Wednesday, November 11, 2015

STRATEGY? A science, rooted in philosophy, begins with a vision based in fact--Vladimir Kvint's STRATEGY FOR A GLOBAL MARKET

Strategy requires a very different mindset than other subjects, not only in the day to day thinking culled from current events, but also from meaningful analysis of the history of military battles, economic trends, cultural achievements and societal prosperity,--Vladimir Kvint

“While his strategic analyses and forecasts of events are not infrequently outspoken, controversial, and at times even criticized as outlandish or impossible, in hindsight, they have been remarkably accurate and insightful. Indeed, it becomes evident that his forecasts are soundly grounded in detailed analysis of fact, coupled with a unique perspective and the wisdom gained of a long and unique career.” – James W. Michaels, Forbes Magazine 

"This path breaking book studies the concept of strategy, surveying its development from ancient times to the present and showing how it is basic to both economic growth and the quality of life. Strategies, Kvint explains, work to find new perspectives and to project new scenarios into the future. This original, deep, and practical book is a must-read for all of us who want to understand modern economics"--Edmund S. Phelps, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economics and Director, Center on Capitalism and Society, Columbia University, 

Dr. Vladimir Kvint, author of STRATEGY FOR THE GLOBAL MARKET (Routledge), is an economist and strategist. He is a US Fulbright Scholar and a member of the Bretton Woods 
Committee (Washington, DC), a Fellow of the World Academy of Art & Science and the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

Q. Having no background in Economics, it's the vision part of Strategy, predictions based in fact, that had me speculating about a kinship to a novel--an alternative reality created from a set of facts. Yet Strategy is a science, not an art form, with laws. Dr. Vladimir Kvint explains:

"The main law of Strategy is the Economizing of Time. If you are late, you lose a certain amount of resources. But you can be first in the niche of opportunities. Strategy has a similarity to ontology, the philosophical study of being. In both, facts are very important. According to Plato, time is also less important than descriptive of the world. But facts are not as important in Strategy as in ontology, because in strategizing the future facts belong to the past reality. This may be irrelevant to the future beyond the horizon."

Q. If strategically the present is already past, how does a strategist work?

"What a strategist does is assemble informative resources that already exist into a statistical baseline. Assembling resources and developing strategy takes time. By the time a Strategy is ready for implementation, what was current is already past. For strategists current does not exist. You have to understand the future for it to work. "

Q.  Here we are back to vision, why is Bill Gates the best example of why "common sense" is a bad adviser?

"When Gates said he could see his grandmother one day sitting at a computer in her kitchen, people laughed. But he could see through time. It was also against common sense, when Kennedy said that man would reach the moon. Yet, in just a few years, a man planted a flag on the moon. Both Gates and Kennedy had strategies behind their visions."

Q. Of course facts in novels are fictional, unlike economic forecasts. In 1989 you published a prediction that "by 1992 there will be no country called the Soviet Union" and in 1990, this was the cover story of Forbes. That insight was uniquely based on specific economic studies. Yet what do you believe about Strategy that's in common with Napoleon?

"Strategy is more important than any weapon. There is much writing about this by great leaders, such as Sun Tzu, Caesar, as well as Napoleon's Maxims. He describes as the two major criteria for Strategy--time and space with the domination of time. "

Q. How is the strategic process applied to the global market?

"Just as strategic development and thinking are always different from common sense, the strategic planning process is different from operational day to day planning. The point of Strategy is to help achieve a shortcut, an asymmetrical path to success in the best case scenario. I take Aristotle's consideration and concept of the 'Good Life' first and foremost. A strategist must learn how to formulate strategic priorities according to the values and interests of people and nations. Strategy keeps one centered in the major strategic objectives."

Q. What exactly is the Global Market?

"The Global Market includes developed and emerging market countries, as well as developing and underdeveloped countries. A strategic scheme reflects the market cooperation between consumers, companies, governments and multilateral institutions around the world. It must account for for real-time cooperation and competition. 

