"This Is the Worst"
A Collaborative Art Project
May 30, 2012
I am pleased by the quality of submissions to the "This Is The Worst" project. (Which I am persisting in calling it a "project" rather than a "contest" even though my friend Carolyn, one of this week's submitters, insists: "It is a contest because the prize is being chosen to appear on your website.") They span a range of horrors from the mundane to the cosmic, the dull to the grotesque, and each has its own defensible claim to being The Worst. Let us plunge right in to the carnival of humiliations.
Submitted by Diane Chambers-Stewart
Secretary of Do-I-Look-Like-I-Give-a-Shit Hilary Clinton, looking unabashedly hung over at some sort of high-level world-leader-type function, blatantly texts her friend like anyone else trapped in a boring-ass meeting. (Diane did not cheat by deviating from the assigned word balloon, incidentally; she couldn't figure out the Photoshop hocus-pocus and just sent me the raw image, and once I realized Hilary was texting I decided to custom-adapt the balloon. In the future I will consider custom word balloons on a case-by-case basis.) God how I wish that was a cocktail in her hand.
Submitted by Paul Osimo
Here we see another high-profile individual in sadly reduced professional circumstances: decorated astro-droid R2-D2 glumly submitting to his degradation in the very crappiest of George Lucas's Star Wars sequels, The Phantom Menace. I'm not actually sure whether we are to infer that the word balloon in this panel is a.) a translation of R2's electronic bleeps and flatus or b.) the words of actor Kenny Baker, simmering away in the crockpot of the R2 costume and no doubt transforming its interior into a human-sized bong.
Submitted by Jesse Fuchs
Jesse writes: "I especially like the balloon's Jimmy Corriganesque effect on Anderson Cooper." I was also reminded of some of the paintings of Francis Bacon. I myself would not have recognized Mr. Cooper. That is quite a large cat. The more I look at this photo the more I think that yes, perhaps this is the worst: gorged to Harkonnenesque proportions and then dragged helplessly, glassy-eyed, paws asplay, in all your hilarious grotesquerie, onto national television to be held up and displayed like a record-setting bigmouth bass by some pinstriped, superannuated prettyboy for the entire human race to gawk at and delight in. But then I see something like the below and am forced to reconsider:
Submitted by Carolyn Ewald
"Those are live pigs," writes Carolyn, who is involved in Animal Rescue. "Isn't that horrible?" The answer is: yes it is. Somehow through sheer repetition the image transcends the specific to become metaphoric, universal, an image of humanity trapped and suffering en masse but in isolation, like the paintings of George Tooker. I'm also thinking of a line from the black climactic speech in Cormac McCarthy's play The Sunset Limited:
"...if that pain were actually collective instead of simply reiterative the sheer weight of it would drag the world from the walls of the universe and send it crashing and burning through whatever night it might yet be capable of engendering until it was not even ash."
More submissions are welcome. I hope to make "This Is the Worst" a recurring feature. If you've tried to submit an entry to email@example.com and it got bounced back, I apologize. I now have a new, functioning email address:
Please note that my literary agent, the fabulous Meg Thompson, has also changed addresses:
I look forward to hearing from you all again.
My collection of essays, We Learn Nothing, will be released on June 11 by Free Press, and I will be embarking on a whirlwind national tour to promote it. My reading schedule so far is as follows:
- Wednesday, June 13, 6 PM [note change]: The Strand (New York, NY), in conversation with Myla Goldberg
- Friday, June 15, 7 PM: Book Court (Brooklyn, NY)
- Monday, June 18, 7 PM: The Half King (New York, NY)
- June 25th, KGB Bar (I'll be talking about my correspondence with David Foster Wallace)
Baltimore / D.C.
- Wednesday, June 27, 7 PM: One More Page Books (Arlington, VA)
- Thursday, June 28, 6:30 PM: Ivy Bookshop (Baltimore, MD)
- Friday, June 29, 7 PM: Atomic Books (Baltimore, MD)
- Monday, July 9 , 7 PM: Books, Inc. (Berekeley, CA)
- Monday, July 16th, University Bookstore ( Seattle, WA)
Wednesday, July 18th, 6 PM: Town Hall Seattle (Seattle, WA), with Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCainCancelled--IXNÆD by Meghan McCain!
- Monday, July 30, 7 PM : Powell's Books (Portland, OR)
- Wednesday, August 1, 7 PM: Ravenna Third Place (Seattle, WA)
- Friday, July 20th, 9 PM: lecture on George Grosz and political cartooning at the Dallas Museum of Art's "Late Nights at the Museum" series (Dallas, TX)
If there's a good bookstore in your area that you think might want to host a reading by me (and you have a guest bedroom/couch you'd like to put me up on) let me know and I'll ask my publicist to contact them.
"Tim Kreider's writing is heartbreaking, brutal and hilarious--usually at the same time. He can do in a few pages what I need several hours of screen time and tens of millions to accomplish. And he does it better. Come to think of it, I'd rather not do a blurb. I am beginning to feel bad about myself."
"Tim Kreider may be the most subversive soul in America and his subversions--by turns public and intimate, political and cultural--are just what our weary, mixed-up nation needs. The essays in We Learn Nothing are for anybody who believes it's high time for some answers, damn it."
author of Empire Falls and The Risk Pool
"Whether he is expressing himself in highly original cartoons that are hilarious visual poems, or in prose that exposes our self-delusions by the way he probes his own experience with candor, Tim Kreider is a writer-artist who brilliantly understands that every humorist at his best is a liberator. Because he is irreverent, makes us laugh, ruffles the feathers of the pretentious and the pompous, and keeps us honest, We Learn Nothing is a pleasure from its first page to the last.""
author of Middle Passage and Black Humor
"Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Kreider locates the right simile and the pith of situations as he carefully catalogues humanity's inventive and manifold ways of failing."
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Now available for preorder at:
Simon & Schuster