Words on Generosity et al.
is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which
I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away.”
it appeared in the 1947 edition of Funk & Wagnalls New Standard
Dictionary of the English Language):
Giving or bestowing heartily and munificently; freely and self-sacrificingly
liberal; munificent; as, a generous contributor.
Having noble qualities; honorable; high-minded; as, a generous nature.
Characterized by fullness or liberality; abundant; overflowing; large;
bountiful; as generous fare.
Of good descent: said either of men or of animals; thoroughbred; hence
mettlesome; as, a generous steed.
Having stimulating qualities; strong; as, generous wine.
generous or generosity in 3 overblown sentences that apply to art:
The actor's lack of generosity betrayed an equivalent lack of commitment
to the scene.
Each sentence moves with generosity, as though compassionately bled from
the author over several years in such a way that it cost an equivalent
number of years from her life.
Instead of relying on closed circles of encrypted iconography, a generous
dialogue of color and rhythm was deployed in pastel acrylics and rattlesnake
Borealis, The Icy Skies at Night
November 20, 1999, a search for free
yielded 23,666,150 web sites (granted, most of these are free hardcore
sex chats/dog-sex pics with teenage lesbian chycks & Dobermans from
Malaysia). A search for motivation
yielded 801,720 items, most of which were inspirational messages meant
to most effectively maximize will-power amperage. I tried motive
only got 452,447. A search for generous
spat out 594,262 items, mostly restaurants bragging about their portions.
A search for generosity
churned up 176,270 items, including this encouraging message of the spirit.
I deduce that fish are always more interested in the wiggling lure than
all that stuff about who’s holding the rod. I will not attempt to offer
statistical analysis, however.
to Improve the Inevitable Xmas? If Santa Claus were to consider covering
his suit, his sled, his elves, his Mrs. Claus, and his reindeer in corporate
logos, the potential advertising income would be tremendous. His generosity
would probably enable him to emerge into reality, and all the boys and
girls, men and women, would get everything they wanted thanks to corporate
Thompson recently weather sealed the blacktop on his asphalt and paving
business in Belleville, Michigan, selling it for $422 million. He took
$128 million and dished it out among his employees. Hourly employees received
$2,000 for each year worked and salaried employees welcomed between one
and two million dollars. He says it was the right thing to do. No dispute
Me All Your Money
Gates always threatens to generously unleash many several billion dollars
on the world. Apparently he’s uneasy about raising a supremely privileged
monster child. He’s also thinking about world envy, trying to avoid the
Montgomery Burns, scepter-wielding, mean and equally omnivorous rich man
pose the world wants him to strike (and has already superimposed over his
body despite smiling PR photos). People devote time to this.
philanthropy good business sense? Buy a halo. Charm the world. Register
at msn.com if you're interested in getting
on the receiving end of his generosity. Count eyes. Sell advertising. Would
you register your e-mail address and fill out an intrusive survey on msn.com
if you got a chance to get in on the smallest fraction of Gates’ wealth?
He could make a few million in the process of giving away a few billion.
Resolved: a few people would give Gates everything they had to be the last
person in the receiving line. The underlying idea is clear: Give a little
today. Receive more tomorrow.
Have A Question
all the reviews I read of David Foster Wallace’s recently published “Brief
Interviews with Hideous Men,” I haven’t read a discussion of generosity.
(My motivation for searching through the articles is simple: I wanted a
reviewer to validate my thoughts, and if none did, I wanted to express
this idea of generosity and make it accessible to, like, set everything
straight.) Reviewers of Mr. Wallace’s latest book often mention “sex” and
“alienation” and the “war-of-the-sexes,” or they wax absolutely pathetically
about how DFW’s characters “exemplify what can go wrong in a society when
the romance of individualism turns inward and loosens restraints.” Survey
says? XXX. (These signify “three strikes” and not the previously mentioned
teen/dog sex pics; most of DFW’s reviewers would probably mistake XXX for
pornographic content just as they mistook the book to be primarily about
society’s “hideous” obsession with sex.)
me to extend the fishing analogy past breaking: reviewers of “Brief Interviews
With Hideous Men” have been like shallowstream-running fishies that swallowed
the lure and died belly-up rather than getting snagged and eaten by the
author. Or if the reviewers are fishing they’re pulling up nasty cartilaginous
skates from obtuse angles. Here’s the problem: reviewers don’t seem to
come up with the right question. (One of the coolest formal contrivances
in the book is that the “brief interviews” are in question-and-answer format,
but they lack explicit questions: there’s just empty space for the reader
to fill-in after Q and before A). As in Jeopardy, Wallace (a hyperliterate
Alex Trebek) supplies the reader (the contestant) with a 273-page question.
Now I have the opportunity to buzz in, my question to the overriding response
of “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” is four-fold: “How is generosity
manipulative? What are the dynamics of give-and-take, giving and receiving?
How does motivation complicate generosity? How are these complications
played out in daily lives?”
chapter, “The Devil is A Busy Man,” comes in two installments. In the first,
a redneck narrator’s father tries to give away the space-wasting contents
of his machine shed/cellar. He even puts a “Free Stuff” ad in the local
Trading Post, but no one takes anything until he affixes $5 and $10 tags
to the old JC Penny Sleep Sofa and Old Harrow With Some Teeth a Little
Rusted. People lap it all up and drive away “tickled to death to get a
harrow for next to nothing.” (For extra credit: draw parallels between
this story and Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony.” The sin is written across
one’s back by a harrow.) The son asks the father the moral of the story
and the father tells him he guesses “you don’t try to teach a pig to sing.”
