|What's bullshit and what's horseshit in "How To Pick Up Japanese Chicks
And Doom Your Immortal Soul"
| On September 22-23, 2008, I sat down with a copy of my first book, How To Pick Up Japanese Chicks And Doom Your Immortal Soul, which I had not so much as cracked open for at least a year, and gave
it a careful read-through for the first time since just prior to its release
three and a half years earlier.
I did this with no small amount of trepidation, but, having promised to
do it in my blog I could not back out. That promise came toward the end
of a series of posts in which I teased brother memoirists David Sedaris,
Augusten Burroughs, and James Frey for blatantly making stuff up in their
"memoirs" and passing it off as nonfiction. In the course of
giving examples of their sins, I began to recall that I, too, had resorted
to some similar devices—conflating two or three real-life persons into
a single “character,” simplifying a sequence of events to make it less
cumbersome, etc.—in my own memoir.
Wondering just how bad a boy I had been, I vowed to go through the book and give a careful accounting of all the bullshit, great or small, that I detected.
As I embarked on the read-through, I was reasonably confident that my sins
would turn out to be fewer and smaller than those of my more famous colleagues,
all of whom had been caught concocting entire anecdotes out of thin air.
So it wasn’t the prospect of bullshit that upped the trepidation level,
but the prospect of discovering horseshit. Until I stopped reading online
reviews a few months ago to preserve my sanity, I had read enough attacks
on my book to shake my confidence in it. Was the protagonist (i.e., Younger
Me) really all that selfish and unsympathetic? Were his (i.e. my) actions and attitudes really
all that offensive? Was the prose really all that muddled?
What follows is for Muggins completists only: my best faith effort to tabulate, on a chapter-by-chapter basis, everything in the book that is bullshit, along with my opinion as to which parts of the book qualify as horseshit. To keep this page from becoming too obscenely long (though I suppose it is anyway), I’m not going to quote the actual sentences or passages to which I refer, but rather simply provide page numbers. Thus, the interested reader will need to keep a copy of the actual book handy for cross referencing.
The skeptic will note how often I use qualifying expressions--event X
“may not” have happened; I “suspect” that incident Y isn’t quite true--instead
of flat-out saying that something is a lie. Bear in mind that many of these
events were already decades old when I sat down to write the book, and
now four more years have passed since it was completed. I tried to err
on the side of harshness in questioning my own veracity here, but occasionally
it only seems right to give my four-or-five-years-younger self the benefit
of the doubt.
In the end, I found 80 discrete instances of bullshit. That's a lot, but
to my mind nearly all of them are fairly trivial--not a patch on the spectular
whoppers slung by my more famous brethren. But I'll leave it to the reader
to judge whether or not I can claim moral superiority (for once in my life.)
|September 25, 2008
p. iii: The unattributed and highly flattering blurb at the very front of the book, extolling what a brave and moving memoir it is, was composed by me.
p. vii: “Disclaimer 2” quotes a friend who insists that the book must be
a work of fiction because of all the appalling deeds that I do in it. One
of the test readers did indeed need my assurance that the actions described
in the book were true. He was surprised but nonjudgmental regarding my
behavior and certainly did not threaten to beat me up. In short, this is
No comments here.
LESSON 1: Get your sorry white ass to Japan
pp.7-8: I describe an encounter with three ladies at a Narita Airport information
desk. More likely there were only two of them, and I made it three so that
the “Weird Sisters” riff on p.8 would work.
What’s Actually Not Bullshit?
p.6: The footnote includes a conversation with sophomore boys insecure
about their penises. Improbable as it seems, the conversation is accurately
recounted. We used to have the darnedest talks back when I worked at good
ol' “N University.”
LESSON 2: Do not be furry
p. 11: The real Mr. Angelos was from Massachusetts, not New York.
p. 12: I almost certainly did not tell the carpet layers that the House was a sexual heaven for us foreigners. That doesn’t sound right. I probably answered their question about the abundance of sexual opportunities with a bemused shrug or an “Eh, so-so,” or some such noncommittal response.
pp. 12-13: In case it's not clear, the latter stage of the sample English
lesson is intended to be ironic; of course I never asked those questions.
