Insecurity is a doubled-headed beast. This potentially crippling sense that you are unable to live up to your expectations, that you are not your best self, that you may be found out as a fake, is a huge blow to self-esteem. Yet, when we toss this word around, it is often a dig at someone who presents as arrogant, prickish, almost Trumpian. “He’s just really insecure,” becomes the de facto armchair analysis of the egoist.
This is a tricky theme to tackle in this section, so I am excited to see what the other guides make of it. To me Lyle’s advice regarding not pulling weight that exceeds your own is a nice summary of the plight of the insecure. Our efforts to prove we are bigger, tougher, stronger than we truly are, only serve to bite us in the ass when the weights pull us up off the ground. (Excluded this week due to the reading structure, the anecdote of the bricklayer on pp 138-140 is a brilliantly comic interpretation of this warning).
The pursuit of individual happiness, which of course is a thread throughout the novel, often results in a sense of insecurity – we are overwhelmed with choices, moved along by impulses, and chase fleeting feelings of pleasure with little reflection on our own role in the larger world. This butts up against our own understanding of why we do what we do – why we strive, why we love, why we care. Several sections in these pages speak to this, especially from characters who are motivated by participating in something larger than themselves:
- In the conversation between Schtitt and Mario, Schtitt’s dismay at the ONAN-ist focus on “the happy pleasure of the person alone” (p. 83).
- Marathe’s warning to Steeply to “choose with care. You are what you love”
- The locker room conversation at ETA about striving for The Show, and the questions the Little Buddies have for their Big Buddies about how to navigate through ETA.
The insecure often hide behind fragile personas as well, either unsure of or afraid to show their true selves. To wit:
- Helen (Hugh) Steeply, whose disguise Marthe describes as a “twisted parody of womanhood” (p. 93)
- Marathe, a triple, possible quadruple agent who posits perhaps he has “merely pretended to pretend to pretend to betray” (p. 94)
- Orin, who often comes off as incredible insecure (with his Subjects, and “complicated” relationship with Avril) at this point can vocalize his distaste at the high flying stunts he is made to do yet still has not vocalized his morbid fear of heights to anyone.
- Tiny Ewell, hinted at that it may be hard for him to accept his addiction.
- Poor Tony’s duplicity, too afraid to admit his role in ripping off Wo.
Some of my favourite sections come up this week, and while I am not going to squish them into the thematic lens of insecurity, let me lay down some initial thoughts and we can take it over to the subreddit for deeper discussion
- James Incandenza’s filmography. On my first read through IJ I admit I skimmed most of this. But on 2nd and 3rd read it revealed itself to be a treasure trove of connective tissues. Even this far along we can already make the connection between JOI’s life and his work (see Was a Great Marvel That He Was in the Father Without Knowing Him) and see that the use of Stokely Darkstar in Accomplice! connects JOI in some way to the narrative of yrstruly.
- Kate Gompert. One of the best descriptions of clinical depression I have ever read. The resident doctor is so fully fleshed out too, making this an amazing study of their dynamic as well.
- The language used in the yrstruly passage is absolutely delicious. “rickytick” “elemondae” “not 2Bdenied”