January 5, 2018

"I like to think of myself as an ethical person, but there is almost nothing I wouldn’t, in some sense, sell."

"For instance: There are close family relationships that I have cut off, without even really deciding to, for years at a time. I sold them for stability and mental peace — transactions I think of with doubt and unhappiness every single day. This would seem to suggest that I love my stability and mental peace above all else. And yet I sell those too, at cut-rate prices, again and again...."

That's Sam Anderson, commenting (last May) on a single sentence from a novel. The sentence, from "Nicotine" by Nell Zink is "You can’t understand the modern world if you can’t imagine selling what you love best." The idea of having somebody briefly comment on a single sentence is a good one (a bit like my "Gatsby Project"), and it's a regular feature — "New Sentences" — in the NYT that I'd never noticed before. I just happened to run across it today because I was doing a search on "Nell Zink" (after noticing I'd never finished another novel of hers that I'd put in my Kindle). I was looking at my Kindle to see if "Fire and Fury" had arrived (though it's still a few minutes before the promised release time). I said I'd read that for you today, so it's not the day to be reading Nell Zink books, though I'm sure Nell Zink books contain far more sentences worthy of contemplation — beginning with "You can’t understand the modern world if you can’t imagine selling what you love best" — than "Fire and Fury," which I still must wait 4 minutes to begin to read.

23 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Selling what you "love" without qualm is the core definition of Narcissism . Refusal to be loyal to others when the smallest change in life context occurs is the heart of darkness.

Which brings up the question, how can people be so proud of doing that. It is like bragging that they are the best murderer and pillager.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

You can’t understand the modern world if you can’t imagine selling what you love best.

Then I guess I can't understand the modern world.

I ain't about to start selling blowjobs.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I like to think of myself as an ethical person...

General rule of thumb: People who like to think of themselves as ethical people, aren't.

Ann Althouse said...

@Ignorance

But you did just imagine it. You have to imagine it to experience the "no."

Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy said...

I don't get it. The thing you love best is the thing you wouldn't sell at any price. If there are two things you love best and you have to make Sophie's Choice, life isn't worth living.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

But you did just imagine it.

True enough. Of course, the humor that I was going for* was conflating the receiving of a blowjob, which I love, with the giving of a blowjob which I would not love.

I could, of course, imaging women paying me to allow them to give me a blowjob.


* If you have to explain it...

mockturtle said...

Selling implies convincing someone to buy what they didn't know they wanted, be it products or ideas. Not that there's anything wrong with selling, it's just not me. It's quite possible that I can't understand the modern world and highly probable that I don't want to.

Michael Brand said...

I'm immediately thinking about Belushi in Blues Brothers. "How much for your daughter?"

Earnest Prole said...

I can tell you fancy, I can tell you plain: You give something up for every thing you gain.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Understand the "modern world"?
For so many people, history seems to have begun when they started Middle School.

Ann Althouse said...

“True enough. Of course, the humor that I was going for* was conflating the receiving of a blowjob, which I love....”

It’s like the garbage business. The product you have to sell has negative value. The person on the other side of the transaction is the one who walks away with money.

rhhardin said...

"A nine-mile walk is no joke, especially in the rain."

The Nine Mile Walk by Harry Kemelman is based on the overheard sentence.

Ann Althouse said...

“I don't get it. The thing you love best is the thing you wouldn't sell at any price. If there are two things you love best and you have to make Sophie's Choice, life isn't worth living.”

Extrapolate the meaning of “modern world.”

Ann Althouse said...

But Sophie did choose to live. She made the transaction.

mockturtle said...

But Sophie did choose to live. She made the transaction.

Did she [I don't remember] have the choice of saving both of her children and sacrificing herself? Was the choice only herself and one child?

The only thing I remember well about the movie was Kevin Kline's captivating character.

Michael K said...

The only thing I remember well about the movie was Kevin Kline's captivating character.

Has there been a movie with him that he was not a "captivating character ?"

I saw "Princess Caraboo" in 1994 and his small role was the best part of it.

mockturtle said...

Has there been a movie with him that he was not a "captivating character ?"

Like "I Love You to Death", based on a true story and filmed in Tacoma, WA.

Nancy said...

Sophie ultimately committed suicide because she could not live with her choice.

mockturtle said...

Sophie ultimately committed suicide because she could not live with her choice.

Understandable, but what happened to her little boy? Raised by the State?

Nancy said...

Didn't you guys read the book?
1. Sophie told them to kill her daughter, in an attempt to save her son.
2. Her son died anyway in the concentration camp, I think of typhus.
3. Sophie was a fictional example of which there were many real life ones, of concentration camp survivors who subsequently took their own lives.

mockturtle said...

No, Nancy, I didn't read the book. I only saw the movie. Thank you for filling in the necessary details.

Roger Sweeny said...

People have made awful exchanges (call it selling if you want) long before there was a modern world. E.g., infanticide has been remarkably common when the alternative was "parents starve."

Thinking that the modern world invented trade-offs is like thinking that baby boomers invented sex.