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One day at work I fall into brine and they close the lid above me
January 30, 2013 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Simon Rich's sellout, as described by his great-great-grandfather, preserved in brine.

That girl is too thin,” I say. “She has not long to live.” Simon chuckles. “That’s just how girls look these days,” he says. “Look, I’ll show you.”

He opens thick, smelly book with shiny pages. It is magazine, he explains, called The Vogue. “This model’s famous,” he says, pointing to mostly naked woman. “She’s married to Orlando Bloom.”

I squint at the picture. The girl is very pale, with vacant eyes. “I have seen this disease in Slupsk,” I tell him. “First, they cough the blood. Then they begin to shake. They ask for the water, but when you bring them some to drink it makes them vomit up the black. They die screaming, their eyes wide open, afraid.”
posted by benbenson (73 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm really enjoying this. You might as well link to Part II, which was posted today. I think two more are coming.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:10 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


“You must never go to Slupsk,” I warn her. “It is city of death.”

Shouts and Murmurs usually leaves me cold (just ever so precious), but this piece was really funny.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:12 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from a night of fitful sleep, he found himself transformed in his bed into a lazy satirical trope through which the author hoped to expose the vanities and pretensions of modern society.
posted by No! Not the MIND WORMS! Anything but that! Eeeagh! at 7:18 AM on January 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


Another artifact in the authenticity cult.
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 AM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


He must be from the same village as Olga Crzmikksics.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:21 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I realize something bad has happened in Brooklyn.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:24 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Autotuning the dog" is now the new euphemism for everything in Brooklyn.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:33 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


"It takes him long time, but eventually Simon is able to explain. A computer is a magical box that provides endless pleasure for free. Simon is used to constant access to this box—a never-ending flow of pleasures. When the box stops working—or even just briefly slows down—he becomes so enraged that he curses our God, the one who gave us life and brought us forth from Egypt."

I thought that was brilliant, and kind of indicting on this, a day when I am working from home and the internet is intermittent at best.
posted by gauche at 7:39 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just for reference: Simon Rich.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:40 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, so after reading this I'm pretty sure this dude's great-great-grandson is Forrest Gump, not Simon. There's no mistaking that unique mixture of historical ignorance, virtuous simple-mindedness, and reactionary bullshit.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:41 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm annoyed that Simon Rich is my age.

Freakin Dalton kids.
posted by The Whelk at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


“The monkey’s always break-dancing.”

the perfect encapsulation of our culture.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:04 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


This man is so easy to beat up—It is like he is made of straw! It is like he is some kind of... straw man!
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:08 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Comedy mistaken for thesis statement" A play in 124407 Acts Performed By Metafilter
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:11 AM on January 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh, actually, upon realizing that this is mostly self-loathing I find the entire enterprise way less insufferable and actually pretty funny.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:12 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oy. Can't decide whether this read like "Laughter, The Best Medicine" for the AP Curriculum set, or that PARADE essay Dave Barry's gonna write four or five years from now when even your parents roll their eyes at hipster jokes.
posted by applemeat at 8:17 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Part II just took a turn for the awesome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm annoyed that Simon Rich is my age.

Yes, how dare his parents engage in coitus in the same year as yours? It's simply inconsiderate!
posted by dubold at 8:23 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It will turn out that the author was Herschel all along, just like Fight Club.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 AM on January 30, 2013


Yeah, so after reading this I'm pretty sure this dude's great-great-grandson is Forrest Gump, not Simon. There's no mistaking that unique mixture of historical ignorance, virtuous simple-mindedness, and reactionary bullshit.

You may have misunderstood the premise.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:25 AM on January 30, 2013


> Yes, how dare his parents engage in coitus in the same year as yours? It's simply inconsiderate!

I guess he means that he's disappointed that someone his age has more exposure/success? Dunno, but the mistaking public space for personal blogs is probably one reason for that.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:28 AM on January 30, 2013


This is rather affected self-loathing, of course, which is also something of an entertainment industry trope. I am loathe to think Simon Rich actually thinks this badly of himself.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:30 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm annoyed that Simon Rich is my age.

