Once we got to Florida, I thought I was supposed to talk to a book club about my latest novel, but I was cancelled.
--What did he say?
--That the woman who chairs the club’s selection committee chose a bodice ripper instead.
--I’m sorry, honey. I thought Just Bill was a sure thing.
--So did I, and I’m sure ____ is embarrassed. He thought it was just a formality, the selection process. He was very apologetic. I told him the woman’s bad taste wasn’t his fault.
--There really is no accounting for it, is there? Taste. How anyone could choose another romance story over your novel—I just don’t get it.
--No, you can account for it very easily. Like stupid political opinions, bad taste in literature can almost always be explained.
--Oh I know there are reasons. But they so often don’t make sense to me.
--Dumb opinions are embraced by people unwilling or unable—which is really the same thing—to even hear an idea or point of information at odds with inherited opinions. With conventional wisdom. If you know a good bodice ripper when you see one, that’s what you look for. The same thing’s true of nutter liberals as well as nutter conservatives. But the word “conservative” points the way to explaining the problem with right wingers.
--I take it we’re no longer talking about your novel.
--We’re talking about people who can’t expand their horizons. Can’t move outside their comfort zone in terms of books or anything else. In politics, conservatives stay alert in order to conserve the opinions they hold. To keep themselves safe from views that might hint at their own opinions being flawed in some way. If someone else’s views aren’t legacy opinions inherited from the same font of wisdom, they can be dismissed automatically as wrong. Back in my Wayne State salad days, I often ate lunch in the Kresge Court [at the Detroit Institute of Arts]. Sometimes I sat with the campus Marxists. The old-timers knew chapter and verse the key works of Marxist theology. They could range freely among the texts, explain away any flaw or obvious evidence that something was out of whack with their system. Their young disciples at the table knew little or nothing, except the thin veneer of opinion at the top of the Marxist mountain.
--I’m sorry, honey. About your book. But you lost me way back there, with “legacy opinions.” I thought we were talking about some dunce of a woman not choosing Just Bill for her club’s reading list.
--College admissions departments refer to children of the school’s graduates as legacy students. Students inherited from a previous generation. Often, these applicants are given a break.
--Oh, lots of reasons. The most important goes like this. Say, the applicant drags his knuckles when he walks, but has no talent for football. Say, he or she has made an X where the signature goes on the application, but the enclosed essay reads like Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Or, the daughter has a poor discipline record, owing to a habit of servicing both the first and second string members of her high school’s football team before and after games.
--I’m waiting for that second shoe.
--Here it is. Say the son or daughter’s father owns The Bible Is the Word of God U.S. Plastics Unlimited Company. This dad knows from long experience in business what it takes “to get the job done.” In this case, the job is getting Miss Hotpants or Dimwit Junior into college.
--Let me guess. The job involves construction.
--Very good. The university has long sought a benefactor to bankroll a roller-derby arena. It will be the only one on an American college campus, and a great recruiting tool.
--Groundbreaking to start in the fall of the student’s freshman year.
--Or a new daycare and sex-counseling center for unwed coed moms.
--No, I was wrong. Construction doesn’t begin in the student’s freshman year. This dad is no fool. Groundbreaking will have to wait until after graduation.
--Go to the head of the class.
--Well, Just Bill is a beautiful story, and it’s full of good things. That’s my legacy opinion, and it’s right on.
--You would make an excellent Republican. You have the two crucial attributes: unwavering loyalty, and a willingness to maintain the party line at all costs.
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