Leave an Idea, Take an Idea: Five Things Someone Else Should Totally Do (Guest Blogger China Mieville)
(The City & The City, an Amazon featured book for June.)
It's melancholy when you realise there are more things you'd like to do, or write, than you'll have time to, in your entire life. The endless triage of decent thoughts is necessary, a bit miserable, and a strong argument for the desirability of immortality. You cling even to the ones you doubt you'll start, as long as you can bear, just in case you find the time you know you won't.
But there's another category of ideas, a bit less frustrating, slightly more confusing, and necessitating a different response. These are those that are really, in one's own humble opinion, decent, with a potentially great audience, and without question worthy of pursuing...but that you know you'd mess up. If you even had time to start.
Just because someone comes up with a project is no reason they should be the one to follow through with it. 'I love this,' they might say, as I not-infrequently do, 'but I'm not the guy.' That doesn't mean it's not a good idea. So what to do about that? If you have a friend who could do a good job of it, you can always pass it on. But if you don't? And what about all the others that occur to you?
We should inaugurate a generous-spirited gift economy of thoughts. Plenty of shops in the US have those trays full of pennies that you can leave or take, depending on need. I see no more reason to hoard my I'm-not-the-guy ideas than my pennies. Accordingly, this is a short list of four books and one project that someone should totally do. Just not me.
1) Square Pegs
A non-fiction book, a collection of essays on and interviews with people who are members of organisations that are counterintuitive by our cruder assumptions. So, for example, Jewish members of the PLO; Muslim members of the BJP; Protestant members of Sinn Fein; Sinhalese pro-Tamil activists; and so, variously, on. The point here, I'd suggest (though it's not my project, because I'm Not The Guy--INTG), would not be to freakshow, to point and imply that these individuals are weird--though certainly, in some of the less savoury cases, there should be nothing to stop the critique of particular political positions--but in part to investigate how reductive or questionable are many assumptions we are encouraged to make about 'identities'. How and why did a particular person come to ally with a group traditionally conceived as opposed to her or his interests? How is s/he received by her allies and by her 'ethnic' (or whatever) community? Are they hopeful? Are they depressed? Can we generalise about such square pegs (I'd lay good money not)? It could be an extremely interesting book, or film, or whatever. It would need someone patient, with good interviewing skills, political subtlety, and a reasonable travel budget. Someone should totally do it.