And Venture Language School, like all my employers, is fake named.
pp. 13-14: The format for recommendation letters presented here was not forced upon us by the school as some readers might assume. It was a format I designed only for the letters I myself wrote.
pp. 14-15: “Mr. Yoshida” was indeed sent by his employer to some Southeast Asian country to conduct some sort of business in English, but the details of his assignment are long forgotten so I made them up.
pp. 15-17: The private lesson during which I first realized my natural teaching gifts is a very stark and reliable memory. However, I don’t think the verb that got the ball rolling was “come.” I talked myself into believing that it was “come” so that I could make the naughty pun on p.17.
p. 18: The “Daito” commuter line and the suburb “Maezono” are fake names concocted mainly to protect the identity of the likewise fake-named International House of English.
p. 18: The liquor store wasn’t located along the route from the station to the International House of English. I believe it was on the other side of the train station.
pp. 20-21: Fat Matt is introduced here. He is a composite of two foreigners who lived in the House at separate times, only one of whom was fat. Both were compulsive detail-givers with regard to their sexual exploits.
p. 31: I don’t dress like “the bride at a Wahhabi wedding” to go take a
bath in my own home: that’s a silly statement.
p. 35: I cringe at the sentence “I had…committed possibly actionable sexual
assault on three or four of his paying customers.” That’s being overly
dramatic. My “Biwagate” behavior constituted a drunken act of sexual harassment
to be sure, but hardly qualified as “assault.”
pp. 34-35: The whole “We have ways of making you teach” negotiation wasn’t as overt as I portray it here. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t start pressuring me to teach classes in IHE until later, after the visa sponsorship became official.
What’s Actually Not Bullshit?
pp.23-29: The Biwagate Incident: It’s still painful to read but wholly accurate to the best of my recollection. It’s hard to write about stuff one did while drunk or on drugs or medication—not merely because those things tend to be inordinately shameful, but because, well, one was drunk or on drugs or medication. In this instance, I think I did a pretty good job of conveying the incident in the same blurry, fuzzy way as it got imprinted into my head.
p. 34: The story about the guy coincidentally coming up to ask me the meaning of the only high-falutin’ Japanese word that I knew at the time (rai-byo, leprosy) sounds too good to be true, but I stand by it.
p. 36: I didn’t keep Tomoe’s letter, but this is, I think, a pretty good
reconstruction of it.
p. 12: Via the footnote here, I try to convey to the reader that throughout the book I am not going to even attempt to render dialogue accurately, but simply to reproduce the spirit of what was said, regardless of the language in which it was said. I now realize that this explanation doesn’t come across very clearly.
The distinction is important. If a reader thinks that I’m actually trying
to pass off the lines that appear in quotation marks as the actual words
of the speakers, then nearly all the dialogue throughout the book will
surely strike said reader as phony. But that simply was not my intention.
It should go without saying that any attempt at accurate reproduction of
dialogue years after the fact would be a lost cause. And since, in most
conversations, at least one participant is not using his/her native language,
an accurate presentation of what was said would make for a tediously long
read and would make some participants sound like ignorant wogs. I’d seen
other books in which Western writers gave Asian characters the "Me
love you long time" treatment, and vowed that I would never follow
Passim: The device of dividing long chapters into little vignettes has its merits, but in this chapter some of the transitions are too… Well, they are not transitions at all. The changes of settings and characters without any segue are sometimes discombobulating.
p. 32: Describing unattractive girls as “keening mastiffs” is too mean,
and I knew it when I wrote it. I just couldn’t resist punning on the Emma
LESSON 3: Be used and discarded like a mindless tool, and learn to love it
p. 42: I don’t remember Jiro’s age or his exact long-term career ambition,
but these are reasonable guesses.
p. 45: I can’t really say with 100 percent certainty that Yachiyo ever
tried to steer me toward a love hotel; that’s just an after-the-fact assumption.
