mind. I know how important getting everything all figured out seems to you now, but personally I wish I hadn't wasted my twenties worrying about what I was going to be or do with myself as though every month of my life was somehow being chiseled in granite. It made me unhappy, it didn't help, no one cared (except my parents), and I had to figure some things out, like the not-liking anything. When I graduated from college, the economy was also very bad. Very few of my friends could find real jobs; most had internships and waited tables and stuff like that. And they were all worried. And now they're all totally doing interesting, grown-up, impressive, satisfying things. I think the bad economy actually helped in the end.

Oct 29, 2011; Occupier Asks:

What's your take on Occupy Wall Street?

Stacey answers:

I think it's neat.

Oct 26, 2011; Afraid to sleep at night... Asks:

Hi Stacey, I've been having vivid dreams almost every night for the past several weeks. Lately, the vast majority are apocalyptic in nature and last night's dream contained an unprecedented amount of gore I didn't even know I could imagine. I'm starting to fear my unconscious. Any advice on how I can dream about candy lands and puppies again? Do lucid dreaming techniques actually work?

Stacey answers:

I've been having them too. The first thing to try, which I haven't tried yet, is cutting out any insane, concentrated, large sources of caffeine, like those big guarana capsules I keep swallowing in the afternoon. So stop that, you. Then try taking 5-HTP at night with half a Benadryl (or a whole one, or none). Amazon has 99 cent hypnosis MP3's you can listen to as you're falling asleep. I like Gail P. Borden's "Sleep Deeply," though I think it has some annoying New Age music in the background. It kind of works the best if you don't think it's going to work and don't really listen while it plays. Having a purring cat on top of you can be extremely soothing; pretending you have one on top of you can help too. Don't underestimate the power of washing your sheets.

Or you could just go with it. After all, your subconscious is you, it's you, it is you; it's not a marauder or a Visigoth. Something is camped out in your mind right now, something dark or denied or unfinished or scary--why not take a look and see what you think? There's a lot to be said for not being divided from yourself, for letting the bad stuff speak. It's kind of great that you're having your dark dreams around Halloween, the one time when images of all our mean, bad, bloodthirsty, and angry desires become socially acceptable. Don't you kind of want to know about the apocalypse inside you, the gore? What's ending in your life right now, what's wounded?

The only hitch is that you have to write down your dreams. Otherwise they wash away with the day. And when you write them down, they begin to change--in fact, writing down your nightmares might stop them. If you're looking for a reading list (and I know you are) the most intelligent thinker about our inner shitty side was Carl Jung. He's sort of unreadable though so I recommend the books Owning Your Own Shadow and Inner Work by the Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson. He's pretty dry but he's clear and his books are short. (One caveat: he's sort of a drama queen, and warns his readers to use caution lest they have a psychotic break, so powerful is the shadow within them--just ignore that. It's a legacy of Jung, who had a great imagination but went a little woo woo with the ghosts and extraterrestrials).

As for lucid dreaming, I don't think that's going to get the puppies back. Lucid dreams are cool but scary. I only had one, once, with the aid of a Lexapro. I was in charge but I also sort of wasn't--it's a dream! I flew around over San Francisco, Superman-style, then ended up in school (I go to school every night, college usually, though this was grade school) where I flew through the halls yelling "School's out for summer." The air was full of beautiful fish.

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