This summer I have taken it upon myself to tackle John Steinbeck’s American epic East of Eden, a modern retelling of the biblical Cain and Abel story set to the backdrop of post-Gold Rush era Northern California—that is, Steinbeck’s own backyard. Summer is, for students at least, that blessed time of intellectual freedom during which schoolwork means almost nothing to you and you are free to read, write, study, and contemplate whatever you wish.
Not long ago, Random House sent a number of free books to the Nassau Weekly in the hopes that we would exercise our considerable influence on campus to publicize and review their products. One volume in particular (a bright pink thing called Anatomy of a Single Girl) caught my eye. It wasn’t just the garish cover or the titillating title, it was—actually, no, it was mostly those things.
Nearly all my life, I have faced this question. More than a courtesy, it is a challenge, a demand: “Identify yourself.”
In my childhood, I was lost and unsure. Who am I? Am I that guy who carelessly shortens his name, soiling the greatest gift, after life, his parents have given him? Or am I that guy who insists on being called by his proper name, like some pompous Alexander or Maximilian?