p. 46: It wasn’t Motoko who berated me for failing to grasp the homoerotic nuances of Mishima—it was a gay American coworker who did that. Motoko berated me for several of the same sort of aesthetic shortcomings but, failing to recall an example, I borrowed one that emanated from another person.
p. 47: Some of the details of Kazuyo’s vigorous love life are my invention. She was involved with a wealthy married man, but I don’t believe that his profession or the details of his family were made known to me.
p. 48: I don’t think Motoko ever dropped “statute of limitations” on me,
but her vocabulary and her knowledge of the world often threw me for a
loop. The general mood of the scene is certainly authentic.
p. 50: In the cunnilingus scene, it’s an exaggeration to say that Motoko writhed her way up the wall to a standing posture. That was a dumb thing to write.
pp. 52-53: Though I’ve long been a saver of correspondence, I could not find either of these letters, so these are my attempts at reconstruction from memory.
p. 54: The “huge tits” kicker at the very end now strikes me as gratuitous.
It’s not funny enough to justify its existence.
LESSON 4: Don’t do anything
p. 60: Fat Matt had the quarrel I describe here not with Roelof but with a different gaijin resident. I didn’t want to multiply entities beyond necessity.
p. 61: The invention of the question tag “…given’t I?” was not Mr. Doshita’s,
but another student’s. (Mr. Angelos was the teacher at that time, and the outburst he exhibits is based on his
p. 61: Eileen, introduced here, is something of a composite of two gaijin women.
p. 66: The knife-wielding incident is a conflation of events. In real life, Mr. Doshita pulled the knife on the person I have named Arthur, who had nothing to do with the beer concession. If memory serves, the incident did not result directly in Arthur’s departure; it was his extracurricular activities with House chicks, as described in Lesson 2.
p. 67: The betting pool I describe here probably wasn’t quite as popular
as I make it out to be.
p. 58: I re-read my riff on “The Theme from Shaft” a few weeks after the
passing of Isaac Hayes. That bit doesn’t really hold up. Racial humor is
treacherous territory: you’d better be damn sure that you're well-armed
with sturdy material before venturing into it. I don’t think this bit passes
Apropos of nothing, has anyone else noticed the macabre tendency in recent years for R&B/soul pioneers and Republican ex-presidents to leap hand-in-hand into the Great Beyond? First there was Ray Charles and Ronald Reagan, then James Brown and Gerald Ford. When Isaac Hayes passed a while back, my first reaction was, “Do not ask for whom the synthesizer tolls, Poppy Bush.” By now enough time has passed to indicate that Poppy has dodged this bullet, and I assume he now prays nightly for the continued wellbeing of Sly Stone. (Or maybe it works the other way around?)
p. 68: Teaching Point 12 asserts that if you can’t attract Japanese chicks just by acting in a benign manner around them, you’re beyond help. That’s inaccurate and asinine.
LESSON 5: The cistern of your lust
p. 73: In retrospect, I doubt that the kiss with Miss Endo lasted ten full seconds.
p. 75: Among intensive course students in the House there were indeed tough chicks and sissy chicks, but there was never really a chick with chickenpox. We had chicks with food poisoning once, though.
p. 79: I overhear a teacher explaining the lyrics to “The End of the World.” Actually, this occurred during a special weekend course for businessmen, not at the House. And the actual teacher’s actual explanation wasn’t quite this insipid.
In general, horse-shittiness in my writing resides not so much in what
I say as in what I fail to say, I suppose. This is particularly true of
my descriptive talents. I’m not that good at creating a sensory landscape
for readers, at giving them sufficient visual, aural, or olfactory hints
by which to construct scenes in their minds. The reader has to do a lot
of such construction work on his/her own, and readers who have never lived
in Japan (which I assume to be 99 percent or more) are at a particular
For me personally, the House—which still inspires very vivid dreams from
time to time even though I have not set foot in it for 26 years now—and
couldn't tell you if it still exists--leaps to life when I read these chapters,
but that’s because I was there. Same for N. University and my apartment,
the main settings for the latter chapters. But for the readers? I have
What’s Actually Not Horseshit?
p. 70: I love this title. It’s almost a waste to throw it away on a mere chapter. Perhaps I’ll recycle it for a whole book one day.
