Sunday, December 4, 2011

I'm Literate, and I'm From Texas, or a Lesson From Twitter

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When you get on Twitter, and have the gumption to tag famous people in your posts, please know what the hell you're talking about.

I say this to you now, before you make an ass out of yourself in a public forum: fact-check, fact-check, fact-check.

But when you get schooled by Neil, its kind of like sticking yourself in the eye with your own English degree, which I did just to prove that I have one.

I was sort of trying to partake of @neilhimself's discussion with others that Kurt Vonnegut's persona had perhaps been misinterpreted by a publisher. Then I suggested that "was this the guy that wrote A Clockwork Orange?(italicized, because in English, this is the correct way to present a book title), which is why I deserve to have my English degree taken away. It only took Mr. Gaiman two words to knock me down a peg. A little fact-checking proved to me that Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange. By the way, the movie having been set in England should have been enough to remind me that I am both #americanlitfail and #britishlitfail, since Kurt Vonnegut was an American author and Anthony Burgess was British.

Quite honestly, it was about all I could do to keep myself from groveling at Mr. Gaiman's feet, screaming, "I'm literate! Really I am! I have an English degree! See?!", which would have been humiliating.

My friend and
professor, Dr. Ken Burchenal
teaches American Literature
and the Classics (among other
things) at UT and UTSA.
Seen here, hopefully playing
"Bad Dog" with The Happy Campers
You see, I spent the better part of my college career--when I wasn't fencing or playing D&D--trying to prove that I was literate despite being from Texas. My philosphy was, "You're from Texas. Try not to act like it." Despite the hard work of  myself, Dr. Ken Burchenal, Dr. Mark Allen, and several others, Texans continue to go on being stereotyped as illiterate yokels who ride their horses to school. No matter where we turn, Texans are being portrayed as backward and ultra-conservative (I looked all over for that Family Guy episode "Boys Do Cry" where the Griffins ran to Texas. I can assure you: we don't hand out handguns at the liquor store as mandated by state law--that's just stupid). During orientation at UTSA, a foreign exchange student asked me if I had a horse and if I rode it anywhere. I responded, blushing, that yes I had a horse, but that didn't mean everyone did, and no, I didn't ride it places. I found it difficult to not be offended. I told my father the story, and he related that once he had gotten thrown out of a movie theater in Vietnam where they were screening a John Wayne movie that my dad found particularly amusing.

"Outside of Texas," he said, "The rest of the world takes their cowboys very seriously."

Compounding this unshakable problem is the fact that published a laughable review of American Gods soon after its publication. I'm glad I never got to read that review, though I can probably categorize it alongside my treatise on what not to ask Maynard James Keenan. Mr. Gaiman commented on it in his journal (you can see it here, Wednesday, August 8) and its something that, as a Texan, I have been trying to live down ever since. This is by no means a criticism of Mr. Gaiman's response to the San Antonio Express News. If only I could ever be in humor to give consequence to newspapers who employ ignorant journalists (that goes for The Current too!). Nothing brings out the militant literature buff like someone getting something wrong about you or your intellectual property. In my case, I'll probably be seeing a couple of angry deceased authors in my unprotected dreams tonight.

I would like to give a bow to Mr. Gaiman--again--and a bow in general to those of whom it has been my pleasure to get face-pwned in a literary debate, especially Dr. Allen.
Dr. Mark Allen teaches medieval literature and culture, Chaucer, Arthurian legend and Tolkein
at UTSA. It was always an honor to get face-pwned by a pro.  I made the mistake once of challenging him on a point
while we discussed the invasion of the Turks and conquest of Constantinople. Honestly, did I really expect
to know more about that than him? Face-pwned! 
If I take anything else away from today, it is that I am far to quick to feel belittled or cornered by criticism. As a writer, this is a bad thing. The urge to crawl into a hole and die is a testament to how badly I take constructive criticism, and how easily I can be intimidated--probably a side-effect of working in food service. In addition to brushing up on my Vonnegut, I'll try to accept a bit of constructive criticism in the form of what will more than likely be the rejection of my submission to the Blizzard Global Writing Contest. I found four technical errors in my story.

That said, I am going to be a fan girl now:

Did Neil Gaiman respond to a comment I made on Twitter?

Why yes, and in about three seconds. Man, he's fast.

Ah dude, Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange? Mah bad...

I think I'd rather be schooled by Neil Gaiman than Dr. Allen or Dr. Ken. I've been wrong plenty of times in their classes, and I probably got schooled.

And in all three cases, I'm a better person for it.


  1. But Nerd, what did Gaiman actually SAY?

    1. He said, "Actually, no." The two most degrading words I will ever have the honor of forgetting. He was very short, but the conversation on Twitter went on for like an hour, so he was busy talking to a lot of people.

      The only thing that saved my sanity was knowing how nice he was when I actually met him. But that is a different story.

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