Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Truly Stumped.

I began reading Greek Tragedy a couple of years ago, and while I first thought Stephanie Klein was self-absorbed and someone I would walk away from if I were to meet at a party, I can honestly say I had changed my mind. Her writing changed my mind. That says mountains about someone if they have that capacity in their work. I truly enjoy Stephanie Klein’s writing; I bought her book Straight Up and Dirty. I read her blog daily. I feel genuinely sad when her children are not doing well. I will be one of the first in line to buy her next book, Moose. And would NOT walk away at the opportunity to meet her. Plus, I always felt we were kindred spirits since we share so much: We are both mothers! We are both writers! We share the same first name! Our maiden names rhyme where only the first two letters are different! Kindred souls, I tell ya.

So when I woke this a.m. and saw that she commented on my Bra Nazi post, I thought, “COOL! Stephanie Klein read my blog!”

Then, I read the comment:

SK: 1) Do you think using the genius of Larry David/Jerry Seinfeld and just changing "Soup" to "Bra" is the most clever you can be?

MM: OUCH! She’s right. Unclever! Stolen wit even!

SK: 2) Do you find using the word Nazi as you do in this context trivializes the holocaust?

MM: No, but shouldn't "holocaust" be capital?

SK: These questions might seem bitchy…

MM: Yeah, they kinda are.

SK: They absolutely are not meant to be…

MM: Oddly enough, I do believe her when she says this.

SK: I genuinely want to know what you think. And I ask because these are things I struggle with in my own writing. I ask myself if it's cheating, taking what someone else made funny (a long time ago) and just glomming onto it, and I wonder if it does at this point just trivialize what so many went through.

I had a weight nazi, a bra nazi (actually I called her Mother Russia... so, no, she wasn't a nazi), and I used to live across the street from the real soup nazi.

MM: Wait! Stop! On to more pressing issues! You lived across the street from him? The Soup Nazi! Did you get the crab bisque? Was it really good soup or just OK soup? How was the bread? I wonder if it was hard as a rock? Did you see the actual filming of that Seinfeld episode? Was he as scary in real life as he was on TV?

Stephanie, let me ask you this—the first time you saw the Soup Nazi episode, did you laugh? Or did you feel like Jerry and Larry, who are Jewish, hurt you by trivializing the Holocaust? Honestly, I would really like to know if it made you sad, personally? Or if you felt the need to write to the Seinfeld show and tell them they were trivializing a major historical event that left so many devastated?

I don’t think most people think the way you do. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I just think you’re different. Different is not bad. And that you have more opinions and spend a lot of time thinking. Which again, not bad. Time-consuming yes, but not bad.

SK: Though I do think making references like that, to pop culture, is stealing someone else's funny, or someone else's genius. It's like taking the easy way out... to, for example, describe someone as An Eddie Haskell type. When we reference pop culture icons in our writing (and I am totally guilty of this), I think it's being lazy.

MM: True. There are more clever ways of describing a person, instead of saying Eddie Haskell type. Agreed. But I don’t think I was being lazy. I think I wanted to make an immediate connection with the reader, have them say, “Oh, I totally know what she’s talking about.” I truly don’t think that hard about writing.

I’m thinking about it now though. After I read the comment, I was like, “Hmmm.” She stumped me. I don’t know what to say. Don’t know how to reply.

I think the Soup Nazi is a relatable pop culture reference. I imagined if there were to be a Bra Nazi, she would be like the Soup Nazi. I was using a popular icon to bring familiarity to my writing. I never considered in writing that or showing the clip that I was stealing, perhaps even plagiarizing another’s work or idea.

When I write this blog, I don’t ‘hem-and-haw’ (HATE THAT PHRASE, and now I’m over-thinking it… Should I use it? Can’t I come up with something more clever? Did someone else say ‘hem-and-haw’ in a sitcom and would that be technically stealing someone’s idea or being lazy by choosing this phrase?)

I just don’t think this way. When I write, I’m just filling the page with thoughts in my head, and I try to be true to how I’m feeling, no matter if it makes my mom mad that I’m telling virtual strangers about my Xanax prescription or describing interesting ways to use a shower head. Dear God, I hope no one Googles, “interesting ways to use a shower head.” See, I just wrote that. It’s what came to me.