LESSON 6: Know when to fold ‘em
Passim: I feel rather bad about the way Mr. Angelos comes off in the book.
The salient traits ascribed to him are those of the “asshole” and the “bad
teacher.” He was rather a half-assed teacher, especially in terms of empathy
for students, but he was earnest. I considered him a good friend and mentor,
and I hope he harbored positive feelings toward me. He did not attend my
going away party when I left the House, so I left him a card that read
in part, “Thanks for teaching me everything I now know about being an asshole.”
I later received a letter from a third party describing how enthusiastically
he tore that note to pieces after reading.
p. 89: The unidentified friend on the phone is the guy I call “Nielsen”
in Summer of Marv. He did indeed concoct some scheme, which came to nothing, for us to invest
in a bar. I don’t remember where, but it wasn’t in the town of Sleepy Eye.
I guess I just wanted to work that real town’s evocative name into the
p. 91: The description of Mr. Angelos hitting a student with his cane is
accurate, but may give the reader the impression that this was real battery.
The hits were hard enough to alarm the recipient but not to bruise him.
p. 92-93: I’m conflating plural people into characters here. The girl I tried to throw into the pool was not the girl who ended up in bed with me later on.
LESSON 7: The fear of God
Passim: With this chapter, there is a 17-year leap forward. I use a real
city, Yokohama, as my place of residence and of work—but it’s not necessarily
the city that I actually lived and worked in at the time. Sorry about the
weasel-wording, but since this and subsequent chapters deal with people
and events of relatively fresh vintage, I need to be especially careful
to protect identities. Of course the universities I mention are fake-named,
as are the people in them. The name of the department I worked in at “NU”
is somewhat altered. Descriptions of people and places are tweaked.
p. 101: I actually had two separate health concerns during this period. One was a benign and temporary type of vertigo. The tests I underwent included the goofy rotating shower curtain mentioned here. The other, scarier one was not MS. I prefer not to elaborate, other than to say that it did indeed turn out to be a false alarm.
p. 101: For simplicity’s sake, I state here that I earned a master’s degree in education while back in the US for a few years. In fact, I did go back to the US for about a year after leaving the House, and then returned to Japan. However, like many Japan-based teachers, I earned my master’s degree while continuing to work in Japan.
pp. 102-03: My supervisor Mr. Furman is another character who gets treated more brutally than he deserves. He and I worked smoothly together for the most part.
pp. 100-09: A Saturday spent temple-hopping in Kamakura with Ayana is described at length here. I have compacted bits and pieces of conversations that took place at various times during our relationship into this one day.
p. 109: Truth is, I did lure Ayana back to my apartment at the end of that date, supposedly to look at some pictures, and then put my patented moves on her. That’s where the teeth-baring rejection took place. I mainly just wanted to cut a long story short, but there was also the fact that the reader would be puzzled (as I surely was) as to why she would actually come to my apartment late at night on such a lame pretext if not expecting what ensued.
pp. 112-13: The banter described here wasn’t as smooth or droll in real life.
p. 101: This is only the second instance of the “internal DA” device that I employ to generate pseudo-dialogue, and it’s already wearing thin. The device was starkly unoriginal and often poorly executed, and it reflected a lack of confidence in my writing skills. Describing my internal thought processes in a straightforward way would have resulted in a lot of long, gray paragraphs. By turning it into a conversation with my externalized conscience, I could open up space and make pages look more inviting to the reader. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it.
What’s Actually Not Horseshit?
For my money, this is the funniest chapter in the book, in spite of the inclusion of an appalling act of sexual harassment on my part. Re-reading this after such a long interval, I cracked my own bad self up more than once.
