Dick of the Week: William Giraldi

photo via flickr

William Giraldi wrote a personal essay for The Baffler called “This Brat’s for You.” Have you encountered this polished turd being bandied about the internet yet? In the piece, Giraldi bemoans the fact that he got paternity leave from his employer for the birth of his first child, became so utterly bored by his “surfeit of free time” (because, he says, “let’s be honest: even in self-consciously progressive households, it’s a rare new father who does as much baby work as a new mother”), and subsequently developed a drinking problem that resulted in “medieval hangovers that vanquished entire days” along with “migraines and dehydration that felt downright malarial.” The alcoholism apparently ended when he went back to his job.

The essay is, indeed, truly baffling. Is the piece a joke? An attempt to rile up progressives, see if we’ll take the bait? Is it supposed to be a brave, unapologetic, politically incorrect defense of men who know and aren’t afraid to say what it truly means to be a Man? The piece tries so desperately to be funny and provocative and soul-baring, but fails so miserably. He just comes across as an entitled, whiney, pretentious, self-centered dickhead — a man so consumed with becoming a great white male novelist cliche, so amused by his own thesaurus-inspired ramblings, and so clueless about his own blessings, that he apparently misses his only child’s first nine months. Ha, ha, hilarious!

I’m not certain how this enlightened advance came about, but I instantly pictured a phalanx of ultra-modern men parading down Commonwealth Avenue, jabbing placards that read “It’s My Seed, So Give Me Leave,” or some such slogan.

Ha! Fathers wanting to be active participants in the raising of their kids? That’s so earnest it’s embarrassing.

[S]ome of the men I know [at Boston University] might begin impregnating people just to earn a semester off with pay.

Ha! Male college professors as welfare queens. Too funny.

[T]hink of the tremendous ennui and the earthquakes of personhood that can occur when men are laid off or retire. After my grandfather quit working in his sixties, I’d often catch him standing in the basement, staring at a cinder-block wall.

Ha! It’s almost comical the extent to which men — and men alone — need to keep their brains active and keep pursuing their passions with serious, important work in order to maintain purpose and meaning in their lives, while women — silly women — can do whatevs and apparently be content.

So far the best response to this watercolor with feces masquerading as revelatory personal essay is Mallory Ortberg’s parody “I’d Love To Help My Wife Do The Dishes, But I’m Trapped Under Something Heavy”:

My wife’s capacity and willingness to do everything necessary for the care and comfort of our child has flooded me with awe. In fact, I am so flooded with awe that I cannot move. It is all I can do to grin weakly at her, trapped as I am under a sea of my own admiration, as she struts powerfully by, dressing our son at several hundred nautical knots per hour while knitting his college application essay with her teeth…. I wonder what my son’s name is. Perhaps it is Jonathant.

Now that’s fucking funny. Giraldi, take notes.

Another pointed response — this one by Erin Elizabeth Clune on her blog “Life After NY” — addresses the seriously hard work of raising a kid without extra support:

BORDEM MADE YOU DRINK?  CRYING MADE ME DRINK.  Literally.  I cried from exhaustion more times than I can remember, and only the glass of wine at night, by myself in the kitchen, made me feel better.  Those were some of the easy days.  I once had to fight off the instinct to shake my baby, because nobody was there, and I was so tired, and I wanted her to sleep so badly, and she wouldn’t.  Thank God my mom intervened with a bottle, and let me sleep one night.  My husband couldn’t get up at night in my place. He didn’t have paternity leave.

And we also love this literary takedown by math professor and novelist Jordan S. Ellenberg — who we assumed was a woman (shame on us) but were delighted to discover is an honest-to-goodness man — called “William Giraldi Only Cares for Beauty,” which includes excerpts from other similarly offensive and sexist pieces by Giraldi:

Reading Giraldi’s prose feels like sitting in an extra-fancy bathroom, with black and white tiles and gold trim everywhere and a fur-lined toilet, and no windows, into which someone has just sprayed a perfume whose label identifies it as “woodland fresh.”  Or like listening to William F. Buckley on an off day.  Or like listening to William F. Buckley on an off day in that bathroom.

Besides some genuinely entertaining response pieces, the greatest benefit of the publication of Giraldi’s essay “This Brat’s for You” is to ensure that no one accidentally buys one of his novels.