Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I got into a disagreement with my roommate. While we were exchanging "points of view," I told him that the world just wasn't as black and white as he saw it. He immediately responded, "But it is. Your problem is that you only see the grays."
As it turned out, he was right. I am not a very good black-and-white thinker. In fact, I've been known to sabotage my own best arguments by seeing the other guy's counter-argument and acknowledging it instead of marshalling my own talking points.
That's why, when I read Otto Penzler's article in the August 9th edition of the New York Sun, I teetered between being offended and amused.
If you don't know him, Penzler is the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. He also started The Mysterious Press, which he later sold to Time/Warner. He's edited some mysteries and picked up some awards along the way [grin]. Nowadays he writes for the Sun.
In the last few years, Penzler has begun showing his age--like that dyspeptic old man who lived next door when you were a kid. You know the one: the old fart who yelled that you were making too much noise or trampling on his grass or who screamed at the delivery boy for throwing his newspaper in the bushes. And, like that old man, he demands respect from the younger generation although it never occurs to him to return the favor.
Earlier this month, in an article (http://www.nysun.com/article/37163), Penzler groused about graphic novels, complaining that they couldn't hold his interest. Galleycat responded, "Which must mean he really finds them boring, because, let's face it, most graphic novels are pretty short."
Then, last Wednesday, Otto took off after "The Cynical Art of Chick Lit" (http://www.nysun.com/article/37590?page_no=1). In a biting article that did not even have the virtue of humor, he railed against chick lit, saying, "what I don't like is that it's cynical. I don't like cynicism, never have, partly because, like its cousin, pessimism, it's too easy. There's always reason to doubt, there's always reason to fear the worst, but to what end? Negativism of all kinds is plentiful and, frankly, it's getting really irritating."
This from a man who, in the same article, applauded the honesty of Mickey Spillane and other writers of that generation.
Makes me wonder if Otto is losing his memory along with his sense of humor. The writers of Spillane's generation were known for their cynicism and their sexism and their unabashed focus on the dollar.
Lee Goldberg took after Penzler with both feet in his blog, A Writer's Life, calling the old man, "a sexist, narrowminded neanderthal...who embarrasses himself and, even worse, our profession every time he spews his offensive, sexist crap." (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/)
I couldn't help but remember what my mother said when, as a child, I complained bitterly about the old man next door. "He's getting old, honey, and he doesn't like that the parade is passing him by. This is his way of getting attention. Be polite and ignore him."
If I were inclined to get all psychological about it, I'd mention the defense mechanism known as projection; attributing one's thoughts or impulses to another. Let's see what it was Otto said again: "What I don't like is that it's cynical. I don't like cynicism, never have, partly because, like its cousin, pessimism, it's too easy. There's always reason to doubt, there's always reason to fear the worst, but to what end? Negativism of all kinds is plentiful and, frankly, it's getting really irritating."
Thoreau may have said it best: "None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm."