How to be a megalomaniac, and other hot tips

For those of you with actual lives and actual careers, I understand that Wednesday can be particularly tough to get through. In the spirit of helping all of you’ns weather the day with grace and good humor, I’ve decided to post some links to stuff a few shades lighter than the usual somber fare here at Via Negativa.

First comes a review of a new satire on the poetry business – admittedly sort of an obvious target for satire (“like shooting similes in a barrel,” notes the reviewer.) Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z., a first novel by Debra Weinstein, is racking up the glowing reviews, perhaps in part because so many reviewers still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a legacy of their own tenures in MFA programs. According to The Christian Science Monitor’s Ron Charles, “In this brilliant elegy to the abuse of subordinates, all of Z.’s requests rhyme with ‘absurd.’ She’ll sign her letters only in a particular order.

“She sends Annabelle back to the Salvation Army to paw through piles for her favorite pair of shoes. The buttons on her blazer must be replaced because she can’t ‘live with the constant jangling.’ Several times, she castigates Annabelle for failing to keep sufficiently close watch on the supply of hand towels in the bathroom. ‘I like the paper to be thick and textured,’ Z. cautions. ‘The feel should be more cotton than paper.’

“‘A less noble person would feel degraded,’ Annabelle says without missing a beat, ‘but I take Z.’s assignment as a challenge.’ In fact, she’s flattered to be ‘the guardian of Z.’s psychic space,’ thrilled to be enjoying status unlike anything she’s ever experienced before.'”

It sounds as if the eponymous Z. has received special training of her own. New Age “Magick” guru Philip H. Farber actually leads workshops on How to be a Megalomaniac; I have an old flyer advertising one of his seminars in upstate New York several years back. “Whether you’re a full-tilt guru wannabe or a former follower with the will to know how your mind was warped, you’ll agree that this seminar is the ONE TRUE WAY. Learn the hypnotic secrets of the televangelists! Perform miracles that will amaze your friends and entrance your followers! Learn to sling total absurdity in a way that will have them reaching for their checkbooks!”

Now you can get the entire course on just two videocassettes – at $50 postage paid, a fantastic savings!

Now, let’s say you’ve taken the course, you’ve assembled your inner circle of worshipful disciples, and you’ve purchased your first gold-plated, “green” Hummer – itself the charismatic focus of a brand new cult. But you still feel strangely empty. What to do?

Why not consider purchasing a fine military aircraft? Don’t worry, no background checks are required. Just fill out a few, brief forms.

If that’s not enough to get you fired up, you might want to check in with the Guy Upstairs – in some people’s estimation, the world’s original megalomaniac. Fill out a questionnaire and get right with the LORD. Then, why not while away a pleasant hour or two with Friedrich Nietzsche – after God, possibly the funniest megalomaniac that ever lived?

O.K., just kidding! But there are actually some very serious people out there who have written very serious books about Nietzche’s alleged sense of humor. Check out Comic Relief: Nietzsche’s Gay Science at At least one reviewer seems to suffer from Nietzsche’s own malady: “This book is not funny. Higgins is not funny. Nietzsche’s Joyful Wisdom is not funny. This book, as discussed in the preface, was contracted by a silly university press — one of the silliest of them all.” (Jesus, buddy, go buy a McDonnell-Douglas military aircraft or something.)

Incidentally, there is one – just one – Nietzsche joke out there, from what I can tell. It’s the very same joke I first read on a bathroom stall in the first floor of Sackett building at Penn State’s University Park campus back in June, 1984. A post at O Mundo de Claudia has the original; someone in the comments suggests a faintly amusing variation.

But it is, after all, hump day, and perhaps megalomania would seem more exciting if you saved it for the weekend. Here in the Northeast, at any rate, it’s a cloudy, rainy day. If you can manage to take off early, what could be better than to spend the rest of the afternoon curled up with a nice, light romance novel? The White House invites you to peruse the Second Lady’s stirring tale of the Old West, “when men were men – and women were property!” I’m getting hot already . . .

But whatever you do, try to keep your priorities straight. Here are the Top Ten Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Jesus. I think I’ll go get me some religion right now.

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