Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Just the other night, possums, and not for the first time, Miss XaXa put on her La Perla unmentionables, slipped into a blue silk peignoir, and got into bed with a gay man (though, to be fair, the other two times she didn't know they were gay).
The man's name is Paul Schmidtberger, and he happens to be a friend of ours, so we didn't mind terribly, as it was all en famille.
Of course, for everyone's sake it should be pointed out that it wasn't actually Paul in bed with Miss XaXa. Rather, it was Paul's freshman effort--his debut novel, Design Flaws of the Human Condition, just published by Doubleday--that Miss XaXa carried off into her boudoir.
Given Howie Kleinberg's recent meltdowns (every pugnacious bead of sweat crying out for anger management), it seemed the perfect book to recommend, seeing as how the novel's wry screwball plot revolves around two people who meet at an anger-management class: Iris, a straight woman who happened to run afoul of a moralist in economy class on a flight from Orange County, and Ken, a gay man who caught his boyfriend in bed with another man on the same night he was unjustly fired from his law-firm job for beginning a sentence with the word "and."
But Iris and Ken don't do any of the stereotypical things that gay men and their straight women friends are supposed to do, such as shopping for punishingly Freudian high-heeled shoes, running a blog, or drinking novelty-alcohol-of-the-moment-tinis.
Instead, they agree to nurse grudges and drinks, and engage in a little mutual skulfaggery, with Iris spying on Ken's ex-boyfriend, to make sure the cheating louse is as miserable as he deserves to be, and Ken spying on Iris' current boyfriend, whom she suspects of straying, or at least of liking rural Pennsylvania just a tad more than might be acceptable in polite society.
Not surprisingly, Publishers Weekly called Design Flaws of the Human Condition “a promising debut about love, friendship and anger-management” and “an assuredly entertaining romp.” So if you, like Miss XaXa, fancy an assuredly entertaining romp in your bed, be sure to get yourself a copy.
To give you a better sense of things, this is how Paul explains the origin of his novel:
People often want to know how I came up with the idea for my book. Well, like most of my better ideas, the inspiration for Design Flaws came to me in a bar.
It was in Paris and I was downstairs waiting to use the bathroom while precious Happy Hour minutes ticked away upstairs, only whoever was in there was taking his sweet time. This is the same kind of person who dashes ahead of you into the bathroom in a movie theater right before the movie starts and then makes himself at home and does crossword puzzles or fills out questionnaires aimed at figuring out which career is secretly perfect for him. I hate people like that.
So how do you get somebody else out of the bathroom that you would like to occupy? You don’t. The person inside holds all the cards. Unless, of course, you’re a locksmith, which – tragically – I’m not.
And then it hit me. The light switch. In France, the light switch is always on the outside of the bathroom. God only knows why they do like that, but they do. So if there’s no way to dislodge the person inside, you can at least make his stay there a little less comfortable. Which is to say, pitch black. And it worked!
It’s hard to understand how an entire country like France can get something as simple as where the light switch goes wrong, but they have....
But fun and games aside, the placement of the light switch in the bar is what’s known as a “design flaw,” something I used to read about in law school. The theory of design flaws is that certain products contain imperfections which, with a little extra thinking, might’ve been avoided. The classic example is the Ford Pinto. It was little. It was zippy. It was named after a horse with daring, devil-may-care splashes of color. What’s not to like about it? Well, the fact that they put the gas tank under the rear axle, which meant that it exploded on impact. A great design, but not perfect.
So my inspiration that night was to take the dry, dusty theory of a design flaw and apply it to living, breathing people. People are a miracle of design, but we’re not perfect.