60. Half Empty – David Rakoff
A friend of mine bought this book for me and told me that when she saw it, it “reminded her of me.” What she didn’t know is that when we worked together at the public library, I came across this book several times while shelving, thought about checking it out, and then didn’t get around to it…so it also reminded me of me.
Starting with the essay “The Bleak Shall Inherit,” Half Empty demonstrates a lot of truths that the more pessimistic among us will recognize, sort of like a New York-centric, more amusing version of the message from the wildly popular to interlibrary loan book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (Side note, I tried to skim this because of the appealing title, it said something about being fine with being normal and I had to close it. I’m abnormal and I like it, sir, and not just in an “Oh, I’m so unusual, I drink coffee with four shots of espresso and am writing a screen play at Starbucks because I MUST express myself” kind of way, more in a “What did you just say? Why do you like talking about that?/Did you really just glare at me for saying ‘hamster’?” coupled with side glances and grimaces from other people when I talk kind of way.).
One of my favorite passages had to do with the musical RENT. I don’t like paying rent even though I’ve been doing so for what feels like thousands of years now, but that’s a digression mainly meant to set up the fact that I have never actually seen RENT and despite not seeing RENT, I have had that “525,600 minutes/How do you measure/Measure a year” line stuck in my head before (and now, so do you). Rakoff mentions that the super-creative creatives of RENT don’t really spend much time creating and then mentions the songwriter “noodling on his guitar,” which has long been one of my least favorite things. I hate guitar noodling. I don’t have all day, I’m dying here. We’re all dying. Stop noodling. Anyway, a short while later in the essay he talks about the creator of RENT dying the day before RENT opened, which is awfully sad, but also something that seems like a truism of creativity at this point (especially if you have to do something else to pay rent). You have to have a blind cocky optimism in order to be willing to create because it’s unlikely that it will become popular while you’re still alive. Sometimes you have to die to be popular. Or win a Putlizer. Posthumously. Also, you have to actually follow-through with making something in order to have created something that won’t be recognized until after you’re dead. Whee! Half empty!