On Books Men Must Read – Part 2

Here is part 2 of my reading project:

The Professional by W.C. Heinz

My good friend, Ben, is a skilled illustrator. He is often told by others that they wished they could draw. “You can,” Ben will reply. “You just have to practice.” If there is a lesson I would fully advocate taking from this novel, this is the lesson. To accomplish something, you will need to put in the time and effort to hone that craft.

Now, this novel celebrates the aesthetics of practice. It advocates a sharp, sparse, demure honing of craft: a professionalism that strips itself of extras. It singles out that which is needed for success, and it focuses on only those things; honing them to near perfection. Professionalism is doing the craft well, and doing it well the right way.

Sometimes, I am inclined to think this correct. Other times, I find it complete bullshit. In matters of sport, where I fall tends to correlate with who I am supporting. If my team plays beautiful and loses, well, at least they play the game correctly. If my team plays ugly but wins, well, it is about winning, right?

In the end, style doesn’t matter. Why? The upset. If style mattered, we wouldn’t want an upset.

Lesson for Men: You have to practice to get good. You have to get good to taste success. You get great to minimize the vagaries of luck. But, remember, you are never fated to win.

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

A couple weeks ago, at work, my coworkers and myself were discussing the youth of today (I work at a university). I was mentioning my general disdain for the “Kids these days are so… [insert negative characteristic]” when the following conversation ensued:

Director: “My friend always says ‘Don’t judge other people’s kids until your kids are dead.'”
Me: “Ha. I like that.” [Pause] “Your friend’s Catholic, isn’t she?”
Director: “Yup.”

That’s what it was like to read Flannery O’Connor. There are some great moments, and I could secularize a lot of what is expressed. However, O’Connor is unflinchingly transparent. I don’t mind a story that’s a parable; I just prefer the moral doesn’t punch me in the face again and again and again.

That being said, O’Connor has some great lines epitomized by the Misfit’s gem of a line from A Good Man is Hard to Find: “She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Lesson for Men: The minutiae of your life does not excuse you from being a decent person.

Other Thoughts:

-When I see a game where I don’t have a prior preference for either team, I tend to support the underdog. I think this is common. I like to consider this the quintessential example of Nietzsche’s slave morality.

-On the one hand, I can admire Doc’s dedication to honing Eddie into the greatest fighter of the day. Supposedly, that’s what he does. But Doc is called crusty for a reason. He complains that everything has changed such that no one recognizes that Eddie is truly the greatest fighter. Sorry, Doc, but the times have changed. You don’t recognize that Eddie is the greatest fighter for an era that no longer exists.

I will admit that I’m not one for nostalgia. I believe sport can be artistic, but I will always reject the notion that commercialism (or prima dona athletes or rule changes, or pick your poison) has ruined the game. They’ve simply changed the canvas upon which the art is displayed. There is still beauty. Stop pining for the past. Find the beauty now.

-Over all, O’Connor’s short stories were enjoyable; I just don’t think I was their intended audience.

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