Friday October 30, 2009
You always hear that Don DeLillo worked in advertising before he became a writer, but you never hear if he was any good at it—or about what happened on his last day. Did he give the appropriate notice? Did the office manager circulate a card in a manila envelope with “For Don DeLillo” written on the tab, and if so, what was the title of the highest ranking company official who signed it?
What did they write?
Was there an exit interview during which Don DeLillo explained how the emptiness of consumer culture—which he had just been promoting earlier that day—would inform his future work? Could we see that, please?
Was there an awkward send-off party in the office kitchen? How many people were there? Was Don DeLillo embarassed? Was there cake? Cupcakes? Whiskey? (This was a very long time ago.) Did they go out for drinks after Don DeLillo’s last day in advertising? What did Don DeLillo order?
What did he do when he got home? And the next day? Did he sleep in? And the day afer that?
I ask only because I guess we’d like to think that Don DeLillo was either phenomenally good at writing advertising (at Ogilvy & Mather, for Sears) or incredibly bad at it, but for virtuous reasons. He was too good and too smart for advertising. He could see right through it.
But what if we was just plain bad at it, and not in an interesting way? Imagine that his copy was—far from being too subtle, complex, or clever—was too clumsy, jokey, and broad. Not ironically or due to any lack of interest. Imagine, if you will, that despite the persistent and earnest application of whatever creative talents Don DeLillo possessed, he was the corniest, schlockiest copywriter in the history of advertising.
How would that make you feel about Don DeLillo? About the nature of talent?
Monday October 19, 2009
For those of you who couldn’t make it to the latest installment of Adult Education—either because of time or geography—here is a re-creation of my talk, “Christian and Me,” in which I consider the respective fortunes of myself and my astrological twin Christian Slater. You can also view my previous lectures, “You Are Not Going to be Famous” and “On Metatourism.”