Q. So how do you define strategy in this context?

"Strategy is wisdom with a defined vector to success and an assessment of resource limitations. Planning is the implementation of Strategy. It is the execution of a defined Strategy within the constraints of time and resource availability"

Vladimir Kvint has 45 years of experience working with Strategy. He clearly defines the difference between strategy and planning. First comes the vision, then planning--the steps to get there, followed by implementation, and exit strategy.  

The omission of the last step, Dr. Kvint explains, is unfortunately all too common. When countries don't design one at the beginning of a strategy, suffering can be huge, as the U.S. casualties at the end of the Iraqi War. A corporate example is the disappearance of Arthur Anderson, once an anchor of American finance. But exit is another topic in this thorough and fascinating book.

Read STRATEGY FOR THE GLOBAL MARKET, if you're an economist, or an investor, an economics student for the knowledge of a world authority. If you've simply got a philosophical bent, read this book for a new angle on the nature of reality.


Vladimir Kvint talks Strategy with Bloomberg's Melike Ayan

Thursday, October 22, 2015

With a nod to Henry James, THE PRIZE looks at the mannered art world with irony and earnestness

Prologue to THE PRIZE, Jill Bialosky's incredibly moving novel of the art world

Edward Darby knew that an artist's work had the power to change the way in which art was perceived, for every successful artist must recreate the medium, but he did not know, each time he went to a new artist's studio, if he'd ever find it. When you see a work of art, it will be as if everything else in relationship to it has faded. Art should transport the seer from the ordinary to the sublime. His father, a scholar of romantic poetry, told him this when he was a boy. But it was more than that. It was the myths artists created about their art that gave the work authority, and as an art dealer, he was part of that creation. He thought about all this as he looked for Agnes Murray's name on the directory in the vestibile of a crumbling old warehouse in Bushwick. It was a cold and gray morning in April. He hoped he wasn't wasting his time.

THE PRIZE (COUNTERPOINT, Berkeley) is a novel of a prescribed milieu, the modern art world, with expected behavior, class designations, and subtleties of speech and intention rarely perceptible to the uninitiated. One of the pleasures of this book is that the reader gets to experience this high society and its subsets through the players; star artists, insecure and brash, jockeying not just for position but immortality, galleristas, voraciously seeking fortune's limit (wherever they can sell hot art to the most prestigious buyers internationally).

There are also the true artists and aesthetes with a sense of purpose deeper than the glittery show. They are the core of this Jamesian novel, that reveals how people actually perceive their lives and the incongruous mismatch between them of perceptions. Even between spouses, who believe they know each other, there are gulfs between shared realities. Like the prow of a ship visible at the water line, the feelings underneath have unfathomable depths.

This art world is no satire of poseurs and Machiavellian dealers pushing inflated prices. Instead of capitalizing on affectation and snobbery, though she has fun with cliches, Bialosky, a poet, excavates beneath caricatures for the throbbing soul of perception. Compassion's laced with humor as she describes how subjective perceptions of artists clash and collude with the calculation of the art world professionals. This is well described by the narrator and hero of THE PRIZE, who combines the intuitive perception of the true aesthete with business acumen.

Edward follows his hunches, whatever the cost. His ambition is less about making money than seeking transcendence.. The son of a scholar of romantic poetry, Edward knows in his bones that truth is beauty. This sensibility is his lodestar, unlike Holly, his earthy wife, who finds sustenance in volunteer work at animal shelters and maintaining their comfy country home. Edward is mystified by her capacity for simple happiness. She cannot see his attraction to the international art scene, the constant travel and superficiality.

This novel cleverly sends up the cliched set-up of "opposites attract,"by showing the primal tragedy both experienced that originally drew them together. In another knowing nod to James, romance in this novel is based on perceived "similarities"  by lovers, who actually have little understanding of their core desires. Edward is too familiar with the psychiatric total the life of an aesthete took on his brilliant father. His world, as a dealer is far less insular. He avoids the toxic introspection, he thinks, but actually he buries grief in the glamour of his world.

