Archive | September, 2010

Animal House

28 Sep

I heard an intriguing piece on NPR today, about the new David Sedaris book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. He discussed how freeing it is to write about people who remind him of animals, without having to make apologies for writing about them.

Confession: People often remind me of characters in fairy tales, classic novels and movies. While bored in long meetings, I have from time to time let my mind wander and imagine how their characters would fall down rabbit holes…

So it’s safe to say that I get where he’s coming from with this book. Childish, immature? Probably. But it works.

There is a part of me that thinks it’s bad to criticize people for character flaws, so I will think of them in more forgiving ways by letting them take on character roles. It helps me to be less angry. As characters, they have permission to do what they will do, in character, naturally and innately. Why wouldn’t they be themselves? Full-tilt, head-on, no holds barred.

I did this with my blog series for working with difficult people. There was the Corner Office Troll. The Change Agent. The Vampire. The Neglectful Boss. The Friday Afternoon Surprise. I’ve worked with all of these people and have seen them at their best and worst. At their core, I am enthralled with all of these difficult characters. Which is the reason I wrote about them. They’ve all taught me lessons, about how to be more compassionate, less obnoxious or more patient — with myself and others.

I did a similar writing exercise with a dog of mine. For a while, I gave him a Twitter account. The kids and I would come up with things he’d say, like:

5:30 am, Saturday: “Hellloooooooooooooo, yard! Here again?”

And so forth. But he kept saying the same things, so I’m interested in how Sedaris deals with the “goldfish world view.”

What I like about the Sedaris concept with his bestiary short stories is that there’s no line drawn between good and bad. Animals are animals, being themselves. And so many times people are that way, too. Sometimes it’s good not to pass judgment, just to accept people for who they are. I’ll report back once I start reading this, to let you know whether or not the book is as good as the concept.