Category Archives: My Two Cents

Genius is a Jerk

Two books that I’ve read in the past few weeks have prompted me to think about the nature of artistic genius. It struck me, after finishing Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife – about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson and Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank – about Frank Lloyd Wright’s extramarital love affair with Maymah Borthwick, that both Hemingway and Wright had immense self-confidence in their artistic vision. Almost to the point of being total assholes.

It was more than just self-assuredness. In the case of Frank Lloyd Wright, especially, it was a sense of being pre-ordained to better the human condition. According to Nancy Horan, Frank believed, for example, that stiffing the working man of his wages was okay in the grand scheme of things because the value of his design work to society as a whole was immeasurable. He left his wife and kids to live in Europe for a year with his muse and mistress, claiming that minds of his ilk cannot live “inauthentically.” He really thought he was a higher order of man than the average human being, and felt that certain things were his due because of it.

Maybe Hemingway was not quite as vain as Frankie. But he still believed enough in his gift to drop it all and move to Europe, surviving hand to mouth and on the generosity of others until his first real breakthrough came. And when his closest friends and mentors tried to warn him against publishing a piece he’d written openly mocking Sherwood Anderson (his first true mentor and champion), instead of considering their advice seriously, he accused them of being humorless and narrow-minded. When he was working, he completely shut out the whole world around him, going so far as to rent a separate garret room to write in even though at the time he lived alone with his wife, no children.

Hemingway and Wright “made it” not on the merit of their God-given talents alone. They believed their work deserved recognition and proceeded to act in a way that eventually accorded it.

Is that what it takes? The gift of talent coupled with a large dose of narcissism and a shot of bullheadedness?

The fame of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway was not achieved without heavy human collateral – broken marriages, neglected children, the loss of lifelong friends. I wonder how many more people with a little bit of talent and a great deal of persistence could achieve “great things” if they could be more selfish. If they could convince themselves that the measure of their gifts to the world is greater than the grief it will cause their loved ones to bear.

Do the fruits of genius ever outweigh the human toll they reap? And what if you sacrifice your personal relationships for the sake of your art and die with nothing to show for it, anyway?

This has been deep thoughts with Rima Tessman.

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)

Did You Make Your Bed This Morning?

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who make their bed and those who don’t.

I make my bed every morning. After Phase One (the smoothing of the sheets and blanket) is complete, I move on to Phase Two, which involves circling the bed several times to make sure everything lines up correctly. The third and final phase is the plumping and centering of throw pillows, and often requires that I step back several feet into my own closet to achieve the optimal perspective before the bed can be called “made.” Though elaborate, the process is fail-proof and only takes twenty to thirty minutes.

The P-Dawg is not a bed maker. It wasn’t a requirement in his house growing up and get this – he didn’t even know what a flat sheet was until he married me.

“What are you saying, that you slept between the fitted sheet and the comforter like some kind of barbarian?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said.

Recently I mentioned that I think it’s high time the kids started making their own beds every morning. It’s necessary, I believe, to instill  a sense of order and responsibility and, more importantly, for me to get an extra ten minutes of aimless web surfing time per day.

“I think that’s a bad idea” the P-Dawg immediately replied.

“What?” I was aghast. “Why?”

“I don’t want them to end up like you.”

It’s true that the bed making has caused me undue stress at times, such as in emergency situations when I’ve had to leave the house in the morning before the chore is complete. I have, on occasion, come home late and found myself making my bed at eleven PM so I could go to sleep in it. But what difference does this make, as long as I appear normal to the naked eye when I’m out in public?

And so the P-Dawg and I remain at an impasse. I maintain that the state of a bed in its natural habitat is “made,” and he insists that a bed’s default state is “disheveled.” I think that bed making is an exercise in discipline which also helps clear the mind and prepare mentally for a new day, while the P-Dawg believes that the practice can only lead to a life of neuroses and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. (By the way, he believes that children should have responsibilities around the house, he just doesn’t think making their beds should be one of them.)

What say you? Did you have to make your bed as a kid? And if so, has it made you a compulsive freak?

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)