And he has justly earned the reputation of a solid figure in the art world. An aesthete with a poet's sensibility, he consistently delivers the gold. When he perceives intangible truth shining through--a sense of the eternal--he knows he's in the presence of true art. His life is built on such discoveries, like the beautiful high strung artist, who mixes 9-11 imagery with history tinged portraits. Now the major artist of the gallery he partners, he is patient, promoting her well despite her often impossible demands.

Though Edward's life is exactly what he wanted it to be, he finds himself adrift in his 40's. In lesser hands his not atypical crisis--finding his ideals are less than real, wanting to know what is of substance before he loses--would be too familiar. Here, passion makes you fear for his fate. Though Edward recognizes he likes to make a deal, and find a transcendent moment and make it salable, he's painfully vulnerable.

Among the changing people in his art scene, he meets his "soulmate", a haunted sculptor with a sensibility he thinks not unlike his own. Keats' Odes begin a seduction less about his object than the need to throw aside the pedestrian and seize the perfection eluding him,  Edward the truth seeker becomes a liar. His betrayal is mirrored throughout the facets of his carefully ordered life.

Then, as artists jockey for the validation of a major prize, Edward is driven to a precipice, where he must discover what life is worth living. This novel is understated yet the way it's written is beautiful, clever and often surprising. James might read it without disdain.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

SWEET CARESS, a fictional autobiography of an iconic female war photographer, not unlike the real Lee Miller

There was a mistake the day Amory Clay was born. Times (of London) announced the birth of  "a son." So begins William Boyd's novel SWEET CARESS: The Many Lives of Amory Clay (Sept.Bloomsbury). Interestingly, this novel is not about a transgender person and, despite the title, it's not a romance. It's a fictional autobiography of an iconic female war photographer, not unlike the real-life Lee Miller, who went from the muse of Man Ray and fashion icon to the front lines of WWII and published her coverage in Vogue.

Boyd's skill is such that I came to accept Amory Clay, as a British member of the small club of freewheeling women journalists, who went where the action was. Like Clay, Miller evolved as a visual artist. Martha Gellhorn, another member of this group, is also known for her relationship with Earnest Hemingway.And this book provides a good many romantic/sexual interludes that range from "chemistry" to career moves. But there is a certain perfunctory quality to Clay's affairs, a required indulgence, that can seem generic.

What's convincing are the snapshots of and by Amory throughout the novel. As she matures through the decades, as a person and artist ,so do the photos. It was strange to be engrossed in her adventures, believing she's  real, while knowing she's a literary conceit. But the author of Restless and Any Human Heart, knows how to build a very credible yet uniquely unpredictable character.

Amory Clay, media figure, begins with the evolving consciousness of a young girl on a farm run by her tough and nurturing mother. She's protective of her sister, the precocious musician, her oddball brother, and her strangely distant father, who form her world. When her uncle gives her a camera, her life opens up. Artistic and bookish, she captures the free life on the farm, until it suddenly ends. Despite the family's poverty,Amory is "exiled" to a boarding school, where she's groomed for a rare woman's scholarship. That ambition ends because of her father's madness, Amory suffers a major trauma and is never the same. (I think it's inferred her need for action may arise from this.)

She leaves school to work for her uncle, a society photographer.When her honesty interferes with the necessary flattery of the job, she goes abroad to make a name for herself.But her  photographs of Berlin brothels bring her notoriety instead of fame. (I had no problems accepting the truth of those photos and the revelation of how Amory got them).

Broke, she's takes a steady job in New York shooting fashions for a women's catalogue--an accepted outlet for a female photographer,She also managed a volume of personal art photographs. Her love affairs occupy her thoughts though they are less interesting than her probing observations of place and people. These grow along with a desire for creative work that captures real life. Finally, she finds the strength to refuse life as an object of a man's desire. Instead, she chooses to do "her bit" for the war and the novel takes off. Amory puts her life on the line to record what she sees, conflict and how soldiers live day to day.

