Did You Ever See The Mean Joe Greene Coke Ad Back In The Day And Think It'd Be Cool To One Day Talk To A Defensive Tackle, And Maybe Get His Jersey? Well, This Is Sort Of Like That, Except Instead Of A Jersey We Just Made Brunch For Him, And He Wasn't A Football Player But Rather A Travel Writer . . .

So when Craig suggested David Farley's An Irreverent Curiosity for book club, and the club picked it to read, he Tweeted to the author that we were reading his book. Farley responded to Craig that he would come to our book club if we wanted, and he did!

As an aside, Twitter is kind of a funny idea. Funny in that Craig — I surmised — was basically pinging Farley to say that we were reading his book. Which is to say, that while yes, he has 537 followers, in a way it's a private-ish message to Farley, because how many of those 537 people are paying attention to their Twitter feed at that particular moment? And even if they are, what do people really care about what he's reading in his book club? Meanwhile, Farley, if he's anything like the rest of everyone, is checking to see who is mentioning him, so he'll definitely get the message.

Goober, Jen and I were talking about stuff last night and I brought up that stuff like Twitter reinforces a larger passive-aggressiveness in, um, society or the world nowadays. In that, you can bitch about something to @AmericanAir and then some poor schlubs who man the @AmericanAir Twitter account respond to your complaint, and maybe even faster based on your Klout, whatever the fuck that is. Time was, you had to write letters to get shit. Now we just Tweet a bunch of passive-aggressive complaints and hope the number of followers we have will scare companies into providing customer service.

(Speaking of @AmericanAir, what kind of foolish bullshit kind of Tweet is this? A warmed-over Tolkien quote about traveling? What the fuck for? And why has it been retweeted 124 times as of June 20, 2012 at 11:19 p.m.? And "favorited" 31 times? Twitter is great, it precipitates revolutions and allows famous people to communicate directly to their fans. And then 124 people retweet some shit the American Airlines communications department puts out there, and you're like . . . Jesus fucking Christ.)

Goober noted that he's seen a bunch of examples of people talking shit on Facebook, as if what they say won't somehow get back to whoever it was they were writing about. That's when you start to think that the Internet's greatest achievement is legitimizing passive-aggressive behavior.

It's funny because it also occurred to me how dumb it is that people get upset about people who talk behind other people's backs. Because outside of Jesus Christ, who never talks behind someone's back? Everyone talks behind everyone else's back — and there's a good reason for this, which is that 90 percent of the time, you don't want someone talking to someone's front. That's what gets people hurt. Or worse.

So when Craig said that Farley was coming, I got a little nervous. What if we hated his book? Would I be willing to take him to task for it? Would I accuse him of barely writing a first draft? Would I berate him for having his overly twee characters suddenly rape one another? Would I beat up on him like I would a world-famous author who had long since died and couldn't defend his craft anyway? Even if the guy lived within 20 miles of me?

Clearly not. I'm a pussy in that way. And while I felt like I got a sense of the author's personality from his first-person book, part of me worried that we were inviting over James Agee, who would want to fuck us, or Henry Miller, who would give us bed bugs or something. But that didn't happen either — Farley's actually a really nice guy, and we had a really cool discussion about the book, as well as the process of writing it and the practical matter of finally seeing it in print. We (read: I) harassed him about the nitty gritty of writing — and he answered all our questions, which was very generous and very cool. He told us some behind the scenes stuff, which was also cool. And that he gets more than his share of queries about circumcision, because of course he's an expert on that now.

And fortunately, An Irreverent Curiosity is also an interesting book about a quirky, interesting topic, and while it was a little frustrating — to me, at least (i.e., not everyone — or anyone — else) — that the book ends with the author so close to resolving his search without finding a resolution, and while I did actually briefly mention that to the author, it didn't take away from the general experience.

So in other words, we were cool. And which is why the book becomes a little beside the point. So let me fix that now.

The "irreverent curiosity" in An Irreverent Curiosity is a relic that was once in a Catholic church in a small town in Italy outside of Rome. If you've never come across a relic in a Catholic church, the whole thing might come as kind of a surprise, but one day you'll be in a European church and your wife, who happens to be a lapsed Catholic and knows about such stuff, will direct your attention to some ornate object and point to the center of it where there will be a small nose bone or toe bone or ear bone or something and before you can say "Why is there a human bone embedded in an ornate gold cross?" or some such, she'll explain that it's a relic and that there was a time in the Catholic church when people dug up bones and worshiped them. Or whatever it is people do with relics. And your mind is momentarily blown until you hear a story like the kind that Farley relates, which is that one of these relics happens to have been — supposedly — Jesus' foreskin. Thus the concept of the irreverent curiosity.

The Holy Foreskin, as it was known, was stolen — or disappeared — in the early 1980s. So Farley's book goes over the mystery of where it went while he contextualizes it in the history of relics, throwing in some history and first-person stories about the quirky Italian town where the relic once resided.

Now you may be thinking — as I did for the first three-quarters of the book — that it's kind of absurd to think that anyone could have Jesus' foreskin. And then it occurs to you — after remembering all the Christmas creches you've seen — that a lot of folks believe in the story of the horsemen or wise men or virgins or whatnot, so in that worldview, of course someone would preserve the son of God's foreskin.

There's a parallel between the belief in the foreskin and the desire to see a story with an airtight resolution that merits some thought but which I can't quite put together right now, especially after all these paragraphs. So that's kind of a cop-out.

There are some documentary filmmakers trying to make a film about the story:

Farley said that it might actually happen, so it will be interesting to see the town and the characters come to life . . .

Posted: June 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Books Are The SUVs Of Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,

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