Welcome to your late 20s!
posted by Going To Maine at 8:31 AM on January 30, 2013


One night we have dinner with Claire, a goyish woman Simon mates with in defiance of our Lord.

heh.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:09 AM on January 30, 2013


I'm not sure I get this. It seemed like a bunch of reactionary bullshit after I read a chunk, but some folks here seemed to suggest that that was a misreading, so I went back to it, and I got to this part:
“There was one time my friend got caught in the gears,” I say. “And it ripped up his torso, through the chest. And there was blood coming out of his mouth and he was screaming. And I plead with them to stop the machine, because my friend is dying, but no one listens to me, and my friend keeps howling until he is dead. And for years I see his face inside my dreams, with the blood coming out of his eyes and his mouth, begging for me to please save him.”
which compares Simon the pickle worker's day to Simon the script doctor's day, and I'm not sure how to read it except as reactionary bullshit. Help me out?
posted by OmieWise at 9:24 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am loathe

Seems like it!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:25 AM on January 30, 2013


After watching B. J. Novak in The Office, it's just too easy to imagine him squirming uncomfortably as Simon Rich tries to talk to him.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 9:28 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Burned.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:30 AM on January 30, 2013


Simon Rich is scheduled to appear at Savage Love Live on Valentine's Day here in Seattle. This means I may be watching Simon Rich on stage minutes after receiving a free lap dance. I'm not sure how I feel about this.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:38 AM on January 30, 2013


I'm not sure how to read it except as reactionary bullshit.

Is any joking about how easy modern life is reactionary? This seems a lot subtler and cleverer than some Tom Leykis rant or something, he's taking the piss out of his own ego. I mean you don't have to find it funny, but...calling it reactionary is pretty wild overreaction.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:40 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you explain why you think it's "reactionary bullshit"? I can think of a few ways to interpret that phrase.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:41 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


“We’re Freegans,” one of them says.

There is long pause.

“I do not know where that is,” I admit.

“It’s a political philosophy,” the long-beard man explains. “We only eat discarded food that’s cruelty-free.”

“Why?” I ask.

They all start speaking rapidly of books and essays they have read. Their words are so long I cannot understand how they have learned them. Eventually, though, I understand their point: their parents are millionaires and they live this way for sport. I am so impressed, I nearly drop my sausage.
I'm enjoying this.
posted by jsturgill at 9:43 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is any joking about how easy modern life is reactionary?

Can you explain why you think it's "reactionary bullshit"?

No, not all jokes about modern life are reactionary. A series of jokes that all make the point, without humor on the point of the maker, that modern life is ridiculously easy, and in that ease, fails to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of those who actually had it hard and worked hard for a living, is a series of jokes I would class as reactionary. I was wondering if other people had a critique of that critique, rather than just the standard: "You don't get it and you don't like funny things." What is it that you read here that makes it seem like Simon Rich the older is not condemning modern life with his comments? Someone above mentioned Forrest Gump, which seems pretty apt. This is not a new version of The Hard Life, because the descriptions of "old times" are not over-the-top enough. I understand satire, I'm specifically asking where people are locating the satire in the comparisons made by old Simon.

To pull out just one example, the description of the bagel store seems to specifically condemn the eating of large portions and the drinking of sugary drinks, without providing a single reason to think that that condemnation is supposed to be comedic. The grandfather experiences admits to disgust at the time. I class that as reactionary insofar as it finds fault with the present without examining the problems of the past.
posted by OmieWise at 9:52 AM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


This seems a lot subtler and cleverer than some Tom Leykis rant or something

Wow, Tom Leykis must be a thing of beauty.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:52 AM on January 30, 2013


I class that as reactionary insofar as it finds fault with the present without examining the problems of the past.

I guess the ghastly death of the co-worker, Simon the elder's poverty and ignorance, the death city of Slupsk, etc. were not portrayed as problematic?

It strikes me as hardly a rosy picture of the past.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:03 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm annoyed that Simon Rich is my age.

Welcome to the rest of your life!
posted by josher71 at 10:04 AM on January 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really like this. Thanks for posting.

Didn't read it as "authenticity cult" but trying to point out the things we take for granted and the differences that are normal now, but would have been amazing in the past.