But these are only some of the lives of Amory Clay,  There is a wonderful Vietnam chapter, as well as snapshots with cunning glimpses of her life as a "Lady" and mother. I believed more than these shots the ones of settings and people, historical and fictional. And, when the book was finished, I felt satisfied. I respected Amory's well earned wisdom and the life lived by her own values. I will certainly see the movie.

For what is probably one of the real-life sources for Boyd's heroine, read below about Lee Miller. I possess a book w/narrative of her photographs. They are stunning, art in action. Boyd's snapshots are not even close. His achievement is to create a portrait of a woman rarely depicted. A self-made talent, uncompromising about her independence, who succeeds despite the narrow expectations and opportunities of her era..

From Wikipedia: Elizabeth "Lee" Miller, Lady Penrose (April 23, 1907 – July 21, 1977), was an American photographer. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1907, she was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, where she became an established fashion and fine art photographer. During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as theLondon Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

Monday, August 31, 2015

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI 'S WRITING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE, travel journals that read like a surreal novel

WRITING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE travel journals 1960-2010 by LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson, is published by Liveright Publishing as a Memoir (September).

Ferlinghetti is a Beat icon, poet and author of the legendary Coney Island of the Mind and a founder of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers in San Francisco. In these journals through the decades, places (Latin America, Seattle, Tijuana, Cuba, Paris, Rome, Greece, Berlin, Belize, Russia, Australia) and people (Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Pablo Neruda), he captures the truth of a moment, how it feels and what it says politically about a society--often within a Zen context of eternity. There are also drawings, such as "her tragic side" 8/01, that are revelations.

In addition, this book provides entertaining literary experience. Who but Ferlinghetti would consider reversing Conrad's Heart of Darkness to begin in New York City (as the heart of the beast) and discover the great Light, The Heart of Lightness?  I found this book so rich, so well edited, you could flip through it and find meaningful paragraphs on any page.  Here are a few chance selections..

The Sixties--Salton Sea
"When Do the Gas Stations Open Up Around Here?" I hear the cowboy shouting....That's life in the American West, 1961. Let me out, I'm way down here at the bottom of the well, below the Sea...I'm the cowboy and I paid eight dollars for this fancy resort beach house and I want some action along with it, even some Beauty, I want my money's worth, I'll take a lot of showers, use up all the soap and towels, drink out of both sterilized water glasses, turn on the air-conditioning, the refrigerator, the heater, flush the toilet a lot. I'll go swimming in the Pool even if I freeze to death doing it..."

Santa Rita Journal--1968
Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center. What are we doing here in this dank tank? Probing the limits of political dissent in this unenlightened country?  Nonviolent gesture of blocking the entrance to war at Oakland Army Induction Center hereby judged beyond that limit. Rehabilitate us, please...First rough impressions of anybody's first time in jail, suddenly realizing what "incarcerated" really means. Paranoid fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing what's going to happen to your body, fear of getting thrown in the Hole...Routine of being booked, fingerprinted, mugged, shunted from bullpen to bullpen itself a shock for any "first offender"...Naive vestigal illusions about the inherent goodness of man fly out the barred windows...

Pompei's supreme hallucination as in one of those films where the hero is walking into the sun and the heat is rising and his eyes take on a glazed look and the sky and the whole landscape start to whirl around him as in a kaleidoscope, perhaps the way it was before Vesuvius erupted. In Berlin they are running a marathon around the thirty miles of the ruined Wall. The morning newspaper in Napoli shows the huge crowd, thousands of runners passing through the Brandenburg Gate. Some have their arms outstretched, presumably in joy, or as if they were about to fly like Icarus straight into the sun. Turn the photo sideways and they look like the stone figures still gesturing in the rootless ruins of Pompei, the arms outstretched against the rain of lava. They have a comic aspect, un aspetto comico.

