Behind Every Mildly Amusing Cartoon…


–That cartoon’s funny, but the attitude it describes is not peculiar to novelists. I’ve spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, and entrepreneurs have the same romanticized attitude towards an unhealthy obsession with work. The software startup version of this cartoon would change a few of the details–the childhood would be geeky instead of traumatic–but the “Pathologic Ambition”, “Neglected Spouse”, and “Years of Boring Hard Work” panels would remain the same. You’re chasing an illusion. What you’re imagining to be a bohemian rejection of workaday values is really just the Protestant work ethic in disguise. Don’t be a sucker! Abandon your novel and cut out of work early. Spend time with your family and your cat. Live a normal, balanced human life.

–You’re the one chasing an illusion. The illusion is that there is such a thing as a normal, balanced human life. There is not. There are just people doing things, and monomania is one of the things that people do. This jokey celebration of bad habits is healthy in the way that a cigarette after drinks is healthy, as an acknowledgment that there is no answer book against which we’re being judged.

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