Why call it ‘My Pretentious Balloon’?
That comes from something David Foster Wallace said in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, talking about the hypersensitivity in today’s culture over how people perceive you: ‘This entire, how to talk straight about anything that really means anything that might sound cliche, that might sound uncool, might sound unhip, I mean, there’s an absolute terror that goes along with it…. If the greatest sin in the past was, you know, obscenity or shock, the greatest sin now is appearing naive or old-fashioned so that somebody can give you sort of a very cool, arch smile and devastate you with one extraordinarily crafted line that puts kind of a hole in your pretentious balloon.’
So the title is a way to confront my fear of writing material of a personal nature and then putting it out into the world for it to be subjected to the views and criticisms of whoever reads it. I’m a journalist, but writing about what other people do and say is a lot different than allowing people inside my own head to have a look around. There’s a fear of appearing out-of-touch or dumb, and of having someone come along and put ‘a hole in your pretentious balloon.’ Basically, the title is me saying, ‘OK, this makes me uneasy, but I’m doing it anyway. Here’s my pretentious balloon for you to pop.’
Writing is risk. But risk worth taking.
Plus, while I’d thought of doing this blog for a while, reading some of Wallace’s essays was the final push. It telegraphed: If done seriously enough, writing that’s done from a hyper-personal viewpoint can comfort, make people laugh or, rarely, inspire. Plus, if Wallace, who it seems was almost always a hopeless, hard-to-watch nervous wreck in his public appearances, could stand putting himself out there, so can I. (Of course, he ended up hanging himself. Following his example only goes so far.)