Journals are often interior confessionals and travel books are exterior observations. WRITING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE is a poet's hybrid, confessions that offer glimpses of the world, ourselves and the future.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, novel based on the true story of a female deputy sheriff in 1914

                   " I got a revolver to protect us," said Miss Constance, "and I soon had use for it."
                                                                                                 --New York Times, June 3, 1915

Amy Stewart's novel, GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, rings true. She includes real newspaper articles that give the Kopp sisters' story the authenticity of an era fairly forgotten in 2015. In 1914  Constance Kopp turned thirty-five on an isolated farm with her sister Norma, also a spinster, and 16-year old Fleurette.  It was eccentric that the three sisters and their mother chose to live on this farm, rather than town, where a school and other cultural advantages existed. It was unheard of, when their mother died, that the sisters decided to stay.  Despite the lack of conveniences, Fleurette's education at home and borderline poverty, they resisted the offers of their married brother to live with his family.

Typically, women without husbands for protection and no visible means of support were expected to move in with male relatives and be useful to their household.  The reasons the Kopp sisters resisted were rooted in both the secrets of their family and the narrow social conventions governing women's lives at that time.  With employment opportunities greatly limited, marriage was the most acceptable career. GIRL WAITS WITH GUN shows the rare independence of the Kopp sisters.

Constance, the oldest, was tall and broad-shouldered, smart and uncompromising. Though completely uninterested in farm life, she believed it was their best option. Her sense of responsibility was huge, as was her concern for Norma and, especially, Fleurette. Constance managed equipment, animals and finances, while working with Norma on the day to day running of the farm and Fleurette's lessons. She was also sick of the endless rounds of chores. The retiring life, the best for Fleurette, was occasionally too much even for them.

So, in the summer of 1914, they drove their buggy to Patterson, N.J. When a motor car plowed into them, the buggy overturned, pinning Fleurette, but the sisters were not seriously injured. Though badly shattered, the buggy was not beyond repair. Yet this accident would change the lives of all involved because Constance sought simple justice--payment for repairs from the driver, Henry Kauffman, a well-to-do silk manufacturer. Little did she know their seclusion was at an end.

Constance got Kauffman's contact information at the scene of the accident but, when her queries went unanswered, she had to track him down at his factory with her invoice. Non payment led to her meeting with the intrepid Sheriff Heath. Then, after payment, the Kopp sisters faced escalating harassment. Constance joined forces with the Sheriff to combat the powerful manufacturer and his "Black-hand" gang. The farm had become the site for a reign of terror that included threatening notes by "brick delivery." Then Fleurette was targeted to be kidnapped and sold into "white slavery."

Sheriff Heath first taught Constance, then the others, to shoot and gave out guns. During their long vigils with Heath's deputies, they would have to use them. But successfully defending themselves was one thing, bringing Kauffman to trial was another. Constance had to discover and assemble proof that would stick. Ignoring sex and class, she went on the offensive, risking her life for her sisters' safety. Ice storms, violence, notoriety in the papers; nothing deterred Constance from her course. At the end, justice was served and she had earned a real job, as one of the first female Sheriffs in the nation.

Read this very moving, even funny, action-packed novel.  What made it for me, besides the time-travel, was the portraits of the sisters. It may be invention but I found Constance's pragmatic yet inspired mental process, Norma's carrier pigeons and Fleurette's imaginative gift with a sewing machine endearing. These ladies were both modern, of their times, and somehow familiar. My grandmother made lentil soup for her family, before joining the march from Philadelphia to Washington for the women's right to vote--didn't happen until 1920.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What is the difference between memoir & autobiography? Take a look at Privilege and Prejudice, NEW World view podcast

An autobiography is different from a memoir, though the forms seem to have merged lately.  I think of a memoir as a public diary edited yet intimate. The thoughts of the writer about their experience are primary, while an autobiography seeks to know the person through their deeds. Reading about them, you learn how a life was lived, consciously and unconsciously. You gain insight into the roles of background and opportunity in shaping character and destiny.   

There are not many large full autobiographies and this one supplies the pleasure of the unexpected. It breaks the stereotypes about Black potential and advancement.  Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pionee, the autobiography of Clifton R. Wharton Jr.,is about a Black man whose good fortune helped him to forge breakthroughs in four separate careers. It's an exceptional story, the release below explains more.

