Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Meeting of the Minds

You have not attended so many meetings in your life that you think you are at the right-hand rat tail of some distribution curve wherein you have attended significantly more than most of your peers.  Because of the kinds of meetings you have attended, you do come away with the feeling that it seems as though you have attended more meetings.

Perhaps the most painful meeting you ever attended, even more painful that the one in which Dr; Koper showed you on a computer screen not only the location of the tumor but its size and color as well, was your first sales meeting as the newly minted editor in chief at Sherbourne Press, a general trade publisher out of Los Angeles.  You were in a suite at the Drake Hotel, drinking hotel urn coffee and trying to disgorge from a back tooth a stubborn flake of almond that had more recently been a part of a danish.  You had a bad enough taste in your mouth from the coffee, had just given a report on a novel you quite liked, and were speaking of it in terms of admiration whereupon a badly hung over sales rep called out from the rear, "Never mind the lovely prose.  How do I sell the fucker?"

Although that sales meeting stands out for its singularity, the rest of your experiences, including editorial meetings, writers' conference workshop leader conferences, and story conferences become a blur of generality and it is thus the generic faculty meeting as opposed to such faculty meetings as I have attended at any specific university.  They blend together in their awfulness, causing you to think dire thoughts, plot out vindictive short stories, and plot appropriate literary redress of grievances.

It is as much as any person can bear to experience the toxic emotional and subtexts dynamic of faculty meetings.  The true pleasure comes from the growing suspicion that your presence in such a meeting is likely an occasion of discomfort for one or more persons.  In the best tradition of psychological and dramatic soundness, the you that is an organism thinks well of itself, is appropriately outraged at any hint your turf is being encroached, your verges trespassed.  Of course it is so. The soothing balm you apply for such affliction is the knowledge that any unruly, disruptive, self-serving crowd scene can be quickly set in operation by imagining the characters as members of a faculty, broken down into a particular department at a particular university.  At such delicious moments, revenge is neither served warm nor cold, but rather as a gigantic smorgasbord.


Steve Beisner said...

Nothing brings terror to the heart of a productive human being like the phrase, "I hate to interrupt, but we need to have a meeting."

Storm Dweller said...

Ahhh yes, the art of sales, "How do I sell the fucker?" That is an art I am afraid I will never be able to master. I am more interested in the lovely prose than how to close the deal.

As for meetings, they have become a standard part of life for me, and I work them in much the same way I work the room you described in a previous post. I disarm them with a sense of congenial familiarity, and bring them around to the point of the matter. Perhaps I am moreof a salesman than I give myself credit for.