I think in a round-about way, Stephanie has just called me out as an unclever lazy racist plagiarizer who gloms onto popular culture icons to benefit her writing! All because of my bra-fitting experience! How cool is that? In a strange way, I kinda feel honored by being called out by Stephanie, because despite her comment seeming bitchy, I really don’t think she intended to be; I’d like to believe her, and I completely admire her as a writer.

Some of the things that come out of me, verbal or literal, might not make sense. Some people may think I’m being a word thief. As for the Holocaust, the thought that I might be hurting someone’s feelings or trivializing a major historical event did not even cross my mind. However, now that I’m turning all introspective, I am sitting here wondering, "Was this wrong of me?" I would never in a million years make some obscure joke about people falling from the sky on 9-11, so I can see why she’s asking. I quite possibly turned a major life-altering event into a joke. Certainly, if you know me, you know that was not my intention.

How many readers did I offend by calling the Bra Lady a Bra Nazi? You have to admit, calling her a Bra Nazi has more impact that calling her the Bra Lady. Perhaps I’ve offended her?

I’m thinking about it. Because of my heritage, I probably have relatives who were killed during the Holocaust. I may even have relatives who killed others during the Holocaust. But when I sat down to write my apparently now unoriginal tale of my experience of getting fitted for a new bra, my sole intent – my ONLY intent – was to maybe make a few readers laugh.

And looking back to the original post (which wasn’t so original after all!), I think I probably also owe Fergie an apology. Cuz I stole her shit also.

But you know what? I’m STEPHALICIOUS! So delicious.

S to the T, E P the H the Eee….

Ain’t no other lady stealing words like me!


Beth said...

You write from your heart and your soul - don't ever stop writing the way you do.
And don't let what anyone says make you pause and think before you write - let it flow. You're that good and a pleasure to read.

Anonymous said...

First, you are a better person than I, Manic. Because I do think she meant to be bitchy. And she needs to get off her damn high horse.

While yes, referencing pop culture may not be the most original thought, everyone does it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I read blogs to be entertained. Because it is my release. So I look for things that make me laugh or cry or make me feel like "wow, I love this blogger. We would so be BFFs."

So I say to you, keep doing what you are doing and don't change a thing!

And don't ever apologize to Fergie. Until she can spell TASTY.

March2theSea said...

way off topic...did you see this?


i put the link on my blog as well..but I thought of you...

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

March--you SUCK! I totally knew it was that Youtube, and I watched it last night!! Love it!

secretmom said...

I think SK is bored now that she's handed in "Moose". Just kidding. I actually like her work as well. And honestly, from what I've read on her site, I would have to say that I think she would appreciate and welcome similar comments about her writing. I think it's in the spirit of intellectual curiousty, writing theory, etc. While perhaps bitchy in tone, I really think she wanted to know what you think.

That being said, I'm with you on just writing what comes to mind. It's why I blog, and it's why I refuse to edit it with too much effort because it's just my blog, the way I want it. If I have to overthink every little thing then it won't be fun, it won't be organic (like i think the best blogs are) and then I won't blog.

Stephanie Klein said...

First, thanks for the post and the sentiments therein... and I look forward to meeting you as well. I did ask because I genuinely wanted to know your thoughts. I knew it sounded bitchy... which is exactly why I said, I didn't mean for it to be. I was asking writer to writer. I have in the past used "weight nazi" to describe a dictator I went to on the Upper East Side of NY. And I got quite a bit of backlash from people over it, mostly for trivializing the Holocaust.

As for the pop culture stuff... I once took a class where I learned not to borrow too much from pop culture, that it's not your own creation.

I certainly know blog writing is different from book writing, but wanted your opinion on these things. Wasn't trying to seem arrogant. Was genuinely hoping to get another writer's opinion, so I could weigh it against my own and decide what to do about The Weight Nazi in Moose. That's it. Anyway, I'll continue to enjoy your blog, and thanks.

The Writing Nazi

Just A Girl In GA said...

Manic, Never fear you made me laugh(in my ill fitting bra)lwith your "Adventures in Braland". I also enjoy reading your blog, it makes me smile when your kids do something amusing. In my opinion anyone who's blog makes a person smile and forget all the crap going in the world is alright.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I'm feeling da love! Thanks Stephanie you writing Nazi you!!!

; )

Cecily R said...

Holy crap I need to read your comments section more often!!!