Media interviews with Dr. Wharton:

Some new ones. Here's SUNY's Rockefeller Institute.

A Book Talk with Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. - YouTube
Video for clifton r wharton jr? 1:21:54
Oct 13, 2015 -

MSU » Clifton R. Wharton
Oct 22, 2015 - MSU Presidents Simon and Wharton reflect on Wharton's memoir ... former Michigan State University president Dr. Clifton RWharton Jr. talks 

World View podcast from MSU.
MSU link:
 WAMC's Alan Chartock In Conversation with Dr. Clifton Wharton, Jr. about his new autobiography Privilege and Prejudice:The Life of a ...

WMHT’s New York Now, YNNs Capital Tonight, the Times Union, and WCNY’s syndicated Capital Pressroom-October7-10, 2015.
Former SUNY Chancellor Clifton Wharton is profiled for the writing of his new book

Inside Higher Education' Q&;A with Dr. Wharton

Diverse Magazine writes about Bill Moyers' interview of Dr. Wharton

Dr. Wharton's recent interview on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff.

“While I did not select the career goal of being a black “pioneer” or integrating the American dream, it was not long before I found myself treading where few, if any, Blacks had stepped before.”
                                                            --Clifton R. Wharton Jr.

The Life of a Black Pioneer

by Clifton R. Wharton Jr.

In this extraordinary new book you will step into the shoes of Dr. Clifton Wharton Jr. and experience the life of a trailblazing Black man who shattered many glass ceilings in a journey through the worlds of higher education, business, government, and the nonprofit sector. PRIVILEGE AND PREJUDICE: The Life of a Black Pioneer (Michigan State University Press; Publication date: October 1, 2015; 614 pages, $34.95 hardcover; ISBN: 978-1-61186-171-6) is a stereotype-defying autobiography. It reveals a Black man whose good fortune in birth and heritage and opportunity of time and place helped him to forge breakthroughs in four separate careers.

Clifton R. Wharton Jr. entered Harvard at age sixteen. He was the first Black student accepted to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, and went on to receive a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago—another first. For twenty-two years he promoted agricultural development in Latin America and Southeast Asia, earning a post as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. He again pioneered higher education firsts as president of Michigan State University and chancellor of the sixty-four-campus State University of New York system. As chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, he was the first Black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His commitment to excellence culminated in his appointment as deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration.

In addition to learning Dr. Wharton’s fascinating life story, you will also meet, as Dr. Wharton met, national leaders in business, philanthropy, higher education, and government -- names like Nelson and John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Theodore Hesburgh, Paul Volcker, Bill and Judith Moyers, Henry Ford II, Cy Vance, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, Hubert Humphrey, Theodore Schultz, Vernon Jordan, William Friday, Milton Friedman, Kenneth Clark, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Andrew Brimmer, John Whitehead, Sol Linowitz, and Presidents Carter, Ford, and Clinton.

A remarkable story of persistence and courage, PRIVILEGE AND PREJUDICE also documents the challenges of competing in a society where obstacles, negative expectations, and stereotypes remained stubbornly in place. An absorbing and candid narrative, it describes a most unusual childhood, a remarkable family, and a historic career.


Clifton R. Wharton Jr. has been a Black pioneer in numerous fields, serving as president of Michigan State University, chancellor of the State University of New York system, chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, and ultimately as deputy secretary of state.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Being One for Akashic Book's Terrible Twosdays.

