So here I was, thinking about myself as this not-yet-published world-famous author, L. David Mark, writer of the best-selling "My Daughter Said She'd Burn This Book!" & its successor "My Wife Said This Book Would Never Sell," when I saw this article in the Washington Post about this other best-selling author & it got me to thinking. Part of it was her picture -- I liked her face. She looks, somehow, familiar.
It was an interview in the March 14, 1992, Washington Post, by Henry Allen (by the way, one of my favorite writers in the Post) headlined "Keep Talking. She's Still Listening." It started out, "Let's say that Deborah Tannen has written the book of the '90s -- not too risky a claim because we've only had two years of the '90s and the book has spent most of them at the top of the best seller list. The name of it is 'You Just Don't understand -- Women and Men in Conversation'."
(This got me to thinking of the many lunches I spent at the Thai Kingdom & other K Street restaurants by myself during my stint with the USDA Office of Transportation when I would go in & get a table for one and -- had I not been by myself & reading a book -- would have never picked up on neighboring table conversations, but as it was, I was & I did & they were really sometimes fascinating. I mean really!!! But, unfortunately I didn't have a tape recorder & my memory is faulty at best, so "c'est la vie!!" But those conversations, too, could have been a best seller. Or at least the basis for a hot plot.)
But apart from that, as I read through the article I wondered, What kind of story would they write about me were I in this position? How would I respond to a similar interview when/if I were a world-famous author? What would Henry Allen write if it were me -- and he was writing the same story. So I sort of fantasized . . . .
Down in the story it says: "She is a tallish, demure woman of 46. She is a New Yorker most of whose Brooklyn (Flatbush) accent was harried out of her by teachers at Hunter College High School. She has a small bright smile, and on one recent afternoon in the institute cafeteria, she wore a bulk cotton sweater, a plaid shirt, big earrings and two rings. She looked like a shrink dressed for Saturday morning patients."
(Of me, they might write, "He is a shortish, demure man who looks 46 but is probably older. He is a native Iowan and, as such, has absolutely no accent whatsoever. His large shit-eating grin comes out on a number of occasions, but he never wears earrings and has but a single wedding band on the third finger of his left hand. I don't think he could handle patients of any kind.")
And in the Post: "Tannen talked a lot about her theories, but she also betrayed the cool acuteness of a true listener, a watchfulness that may have arisen from the childhood case of mumps that left her partly deaf. She extracted a hearing aid from under her hair and held in her hand."
(Mark talked a lot about his family, soccer and his work, but he also betrayed the wistfulness of a person who had lost his patience with the rest of the world. Although he had mumps when he was somewhat older than a child, it didn't appear to affect his hearing until fairly recently. As a result, his family wishes he could get a hearing aid for his ear, but he stubbornly resists. In spite of the fact that he occasionally finds these advertisements for "Miracle Ear" on his plate when he sits down to supper.)
The Post: "Unlike the purveyors of self-help weepolology, Tannen actually knows what she's talking about. She's done the research. She has a doctorate in linguistics from Berkeley, she's a professor at Georgetown, she has a 16-page academic resume, she writes papers with titles such as 'Interactive Frames and Knowledge Frames in Interaction,' and she hates the endless demands for her advice, her presence, her approval, her appearance on television, podiums, panels."
(Unlike some others, Mark sometimes knows what he's talking about. Not always, but sometimes. He either knows -- or he fudges it. He has a bachelor's degree in dairy husbandry from Iowa State and most of the work for a masters in ag journalism there; his daughter has attended two schools, doing well at both; his son graduated summa cum laude at Virginia Tech & is getting his masters in mechanical engineering at MIT; & his wife did real well at a variety of courses at NOVA some few years ago. He recently wrote a paper entitled "APHIS - Two Decades of Progress" & would welcome any kind of appearances, particularly if there were some monetary compensation involved.)
The Post: "'I remember when I was writing the book, or proposing it, my agent made a comment that this is the book whose time has come,' Tannen said, 'because now with the concern for AIDS, couples are spending more time talking and less time doing other things.'"
(If I can get my agent, Kevin Shields, to agree to ten percent or maybe twelve-point-five, maybe we could market this damn book. And find a time for it -- whether its time has come or not. But I doubt very much that statement about what couples are spending their time doing. Couples are couples.)
The article: "In 298 pages about subtleties and intonations and metamessages between the sexes, there is no sex whatsoever. No seduction, no flirtation, no rejection, no pheromone, no batted eye. 'I suppose you're right. I don't tend to think about it,' she said. She giggled."
(In a whole bunch of chapters -- I'm up to 45 or 50 right now -- I have really only one fleeting reference to sex (the nipple in the palm) & I may cut that out. But I think about it all the time. Even though I don't giggle.)
Continuing: "But it isn't just men who get cacophonous and nasty. What about the sort of comments women assassinate each other with? 'Oh I love your hair, I wish I had the courage to wear mine like that.'"
(Well, the other day, Brillia Tugman, our stay-in-school gal who really seems pretty sharp, came in with her hair dyed even redder than it was the day before & Paula Henstridge alluded to it. "Hey you did something to your hair," she said.
("I did it over," Brillia said to Paula.
("No," I interjected, even though I didn't need to comment at all, "you overdid it."
(Who says I don't have courage?!)
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