I hate to say it, but I think I agree with kristabella...the whole thing seems awfully bitchy to me.

I guess what I really don't like isn't necessarily what she asked but where she asked it.

And forgive me for saying so, but her responses just seem like veiled attempts to tout her own writing.

Anonymous said...

SK you seem to me to be a snotty stuck up word snob who thinks WAY to much about herself.

Original enough for you?

You went to a class to learn how to avoid popular culture?? Do you live in a bubble?? the world hangs together by referencing each other constantly, otherwise it doesn't work.

MM - after an uncertain start I like the way you write so keep doing what you do.

Anonymous said...

Wow, does anyone else hear "Kumbaya" playing in the background. Cat fight over. Nicely done.

Dim said...

Hey, it's a BLOG. Write whatever the hell you want. Reference whatever the hell you want. Steal from whoever the hell you want. Not to mention the term "_____ Nazi" became a complete pop culture reference right after that show. Soup Nazi, Bra Nazi, Blow-up Doll Nazi. Well, you get the idea.

Keep doing whatcha doing MM. Like she commented on, blog writing is much different than book writing. Thank goodness, because in my last post, I used a copywrited picture of DeBarge to illustrate a concept.

- D.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I am envisioning that DeBarge song where they're all in the convertible at night and one of the dudes is wearing a red hot leather jacket??? I'm off to laugh!

Monnik said...

I think the questions are interesting ones, and had she posted them on your other blog while referencing a 'serious' writing piece of yours, it would have made more sense.

But on your blog, where your fluid, raw, and unpolished writing exists (which is why your loyal readers love it), the comments seem inappropriate at best.

I clearly didn't take the class that SK did, but I think that sometimes referencing pop culture is the best - not the easiest, but the BEST and most illustrative - way to make a point.

You are stephalicious, girl. Work it!

Anonymous said...

Can I just say how proud I am of my big sis! To put it all out there and get the feedback that you do! I read my sis's blog everyday, just to keep up with what is going on in her life! I have to say, I always laugh and am amused, so keep it up, don't lose your style, it makes you GREAT!!

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Ahhh, my lil sissy! 143

Patti said...

you stole, you got called out, you entertained us in the aftermath...win/win/win!

kay said...


i like reference to pop culture myself. i like to feel like i'm part of a group that can laugh at something familiar.

Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple. (see everyone laughed at that!)

...and writing is inventing as far as i'm concerned.

keep up the good work mm!!

Anonymous said...

I think pop culture references are powerful. Think about how much more effective it is to describe something as "June Cleaver" rather than "1950s housewife." It brings to mind a more specific, stronger image and gets your point across more economically.

I can't go to the Nazi thing because it's loaded with more than pop culture.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

RB--good points...

and Kay... my all-time favorite is Dairy Queen's vanilla cone double dipped in BUTTERSCOTCH!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Brava! I could hardly wait to see how you handled SK's comment, and I'm glad you took this approach. I have not read SK's blog because for some reason our filter service at work doesn't like her site and won't let me access it. I do plan to check it out from home if I ever get time to sit down in front of my computer for more than 2 minutes.

I believe pop-culture references definitely have their place, and I believe that a blog where one spills forth the frothing thoughts from their head, thoughts that are highly influenced by pop culture, is a perfect example of such a place. When writing a novel, though, pop-culture references date a novel, possibly shortening its shelf-life-span as the references fade with age. Therefore I can see the point of not using them when writing a novel.


Matt said...

I didn't invent trees. Does that mean I'm not being creative if one shows up in my work?

In fact, your sharing the YouTube clips allows us to share your pop culture without even being a part of it. I think that's powerful.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

Holy crap. I missed this one. Ummm...I don't know what to say except:

ROCK ON MM! We love you.

KATE said...

Manic - You're my favorite!!! Love the post! I'm with Cecily, I think SK does sound bitchy & it's a blog for hellsake!
Anyhow, you rock & I love reading ANYTHING you write!! You word, idea, funny phrase, pop culture reference we can all relate to, theif you! ha ha
Love ya, your favorite stalker - Kate

CLH said...

I so freaking hope that this entire post was facetious. Because, that would make you hellacool, because I don't know whether to believe your sincerity or to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I mean, really. HAH. WTF??? Pop culture my ass, nothing is original anymore. Just ask Timbaland.