In the second story, a man anonymously “diverts” money to friends in need
and justifies this anonymity thusly: “A lack of namelessness on my part
would destroy the ultimate value of the nice gesture.” His “motivation”
would be “not generosity, but desiring gratitude, affection, and approval.”
The narrator meets with the recipients of the anonymous gift and refuses
to acknowledge that he gave the much-needed money to them. The recipients
gush about how thankful they are and the narrator dives into how the gift
will help them (ie, the recipients), and he suddenly realizes that these
words reveal his true motive to the recipients. Then he immediately spirals
down into a despairing realization that his generosity has been emptied
of any sincere good by his deception driven by motivation to receive something
in return: “My attempts to sincerely be what someone would classify as
truly a ‘nice’ or ‘good’ person . . . despairingly, cast me in a light
to myself which could only be classified as ‘dark,’ ‘evil,’ or ‘beyond
hope of ever sincerely becoming good.’”
are more instances of this ping-ponging dynamic that I won’t go into now.
The devil is a busy man because secular pigs believe “next to nothing”
is more valuable than nothing. The devil is a busy man because there is
little hope to live beyond motivation. I ain’t preaching, but check out
Genesis: God gave Eve to Adam and then Satan gave Eve an apple. The first
gift ends solitude, setting the stage for the tumbling interworkings of
give-and-take; the second gift (Satan’s) is a temptation. It’s manipulative
generosity. Light and darkness have been in perpetual round long before
Milton. Ultimately I think the way out of this labyrinthine ball is to
be good without being sincere. And the easiest way to not have to worry
about being sincere is to do something for profit. That way there’s no
despair. Income fills the moral cavity. Go outside, breath the open air,
and buy DFW’s book at a local independent bookstore. Help everybody out.
Get what you pay for. If the major chains have vanquished your area’s indy
booksellers, however, go get it in the traditional way.
on the Web
the Internet. For less than a dollar a day, there is a lot (understatement)
of accessible free shit. The Internet is a massive storehouse of generosity.
Open the eye sockets wide: they’re giving it away more than ever. The larger
sites provide free services like e-mail addresses and free gifts to get
more eyes coming and returning to the page, upping the click count, bringing
in advertising. (The fact that a few people are still actually employed
supporting these sites attests that generosity is profitable.) Advertising-driven
content isn’t anything new; we’ve always had radio and television. The
newness of the Internet, however, is it’s democratization of generosity.
Now everyone can give away anything imaginable. On a much smaller scale
than Gates or Bob Thompson, we the commoners can share whatever wealth
we may have. Internal bullshit checker beeps. Tells me to backtrack and
obfuscate my banal web hippiness. In the immortal words of the Sun City
Girls: “Peace, love, freedom, happiness, blah, blah, blah . . . Fuck
‘em down a one-way throat, I deal a stick. Yeah, I deal a stick. You better
got a lot of generosity going on. Who knows how many pages (several hundred
at least) of very printable fiction. What’s our motivation? To charge the
world with purpose? Is the impact of misplaced sexual energy to blame?
Or is it just the self-flagellating thrill of spending time and money?
The unavoidable agony of self-promotion? Am I addicted to flipping bits
of saliva off my tongue and seeing tiny prisms within the dew-like beads
on my computer screen? Or is it something totally complex and all-inclusively
to Vince Passaro's article in the August 1999 Harper's,
"With the Internet comes the possibility of such an inexpensive distribution
system of large blocks of language that writing essentially will become
volunteer work, and similiarly oriented toward triage for victims of our
culture." Name a better virture than patching up all those flushed down
America's vortex of pop. Eyeshot attempts to provide an admirable service:
administering literature to all those in need.
years ago I was leaving the country for a few years to travel and teach
English in South America. I’d slung barbecued briskets in Austin for around
$6 an hour (started at $4.75) and then wrapped and shipped rare books for
an antiquarian bookstore in Boston.
I didn’t know how to turn a computer on. I used an old Smith Corona word
processor, and wrote shitty Wallace Stevens-inspired poems in notebooks,
not to mention dozens of pathologically disturbed rants that reflected
the state of my psyche. I’m feeling much better thank you. I’ve come a
long way in two years, thanks to the generosity of one of my pals who hooked
me up with the second-hand computer I’m typing this on now, and thanks
to The Barcelona Review that
got me interested in the legitimate literary potential of the Web by publishing
a story of mine entitled Here's
Something I've Typed Up So If One Day You're Staring At the Center of My
Face and Feel Compelled To Ask I Can Just Hand You This and Thereby Avoid
Losing All Sorts of Valuable Soul Points.
the real motivation for all this is that we want others to equally enjoy
what we enjoy. Maybe launching Eyeshot was just the right thing to do.
Or maybe it’s just about enjoying what we get from giving. I’m not sure
where any of this leaves us. As my grandfather used to say, pushing the
words out through much raspy phlegm, dismissing everything with a wave
of an arthritic hand, “Ahhcch . . . Who the hell knows?”