Monday, January 14, 2008

Celebrity Gossip: Does The Object Matter?

So somebody gave me The Nine for Christmas, which is one of the new Supreme Court books, and one that I was pretty eager to read. But one of the reasons I was so eager to read it was that a friend who had already read it told me it had all kinds of dirt about the justices, including the fact that David Souter eats a yogurt and an apple for lunch, which is kind of a striking fact.

David Lat has made a career out of collecting this stuff -- the fact that it's out there isn't news, nor, I guess, is the kind of hand-wringing I'm about to engage in.

Why the hell do I care what David Souter eats? Do I care because he's a justice of the Supreme Court, or do I care because I like collecting facts about other people, especially facts that seem weird? Is there any difference between my interest in David Souter and Britney Spears? How about the guy across from my apartment who yells at his girlfriend?

It's always fun, although I guess maybe it used to be more fun, to pick the perfect subjects of the New Yorker Talk of the Town piece. The stained glass restorer, the last maker of hand-crafted bricks, the person who tracks the migration of some particular kind of bunny rabbit. And then you could do your best to mimic the New Yorker style of discussion, the bland presentation of personal eccentricity. But there's some of the same thing there -- what's the point of knowing these things about these people? Is it that there's some particular merit to the stained glass profession? Is it another way of contemplating human variety?

Or is it just some kind of drive to know what's going on with other people, whoever they may be? We want to be behind the scenes, we want to wrap our hands around some kind of vision of who these people are, really.


Noko Marie said...

Mixed, mixed feelings. I like gossip, and I like reading the true stories of people I would never talk to or get to know.

But when I read that David Souter lunch thing, it launches a thousand connected ideas: oh, he's that kind of guy, huh, the kind of guy who eats fruit and yogurt for lunch? I know that kind of guy: self-controlled, sensible, less bedeviled by the temptations of the world than I am.

Maybe that's not a fair set of things to think, given that I don't know him. Or maybe it's an insight into his personality. ?

Then, too, I like celebrities, and I like reading their news. It's fun, and interesting. In the case of someone like Paris Hilton, I figure she wants to be news, so whatever. This is fine, right? But then it's also true that so much of the news is so, well, sexist; everyone seems to be getting so much pleasure and excitement out of trashing women. That kind of depresses me and freaks me out.

So: conflicted.

Captain Colossal said...

I totally agree that it gives you a sense of David Souter that may or may not be true, although fruit and yogurt seems not so much sensible to me as ridiculously ascetic, someone who takes his pleasure by denying himself. A spinach salad, that strikes me as someone unbedeviled by the temptations of the world.

I guess I feel a sense of virtue at speculating on David Souter's personality that I don't feel when I'm thinking about Paris Hilton, and I'm wondering if that's fair. I mean, my theory in defense of my David Souter speculations would be that he performs this important role and so it's useful to know about him. But I don't really think my knowledge of his lunch choices helps me predict his jurisprudence, which is the important thing about him anyway, and it's not like I could do anything about such predictions if it did help.

So is my interest in him identical to my interest in Paris Hilton, leaving aside for the moment the question of whether that interest is good, bad, or indifferent, or is it a different thing altogether, due to his public position? However tangentially that position may be related to his lunch choices?

By the way, my rabid attachment to Obama stems in part from the fact that he smokes. It seems like such a human vice.

Octopus Grigori said...

H E L L O . . . . . . . .

. . . . H E L L O

Captain Colossal said...

I don't get it.