1. Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 -- ninety years ago today. Charles McGrath offers some new observations about the relationship between J. D. Salinger and his second most enduring character, Seymour Glass, and wonders what might motivate Salinger's ongoing and unyielding pursuit of solitude and silence. I have no answer, but I would compare Salinger on one hand to Beat poet Bob Kaufman (who was similarly obsessed with silence) and on another hand to Kurt Cobain, who like Salinger was dreadfully afraid of being phony.
I left the banking industry to join Time Warner's new media division, where I played an integral role in the now-famous disaster known as Pathfinder. I also launched my own website, Literary Kicks, was hired to build Bob Dylan's website, and had my own first taste of creative satisfaction and personal success. In 1999, I finally struck it "rich", cashing in on one of the biggest IPOs in stock market history, just as my marriage broke up and my workaholic tendencies reached a hysterical peak. A year later, the high-flying dot-com stock market began to crash. My paper wealth disappeared along with my job and much of my remaining sanity. I was beginning to gather my resources back together in 2001, only to face new shocking events of a completely unexpected kind. This is the memoir of a software developer who learned how to be a survivor, and a record of the life lessons learned along the way.
(This is the first chapter of my new memoir of the Internet industry.)
I didn't become a computer programmer because I wanted to. It was the door that opened for me.
I was a Philosophy student at Albany State, but my stepfather Gene kept reminding me that I was eventually going to graduate and nobody was hiring philosophers. Gene (a successful businessman who still gives me good advice whenever I need it) made me a better offer after my sophomore year -- a summer job in the software department of the aerospace electronics division he managed, at General Instrument in Hicksville, Long Island. My brother Gary already had a summer job with Gene, so I decided to tag along. It was a better paycheck than McDonalds.
Back at Albany State for the autumn semester, I noticed a strange and growing convergence between the Philosophy department and the Computer Science department. My Symbolic Logic professor (who'd given me an A+) James Thomas suddenly resigned his full professorship in the Philosophy department to become a doctoral candidate and teaching assistant in the Computer Science department. I asked him about it and he said "Are you kidding? This is what's interesting in logic right now. This is where I want to be." The fact that he was demoting himself from professor to grad student didn't bother him at all. That's the kind of "logic" I admire.
1. I told you Gawker is sometimes great, and this is one of those times. A badly-spelled posting to MySpace apparently by Bristol Palin's sister-in-law Mercede Johnston claims that Levi Johnston's recently-arrested mother is not allowed to see her new grandson because the Palin family considers the Johnston family "white trash".
The Internet was born in November 1969, just after an exciting summer that included the Woodstock festival, the Charlie Manson murders and the Apollo 11 moonshot. The first successful demonstration of the Internet went much more quietly. A computer at the University of California at Los Angeles exchanged a series of messages with a computer at Stanford University in Palo Alto, 360 miles away, and at this moment -- well, one can only imagine that champagne bottles were popped, colleagues in various corporations and universities and government offices were giddily notified, and several West Coast nerds went home very happy. It didn't make the evening news.
The Internet grew, slowly and steadily. By the time I graduated with a Computer Science degree from Albany State in May 1984, the Internet was still nothing but a rumor to anyone I'd ever met. I worked for an aerospace firm and a robotics firm in the late 80s and never once saw a TCP/IP packet that didn't come from inside my building. We all knew that the Internet was somewhere out there -- I read about it in magazines like Byte and InfoWorld -- and in late 1992 I noticed a strange new book called The Whole Internet: User's Guide and Catalog by Ed Krol. It was published by O'Reilly, the most respected technical publisher in the Unix field, but it had a strange sort of 60s-ish San Francisco feel to it that was unlike any other O'Reilly book. I thumbed through it and read about Telnet, FTP, Usenet, Archie and Gopher, but it didn't make much sense and I didn't know where to find the Internet anyway.
I've been scanning old photos and documents for my memoir-in-progress, and going a bit scan-crazy as I dig into my archives. Here are a few interesting literary items I've found.
Does This Happen To Other Litbloggers?
John Updike, a beacon of literary sensibility in a hectic age, has died today at age 76.
(This is chapter three of my ongoing memoir of the Internet industry)
By the time I stumbled onto the Internet in 1993, there were a small number of literary sites available. Ed Krol's 1992 guidebook The Whole Internet listed exactly two literary magazines on the Internet:
Athene and InterText, electronic magazines devoted to short fiction, are archived here.
Access via: ftp quartz.rutgers.edu; login anonymous; cd pub/journals
I went to the FTP site and found a directory for the magazine called InterText (I never found a directory for Athene, and never heard of it again). About a year and a half worth of past monthly issues of InterText were available for free download in either PDF or ASCII text format. I checked a few out and liked what I read. These were clever stories, somewhat collegiate in tone but serious and well-edited. Several of the pieces had a Twilight-Zone-ish feel. I sent an email to the editor, a Berkeley journalism grad student named Jason Snell, announcing that I planned to submit a story.
For the last couple of years, my then-wife Meg and I had both been submitting short stories to literary journals like Story, Glimmer Train and Ploughshares. Sometimes we got back stiff rejection letters, and sometimes we got nice notes saying "please think of us again". The carrot and the stick. I considered sending InterText one of the stories from my rejection repertoire, but I had a better urge to write something new.
It took me a little over a year of stops and starts and deliberately reading other books that were not written by James Joyce, but I have finished Ulysses. And now, what to say? This is one of those books, you know? You either have read it or will read it or you have no interest in reading it or you’ll read ten (or 90 or 500) pages and think whythefuck and move on with your life. Whatever works for you, really.
Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It's just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It's just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out, the world's behind you
There's always someone
around you who will call
It's nothing at all
-- Lou Reed, "Sunday Morning"