A theory of assholes:
You aren’t an asshole. You are being an asshole.
That’s an important distinction. Being an asshole isn’t a state inherent to your identity, it’s not who you are, but simply the state of being you are passing through at that moment. At some later moment, you may not be an asshole.
Now it’s possible you have a low resistance to being an asshole and the asshole path is so clearly blazed and marked it takes an act of extreme willpower not to go full asshole at the slightest provocation and your average state of being manifests asshole so often that it takes on the appearance of permanence. Or maybe you’re a performance artist and have decided that it’s much easier to perform being an asshole at all times as a mask to hide your social anxiety and feelings of inferiority and resentment than actually engage with people as people.
These are the easy paths, the lowest hanging fruit. You don’t have to take the easy way. Learn to read the road signs and get past that first off-ramp that takes you to asshole.
And if your identity and money stream requires you to maximize instances of being an asshole, well, I got nothing for you. Go eat shit.
But I’ll highlight that being an asshole isn’t such a horrible thing that being one must be viewed as a complete evil to be avoided entirely. In certain circumstances it’s advantageous to be an asshole. Or at least know a good one. I’d certainly want any lawyer I’d hire to be able to go full asshole on my behalf in court. And when setting and maintaining boundaries being an asshole helps – at least being thought an asshole, because those susceptible to assholery in your life will think you’re an asshole when you cut them and their nonsense out of your life. Good on you. Be that asshole. Make the filter work. Because you’re only being an asshole, it’s not who you are.
So to recap: if you’re accused of being an asshole, take heart because it’s not who you are, it’s just where you are at that moment, and if you have to be an asshole from time to time it’s okay because it’s what you’re being and not who you are. Unless you’re a lazy performance artist going for the low hanging fruit in which case, eat shit.
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley: In a world where all women have died, a group of men live out their last lonely days in The Valley of Rocks, listening to young Nate tell stories that weave their past and remaining years into a cohesive whole – then the strange mushrooms start growing in the cemetery and everything changes. At times gory, at other times sublime, and definitely weird The Beauty’s a creepy read.
Persona by Genevieve Valentine: SF novel about a world where celebrity “Faces” represent countries and perform international politics while all actual politics are hashed out behind closed doors, except one Face is starting to take her job seriously and actually aid her constituency. Persona’s light on world building and heavy at times on breathless melodrama, but it’s even heavier on the speedy pulp paranoia that I enjoy.
My Father, The Pornographer by Chris Offutt: Book about Andrew J. Offutt, science fiction and fantasy writer (he created Shadowspawn for you Thieves’ World fans) who had a longer and more lucrative career as a writer of paperback porn. Meanwhile his son, Chris Offutt, grows to be a well-regarded lit writer and screenwriter who’s trying make sense out of his father’s output while also coming to terms with his dysfunctional relationship with his dad. This book crawled under my skin, because the portrait it crafts of Offutt the Elder’s petty, hair-trigger temper. The fandom bits are particularly chilling.
Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday (with William Dufty): Harrowing but great autobiography of Billie Holiday. There are a lot of sad and bitter details here. Not only in regards to the racism she had to bear, but the harassment she encountered while trying to seek treatment for her heroin addiction. But all that was what I expected. The bit I didn’t expect and left me shocked was that she smoked a carton of cigarettes a day. A CARTON!?!
The Glory of the Empire by Jean D’Ormesson: Fake history full of fake metaphysics and fake conflicts that purportedly shaped the ancient and early modern worlds. I LOVE BOOKS LIKE THIS! It starts back in the ancient era with a legendary feud between brothers, tumbles forward through the ages, detailing wars, uprisings, and eras that never happened, speaking of kings and queens and personages who never existed – but might have, making something of a shadow history of the world. It’s a wee bit stodgy at times, but take it slow and it’s worthwhile.