“On Being One” by Susan I. Weinstein

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Susan I. Weinstein describes life with a baby boy.
Susan I WeinsteinOne Being One
by Susan I. Weinstein
He looks at me with woebegone betrayal in his large baby eyes. My tyrannical one-year-old son is teething, recovering from roseola. How could you leave me? say his eyes so expressively. His tiny hands reach out, appealing to me: Pick me up now!
I’ve fallen for it all day, even when the dirty dishes disgustingly fill the sink. Bits of baby food merge with the smelly patina of old formula. The living room floor is a mass of kiddie toys. In the bathroom stands an infant bathtub full of water, and everywhere else is the debris field. Any step in the direction of cleaning up or putting away laundry elicits bloodcurdling cries—red-faced baby indignation. He’s in pain, and you, heartless creature, put him down! How could you refuse him entry into forbidden zones—bathroom and kitchen—with unchildproofable dangers?
He’s looking tragic. I pick him up to soothe his hurts. I exude calm. Once in my arms, the crying stops, and sunny smiles emerge. Faker, I think, as he demands to be set down. A minute later, it’s,Pick me up! He again wants to be set down every which way, but not the way I need to get on with anything. But this is bebe’s job description—aspiring terrible two.
The next shift is a tall thin blonde from Barnard’s babysitter service. She’s working a summer job with Disney, says she has lots of experience, but can she cut it? Will I return to find him cozily asleep in his bed, his arm around his beloved wild bear, or wailing at a panicked young woman? Will he extract from me an infantile revenge? Once, I left him for a weekend with his dad, while I went on a business trip. He cold-shouldered me for days. Yet I don’t kid myself that I’m indispensible. Just as he’s stricken at my daily departures, he’s equally glad to see his regular sitter or his father. “Fresh meat,” we say, with cynical affection for our savage.
We’re under no illusions, no pretend games of euphoria. We’re knee-deep in baby poop and can’t afford the dignity. We’ve gone psychotic from lack of sleep, fear of flu, and juggling those who know the reality of life with bebe and those who enviously say it must all be joy. The truth is that parental love is primal. You fall in love unalterably and exist in the Darwinian realm of a life for a life. It’s our lives we trade off so that existence with bebe can continue.
He eagerly plays with the pretty blonde student. I’ve ceased to exist for him. With stealth, I make my escape and actually eat dinner in a restaurant.
We are betrayed by our biology, or so it’s said—usually by childless people. You love your child as you love yourself, or parenting doesn’t work. How else would the narcissism of the species lead to child-rearing? Can we afford to be ourselves and still nurture a child? Will he ever sleep through the night; be weaned; be interested in stacking, sorting, words? Will I ever stop paying attention to such arbitrary gauges of progress and intelligence? Do I need them to justify our profound alteration of ourselves?
Maybe we needed alteration, yet there’s little comfort in the road not taken—exotic vacations, a meditative life—instead of frayed nerves seeking solace in stolen intervals. Still, bebe is a complete discovery. In him is the anthropological history of the human race. The first day in the hospital, he looked at us with unseeing eyes and clearly communicated, Get me out of here! I cannot project familial traits on him, extended or imagined. He has a muscular body; we’re flabby and bookish. He’s charming and eminently sociable; we’re nervous introverts. As my selected toys gather dust, I strive to know him. I feel wonder rolling on new grass with him. He points from a sun in a children’s book to one in the real sky. His face is ecstatic.
Did I enjoy the mini-tantrum when I put him back in his stroller? Luckily, any pretty girl is a foolproof way to stop my son crying. As a newborn, he had nurses fighting over his care. At age one, he’ll enter a coffee shop, see an attractive female, and turn on the cute baby act. He fixes the object of his desire with an intense stare. When noticed, he unfurls a dazzling smile, as though to say, Cute baby here! Don’t you like babies? Get to know me! 
SUSAN I. WEINSTEIN is the author of two novels, The Anarchist’s Girlfriend and Paradise Gardens (published by Eat Your Serial Press/Maglomaniac), and a story collection, Tales of the Mer Family Onyx. Her plays, Something About That FaceRabies, and White-Walled Babes, have been produced, as well as her adult adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Recently, she finished The Strange Afterlife of Harry Houdini & Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is writing The Selling of ADD/ADHD. Susan’s paintings have been shown at Gallery Brooklyn and Wildflowers Too in New Jersey. Currently making her living in book publicity, she lives in NYC with her husband and teenage son. You can check out her blog at and follow her on Twitter@swpubrel.