How to be interesting, but authentic?


As long as I can remember, the verdict on me, when favorable, has been “Nice guy, but kind of boring.” The world asks me

If even you won’t pretend that you’re interesting, how do you expect me to?

I guess I should be thankful for how many honest friends work to keep me humble by being bored with everything I do and am. It’s not their fault I bore them, yet, gentle reader, sometimes I resent them for it anyway. But how often do I find them interesting? “What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

A few feet away from me is a book, unread, that my older brother who I love dearly, helpfully gave me before college. How can I be surprised at the symmetry, that I am just a point in the distribution?

Yeah, yeah, a good listener is a good conversationalist, as Dale Carnegie or any bargirl could tell you, but surely a real conversation is more than taking turns boring each other, more than taking turns pretending the other guy is interesting?

Well, then, is there any difference between being interesting and being an entertainer? Should my models be Richard Pryor and Peter Ustinov? Hmm… I opened that book for the first time just now and the first paragraph my eyes land on?

A comedian may be very good in his instinctive sense of timing, and his stage presence in front of an audience. […]

Oh, sweet Jesus.

One response »

  1. According to Masha Gessen regarding Grigory Perelman

    He was deeply hurt by the many generous offers he received from U.S. universities after he published his proof. He apparently felt he had made a contribution that was far greater than any amount of money—and rather than express their appreciation in appropriately mathematical ways, by studying his proof and working to understand it—they were trying to take a shortcut and basically pay him off.

    When asked about writing his biography, “What made you believe you could pull this off?”, she says

    Actually, I made two erroneous assumptions. First, I assumed that the journalists who wrote about Perelman back when he turned down the Fields Medal [in 2006] were wrong. I figured he was not as weird as they made him sound. I expected he was a familiar type of Russian scientist—entirely devoted to his field, not at all attuned to social niceties and bureaucratic customs, and given to behaviors that can be misinterpreted, especially by foreign journalists.

    […] Perelman turned out to be much stranger than I expected.

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