Monday, May 16, 2011

I wanted a grand, ferocious, larger-than-life fervor that knew no bounds

Who Are You People? The title of this book made me stop and pick it up. I saw it sitting on one of the tables laid out at a book store that seem to always hide all of the books I'm looking for. And just look at the cover: Barbie collectors in drag, Barney Fife look-a-like, not one but two people dressed in sci-fi ensembles (I think both Star Wars but I'm not sure and don't want to draw their ire) and a furry. A furry, people. As a fan of shows like Taboo (it doesn't count as reality TV if it's on NatGeo, right?), I was intrigued. A Personal Journey into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America? Sold. Done. Let's see what this has to offer.

I've read this book a few times. It's a fairly quick read. It's an easy read. I don't think I've ever had to put the book down so I could deeply contemplate what I'd just read. But the book has kept me coming back whenever I'm not quite sure what to read next, but I know I want to be reading something. It's nice to see someone who has hobbies are so completely different from my own. Shari begins her journey because she's never had an all-consuming passion and she wants to understand what draws people to these hobbies? Is there something all of these people, from pigeon racers to extreme boardgamers have in common?  Is Shari missing something? So she finds and begins attending conventions and chasing tornadoes to try to find these answers.

At one point I was reading this around my aunt. She asked me what it was about and I told her about the different groups Shari visits. My aunt was laughing at how ridiculous people could be until I mentioned the Josh Groban chapter. Suddenly, the laughter stopped. I wouldn't classify my aunt as a fanatical fan (she's yet to mortgage her house to see him perform) but she's certainly a fan. It's all fun and games until something you like gets its own "fanatical" chapter.

Now, Shari's never hurtful or condescending towards the people she meets and their hobbies. OK, sometimes she is but she generally owns up to it and changes tone quickly. She's often jealous that they have something they can throw themselves so completely in. She says: "I was searching for some kind of silly, shameless joy, something to give my life color and dimension, something I could go gaga over and not care that people actually used the word gaga when describing me" (14). Sure there are some things I don't think she'll ever really understand. And I'm with her. I don't think I'll ever really understand filkingbut I can point it out when I see it now.

Alright, so she doesn't really come out with exact and proven answers for her questions. But this isn't an official sociological study about subcultures and their motivations, it's a fun piece of work that let's you peek into another world and maybe gets you to consider checking out a group that shares your interests. Hell, that might be why I picked it up in the first place.

On top of the voyeuristic nature of the book, I was probably drawn to it because I never felt like I had an all-consuming hobby. Boyfriend has sports, especially baseball. He works in sports, he spends a good amount of his day watching games or following sports news and will probably have a sports blog going up soon (something I will totally be plugging here, although I probably won't visit all that often) and one of his favorite ways to spend a nice day is Central Park Baseball. I never had a hobby like that. Maybe that's what this blog has become? Perhaps not quite to the degree of the fanatics Shari meets with, but certainly along those lines. I started writing this post assuming I was in the same hobby-less world as when I first picked up the book. Thanks book bloggers.

*If you didn't click the link to the Wikipedia page on filk music, but still want to know what this is, here's a quick definition: "Filk has been defined as folk music, usually with a science fiction or fantasy theme...Filkers have been known to write filk songs about a variety of topics, including but not limited to tangentially-related topics such as computers and cats."

Title quote from page 13

Caudron, Shari. Who Are You People? A Personal Journey into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America. Barricade Books, 2006.