LESSON 8: First, do no harm
pp. 126-30: The date I describe here conflates events from my first two
dates with the girl I call Michiko.
p. 130: Michiko’s review of my album was in Japanese, so I am paraphrasing. Her English was poorer than that of the other chicks described in the books, and my Japanese was not yet what it ought to have been, so our real-life interactions, both in person and in writing, were slow and awkward affairs involving a lot of negotiated meaning. In this and subsequent chapters, therefore, all of our discourse is paraphrased and smoothed over.
p. 131: The emails listed here probably did not all come in a single week.
p. 132: The first date in question took place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, not Yokohama.
pp. 140-41: A classic case of the dialogue being smoothed over here. In reality, there would have been a lot of false starts, each of us asking the other for clarification, pauses for internal processing, etc.
p. 145: The smoothing out of banter really goes over the top here. Although
we certainly covered the topics described, I doubt we ever had a conversation
quite this perky. This is some Nick-and-Nora from The Thin Man type repartee right here.
p. 151: She did suck on my fingers once in a family restaurant, but it wasn’t a Denny’s.
pp. 151-52: The faculty of my department weren’t, as far as I know, as amoral as I paint them to be. I was in a bad mood when I implied that practically all of them lacked scruples. There were certainly scoundrels among them, though.
p. 155: I don’t think Wakako’s questioning of me on the train platform was as persistent as I make it out to be here. I may have played this conversation up a bit for dramatic effect.
pp. 137-38: This is less a “horseshit” issue than a “horse’s ass” issue, but… I really feel rather rotten about quoting this and other actual emails from Michiko—especially since she explicitly demands that I delete this one after reading. This case is a good example of the conundrum I faced throughout the writing process and especially in the “Princess Michiko” chapters: how to balance composing a compelling narrative with treating people (nearly all of whom, like Michiko, could not be reached to ask for permission) in a decent and fair way.
Well, as they say, you've got to break some eggs to make an omelet. Without
my resorting to such measures, this book never would have been finished--and
what a blow to civilization that would have been, eh? Ultimately, it’s
for others to decide how damnable my choices were.
LESSON 9: Reality is not your friend
p.160: The “Faculty Handbook” quoted here is one that I found online for
some American university, not a publication of my own employer.
p. 166: That my landlady was chummy with the dean of my department is a flat-out lie. There were other reasons for me to fear my landlady’s discovery of my affair with a student, but these reasons would have required a lot of exposition, including the fleshing out of my landlady as a full-fledged character. I used the lie as a shortcut, a means to an end.
p. 170: In her caustic reply to my break-up email, Michiko did not in fact ask me to kill myself, as this page implies.
p. 171: What I describe as a “remedial” English class was in fact what we call a “repeaters” class for students who failed a required course on the first try.
p. 173: As any aficionado of the movie Splash! knows, neither character actually uses the expression “do it” in this
scene as a euphemism for sex. More to the point, while it is true that
a naïve girl did ask me to explain what Tom Hanks is talking about when
he makes these indirect references to sexual intercourse, it was not this
episode that sparked the renewal of my relationship with Princess Michiko.
Something else that happened in the same class, less discrete and therefore
harder to remember or to explain, was the catalyst.
p. 174: The virginity question that arises here prompts me to address a
nagging issue: the actual nature of the physical relationship between Michiko
and me. Having already disclosed enormously personal information about
Michiko (fake names notwithstanding) without her permission, I do not wish
to compound my error here by getting into heretofore unstated details.
That said, here’s the thing: readers ought not to assume that every reference
to sex, orgasms, sperm, or what have you, necessarily represents an incidence
of genital intercourse. Like most couples, we had a repertoire of ways
to make each other happy.
pp. 179-80: More repartee here that sounds much snappier than the real-life version.
