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The University Of Massachusetts hosted esteemed writer Jonathan Safran Foer last Monday night at the Fine Arts Center. Foer is the author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated.

Imagine my surprise when I was told not only would we be attending Foer’s speech during class, but would be live-blogging through a site called Twitter. After the initial shock wore off, I signed up for an account, synced my home-page with my cellphone, and went down to the auditorium for the speech.

It was a full-house. Either this guy is an extremely well-know writer, or every teacher in the English department assigned it as extra credit. Then came the moment of truth, my first twit (tweet, twitter, tweedy??). As sketched out as I am about this site, friends allowed to look at ones profile are referred to as followers, twitting was actually somewhat enjoyable.

It gave me something to do while watching Foer and also made me feel like I was voicing my opinion to countless students who were either unable or unwilling to come see Foer speak. But, then reality set in and I remember no one is reading my posts, and the only way people who will are classmates forced into it. Oh well. (Note: I think some of Foer’s sarcastic humor rubbed off on me Monday night).

Foer began the night explaining his casual appearance. Apparently, he had a wardrobe malfunction which forced him into Danny Tanner’s closet for the night. But I ask, who travels with just one pair of pants? Would it of been that difficult to go to the store and buy another pair? I don’t think there was a wardrobe malfunction. He wanted to go casual and devised a somewhat humorous story that would make the audience feel bad for him, not judge the way he looked.

As the speech went on, I realized how funny this guy really was. He was clever, witty, and it seemed like he didn’t tell one joke that didn’t go over well with the audience..As andreakathleen pointed out, “he seems so comfortable on stage. It’s as if he’s just talking one on one to each person”. Although I’ve never read anything by him, if his writing is anything like his public speaking skills, I’m sure he is a Pulitzer waiting to happen.

By 7:30, the speech was done, time for Q&A. This is where he lost me. It seemed, with each question, he either tried to show his superior intellect or attempted to degrade the questionnaire. Some may of seen it as funny, but being rude to people who are A) nervous about asking a question in front of such a large audience, B) excited to ask someone they respect and enjoy as a writer a question, or C) a little bit of both is just plain pathetic.

Throughout the whole Q&A, he acted like he was better than anyone or anything. No question was good enough for him. He either ripped apart the question,ripped apart the person, or gave a generic, I don’t want to be here and answer your question, remark. I was extremely offended by the his actions during the Q&A, to the point I was praying someone would go up there and just rip him apart or completely outclass him with a question of their own. Didn’t happen. Oh well.

At one point Foer said, “I challenge people to think of a good book that is based around average people in average situations”. Although not a book, how about Seinfeld. That was a show about nothing, featuring average (to below average) people going through their everyday activities. The show is one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.

Something I found funny: At the end, after Foer said this would be the last question, about four or five students, who appeared to be in denial, continued standing in line.

So, after about an hour, Foer decided he was through degrading his audience for another night and ended the Q&A. What I first thought to be funny and witty, turned into arrogant, smug, and elitist. I tell you one thing, I’ll never spend a dime on anything he writes from here on out.

Memorable Quotes:

“I am not a journalist, I am a writer.”

“You can’t know if you’re happy until the end of your life.”

One Comment

  1. Glad the Twitter element added something to the Foer talk for you, Michael. We’ll talk more about all that in this week’s class.


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