My grandmother was born in 1898 and I remember talking with her about when she first saw an airplane, refrigerator, and radio. It helped me understand how much change she was grappling with when we put in cable TV so she could watch Lawrence Welk. She wanted to see the show, but kept insisting that cable TV was "Too much. Too much!". I didn't really get it then, but as I get older and watch my daughters, and sometimes feel that everything is just a bit "too much." myself.
posted by Argyle at 10:13 AM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


What is it that you read here that makes it seem like Simon Rich the older is not condemning modern life with his comments?

Simon Rich the older, the fictional character, may well be condemning modern life with his comments - all of these people are fantastically wealthy by his standards - but Simon Rich the author, the real person, appears to be having a great time pointing out just how awesome modern life is, using his time traveller as a foil. Sure, he's taking the piss a little, but it's funny, and no way is he suggesting that the older world was a better one, with all the horrible maimings and grinding poverty.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:18 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it's OK when Louis CK scolds us, but hopelessly reactionary when Simon Rich scolds himself and a wee bit gets on us?
posted by maudlin at 10:19 AM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


the description of the bagel store seems to specifically condemn the eating of large portions and the drinking of sugary drinks, without providing a single reason to think that that condemnation is supposed to be comedic. The grandfather experiences admits to disgust at the time. I class that as reactionary insofar as it finds fault with the present without examining the problems of the past.

Except "it" and "that" in this case is a character's opinion, not a third person essayist. The character is funny because he is ridiculously out of touch and seeing the modern world through a flawed, exaggerated vision. As is the character of the grandson who bears the author's name ridiculous when seen in this exaggerated light, as are many other aspects of modern life. In fact if I were to isolate a "point" of this piece (under protest for further destroying its humor with analysis) I'd say it is "From the perspective of the horrible past our modern times are absurdly easy. The trade off of freedom and intellectual progress seems to have been a loss of self-reliance and traditional values, which trade, though surely worth it, sometimes makes us realize how weak and petty we are. Our ancestors would probably judge us harshly, but maybe they are just dumb and jealous."

I feel that you have misunderstood the point of this fictional comedic piece.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:25 AM on January 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel that you have misunderstood the point of this fictional comedic piece.

Perhaps I have, and what I should stay instead, as someone who actually has a real affection for comedic pieces of this sort (as described), is that the author has not written a good version of one.
posted by OmieWise at 10:33 AM on January 30, 2013


Omniewise, your mileage here seems to obviously vary from mine, but I do think that Simon Rich the elder's ignorance, simplicity, and the horror of his past are themselves exaggerated in the extreme. To me every character in this piece comes across as a cartoon. While SR the younger is an exaggerated fop, his failure to relate to his great-great-grandfather is at least partly due to his great-great-grandfather's failure to relate to him.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:34 AM on January 30, 2013


OmieWise: which compares Simon the pickle worker's day to Simon the script doctor's day,

Well, there's only one Simon in the story and the pickle worker's name is Herschel, so yeah I think you may not be reading it right.
posted by anazgnos at 10:35 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


as someone who actually has a real affection for comedic pieces of this sort (as described), is that the author has not written a good version of one.

Fair enough! It's not the best thing I've ever read, and it does come off a bit harsh on poor old Simon the character.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:40 AM on January 30, 2013


This is good. Simon Rich is funny, you should check his two books of shorter pieces. Him and Jack Handey are the only two worthwhile authors who ever write anything in shouts and murmurs. (Aside from that shouts and murmurs is consistently the worst part of the New Yorker, well along with the cartoons)
posted by jcruelty at 11:04 AM on January 30, 2013


Well, there's only one Simon in the story and the pickle worker's name is Herschel, so yeah I think you may not be reading it right.

Ooh, you got me!
posted by OmieWise at 11:16 AM on January 30, 2013


Not funny enough to justify its length.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:19 PM on January 30, 2013


Not insightful enough to justify its unoriginality.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2013


He is almost Leno-esque in his prodigal ability to notice that some things are different than they used to be.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2013


You might as well link to Part II, which was posted today. I think two more are coming.

Yeah, I would have waited for all IV to post. It's mostly miss so far for me (i.e. a little too obvious), but there's potential. I agree with those who say it needs tightening. Someone needs to punch that shit up!
posted by mrgrimm at 12:50 PM on January 30, 2013


Tune in for part 3, in which an IWW newspaper writer falls asleep at her typewriter in 1906, wakes up in 2013, and is boggled to discover that her great grandson works double shifts loading pallets for minimum wage and devoutly follows his minister's stance against birth control.