LESSON 10: Honor thy father and thy mother
p. 194: I refer to a visit to Washington, where I stayed in a hotel “across
from the White House.” In my memory this was true, but after-the-fact research
via Google Map (not available when I wrote this book) indicates that there
is no such hotel. (I don’t remember the name of the hotel.)
p. 195: While I had a lot of fantasies that involved harm coming to Takayuki, my romantic rival, I don’t think I ever imagined him being devoured and digested by a gigantic bald eagle. I’m just playing off a riff I had laid down in the previous chapter.
p. 196: I’m reconstructing students’ comments from memory here.
pp. 199-200: I did indeed write a long, rambling message like this on the
board one day before class, but (a) I’m pretty sure it didn’t include the
riff from Macbeth, and (b) I was fully conscious of doing it as I was doing it. (I’m sure
that it did conclude with “I hate this job; I hate my life,” though.)
pp. 200-202: Here’s where the book veers off into really dark territory--when I start harassing my romantic rival with silent late-night telephone calls. Some of my actions in earlier chapters may have been sordid—the “Biwagate” incident in Lesson 2, for example—but they aren’t a patch on the criminal activity that I embark upon at this point.
When critics say that the book is inaccessible because Muggins is just too selfish, I suspect that they’re mainly referring to this behavior right here. I’m harassing an innocent young man, I seem to be blaming an unspecified mental illness (the “alien entity” that has taken control of my “skin”) for my actions, and I don’t seem at all remorseful about the whole mess. I suppose I can understand the distaste such readers feel, though in my defense I do go on to renounce the just-a-victim-of-my-illness excuse two chapters later.
Not to change the subject, but there’s one bit of bullshit that needs to
be cleared up in my favor: I wrote that I made “thousands” of such calls,
and that figure, I’m sure, is nonsense, given the limited time frame in
which I was seriously off my nut. Again, this is not an attempt to mitigate
my atrocious behavior.
p. 204: I didn’t really begin to weep at the sight of raisins.
p. 206-07: I’m conflating two conversations with Prof. Twain. The one in which he confided to me about his own family’s problems took place in his office, not mine. (It was on this occasion that he injected insulin in front of me.) I don’t believe he ever actually said, “There comes a time in every man’s life.”
p. 210: I don’t remember the exact age gap between Nozomi and her teacher-lover; I just recall it as being roughly the same as the gap between the Princess and me.
p. 213: The email from an alumna re my website is my reconstruction from memory. I almost surely pumped it up somewhat.
p. 217: I didn’t just wake up with Yuri’s breasts in my hands as I imply. I made a deliberate, albeit drowsy move on her.
pp. 218-19: The “two women” segment that ends this chapter strikes me as
funny but also pretty sleazy. All too late, I begin to understand why this
book has so few female fans.
LESSON 11: Or Stage Five—The Moment of Clarity
p. 222: I state here that the local hospital contacted me to remind me that I was due for a colonoscopy. That’s extremely unlikely. I must have scheduled the procedure on my own initiative.
p. 223: My claim that I got over 70 “messages” of support for continuing my website merits an asterisk. In fact, there were “vote yes or no” buttons on the site allowing visitors say whether or not I should continue the site, so most of those 70-odd positive responses were just people pushing the Yes button. (I did get several heartwarming emails, though.)
pp. 227-29: Right here, the account of my mental instability starts to
go over the top. I never actually engaged in conscious conversations with
the clock on my wall—I’m quite sure of that.
Ironically, it was at this stage in writing the book—the stage that ought
to have been the easiest, since I was dealing with the most recent events—that
I ran into a nasty catch-22: namely, that it’s impossible to objectively
describe your state of mind when you’re insane. By definition, your memories
of what you did, said, and thought at such a time are highly suspect. (This
is one of the aspects of James Frey’s book that got him into trouble: his
improbable ability to describe episodes of his own deranged drunkenness
in great detail. Stephen King among others called him out on this.)
When it came time for me to chronicle my thoughts and actions at the abyss
of my nervous breakdown, I had precious little to work with in terms of
truly reliable memories. I remembered a great deal of general nuttiness,
but most of it was a blur. So I just put together pieces of memory as best
No, I never engaged in actual out-loud dialogues with my wall clock. But I do remember listening intently to the ticking of that clock for what seemed like hours at a time, and I remember having some of the thoughts that appear on these pages, so I put them together using the nutty device of a dialogue with the wall clock.
p. 229: The request that a certain room at my university be named in honor of me in the event of my death had already been in my will for some time. I had written it in a jovial mood at a time when actually dying was the farthest thing from my mind.
p. 231: Here again, the reconstruction of my thoughts while I was in the process of killing myself with pills is entirely untrustworthy. I doubt that I spent those “last” minutes concocting Shakespearean puns, or bad jokes like “Tempus fuggit,” or catty remarks about Art Garfunkel.