Snark aside, a lot of this piece is actually pretty entertaining. And, it is worth remembering all the material benefits we enjoy compared to the vast majority of people just a few generations back. Compared to my parents, much less their parents, my life is both fantastic and thoroughly strange. That's a fun thing to think about. The person-out-of-time framing, while perhaps not original, can be entertaining.

That said, having read the second instalment, I fear this is headed exactly in the direction people here seem to expect: an ode to the simple, hearty men who were better than us and who would surely seize the American Dream using nothing but their plucky spirit and hard work if given the chance. I hope I'm wrong about that.
posted by eotvos at 12:58 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh come on, by the end of part II I'm actually hooked. Funny enough and insightful enough that I'm dying to see what happens.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2013


I'm telling you, it's going to end with Simon waking up in a subway squat with other squatters calling him Herschel.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:08 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny and insightful, but since it's self-satire by someone who lives like most MeFites we need to pick it apart so we don't need to laugh at ourselves or examine or privilege. The same thing happened when Stuff White People Like was posted and then deleted. God forbid anyone links Nathan Barley.

The story isn't "people from the past are better". It's comparing this one specific person's life to that of his descendants.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:48 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I liked it. I want to read the rest.
posted by ook at 5:29 PM on January 30, 2013


I couldn't write a tale like this one, if only because my Grampa, who also came up hard and very poor as a sharecropper from the Deep South, would be tickled pink to know about the type of work I do now, which is also media-related and almost as inconsequential as the work Simon does, if not as well-paid.



Nowhere near as well-paid, actually.




Grampa maybe would have an issue with the "not as well-paid" part.
posted by droplet at 6:56 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


"'What sort of gags?'

He clears his throat."


Heh.
posted by pecanpies at 8:13 PM on January 30, 2013


I have been greatly enjoying this!
posted by whitneyarner at 9:10 PM on January 30, 2013


#humblebrag
posted by mrgrimm at 10:40 PM on January 30, 2013


Meh.
posted by FormlessOne at 10:51 PM on January 30, 2013


Just figured out why this story instantly seemed familiar. The naive, stranger-in-a-strange-land narrative, the stilted English, the magical realism of the premise-- it's all from the same Simon Rich who wrote this: I born in factory. They put me in wrapper. They seal me in box. Three of us in box. (Previously.)
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 10:57 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]




I'm enjoying these. Somebody please tell me when part 4 is up!
posted by jcruelty at 11:51 PM on January 30, 2013


Ugh. I'm so old I'm finding myself agreeing with this old geezer too much. I think I need some alcohols.
posted by Goofyy at 6:04 AM on January 31, 2013


Everyone else is hearing Herschel's voice in their head as Andrei Codrescu's voice right? (AKA: NPR's crotchety Romanian commentator)
posted by fontophilic at 7:04 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Part 4 is up.
posted by jcruelty at 11:28 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


You cannot murder interns, but other than that, they are the same as mules.
posted by jcruelty at 11:33 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


“That was prayer for bread,” I say. “It makes no sense why you would say it. Where is the bread? I see no bread here. That was madness, your prayer for bread.” hahaha
posted by jcruelty at 11:36 PM on January 31, 2013


pity the interns
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:41 PM on January 31, 2013


Thankyou Benbenson. Just finished part 4. Really enjoyed that. Maybe it seemed to peter out a bit at the end, but I'm no judge, it's typical for me to want a story to continue when I like the characters. Delightfully NYC.
posted by Goofyy at 12:46 AM on February 1, 2013


Great stuff, thanks for posting!
posted by LanTao at 6:14 AM on February 1, 2013


That said, having read the second instalment, I fear this is headed exactly in the direction people here seem to expect: an ode to the simple, hearty men who were better than us and who would surely seize the American Dream using nothing but their plucky spirit and hard work if given the chance. I hope I'm wrong about that.

You were wrong.

Is fine.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


You were wrong.

Is fine.
Only in that the rest of the piece was both a lot more entertaining and somewhat more nuanced than it might have been, and was thus well worth reading. Neither the plot nor the politics were surprising.
posted by eotvos at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2013


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