Passim: The writing is sloppy all through this chapter. If I hadn’t written
this stuff myself, I’d wonder what the writer meant at several points.
Seriously, some of these paragraphs might have been composed by Sarah Palin.
LESSON 12: The cabinet of Dr. Katagiri
Passim: The bullshit gets pretty thick in this chapter as I try a bit too
hard to chase down all the loose ends of this very messy story and put
them all in a concise package for the reader with a bow on top. My conversations
with the psychiatrist Katagiri are a case in point. On p. 240 I make it
fairly clear that I’m deliberately spoofing my sessions with him. However,
even the conversations that take place before that, on pp. 233-39, are
mostly fictitious. In reality, I was pretty taciturn with the doctor. I
made a writerly decision to use him as an expository device to help me
fill the reader in on the facts of my life that had been concealed up to
this point. This is about as close as I get to Sedaris/Frey/Burroughs-caliber
fraud. And there's more:
Passim: Some of the details of my life with Mrs. Muggins are also blurred
and obfuscated, mainly for the sake of privacy, and I’m not going to get
specific about those details here.
p. 241: In the midst of portraying a fantasy conversation with Dr. Katagiri—which supposedly takes place weeks after the suicide attempt, I mention waiting for my cancer test results to come back. In fact, I had gotten the results much earlier.
pp. 241-42: It’s a bald-faced lie to say that I accidentally channel-surfed into the Star Trek episode that I reference. I thought about that episode frequently while lying in bed nights, but didn’t actually happen to see it.
p. 237-end of the book: Things get way too personal here. I regret this whole last section of the book. There are segments of over-earnest confession followed by doses of pure smarm. Those two things don’t mix, nor do they even work all that well separately.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. These final chapters went through a whole
lot of revisions. I sought a balance between giving the reader enough information
to understand what had really happened without being sickeningly confessional.
Obviously, I missed that very narrow mark.
AFTERWORD: Time keeps on slippin’ (slippin’, slippin’)
p. 247: I imply here that I’m about to restart my career at a new university, which turned out to be a classic example of inadvertent bullshit. That sentence was composed in late 2004, when I had reason to believe that I would indeed be changing employers in the near future, so that I would be safely away from “NU” by the time my book, which hardly does NU any PR favors, came out and started attracting attention. In fact, I was not able to get away from NU for another two years, a period of debilitating paranoia during which I expected to be exposed and summarily fired at any moment.
pp. 246-47: These pages accurately describe my final face-to-face encounter
with the Princess. However, the reader may be left with the impression
that we had not communicated at all between the breakup and this fond moment
of farewell, and that we were destined to have no communication after this.
In fact there were sporadic exchanges of emails, some friendly and some
hostile. There had been a rapprochement, conducted entirely via email,
which ended quite bitterly. An early draft of the book documented all of
these nasty aftershocks of our relationship, but a test reader assured
me that I was doing no one any favors—least of all the readers—by being
p. 248: This final “Teaching Point,” along with most of the Afterword,
implies a level of optimism that was quite phony when I wrote it. In fact,
as I finished writing the book, I was still laboring most of the time under
the conviction that my poor choices were going to come back and bite me,
Alien-like, at any moment.. But I figured there was no point in dragging the reader down with me, so I tried to stick a smiley face on the ending.
p. 248: I thought it was oh-so-clever to reference the Hindenburg disaster
by ending the book with “Oh, the humanity!” It has since come to my attention
that ironic use of the phrase was already passé by 2004.
Passim: This whole “Afterword” now seems utterly superfluous to me. Embarrassing, even. It would have been a shorter and better book without it.