A monthly advice column

This month: guest columnist Buck Henry

Dear Sedaratives,

Here’s what I remember: I started watching a kung fu movie marathon in college, and the next thing I knew I was thirty-four and unemployed. Should I try to figure out what happened to that lost time, or just cut my losses and get on with my life?

A dude in Atlanta, Ga.

Dear Dude in Atlanta,

That’s what you think you remember. We will probably never know what really happened. There is creditable scientific and medical proof that steady exposure to endless repetition—be it of strobe lights, religious chants, Jody cadence (a military training term with which I am sure you are unfamiliar), the music of Don McLean, or even an evening of reality TV—can cause fainting, hallucinations, petit and grand mal seizures, time and space dislocation, and even that old Abbott and Costello favorite, Mogo on the Gogogo. Kung fu marathons are designed to operate on the human limbic system—the sound effects; human grunting; blazing unnatural colors; dizzying athletic pyrotechnics; and pure silliness were designed (probably by General Yamamoto in the waning days of World War II) to stir the occidental brain into sludge. Even today the sound tracks of more than two thousand movies directed by and starring hundreds of people all named Lee are played day and night in the Guantánamo prison system as an adjunct to waterboarding. I’d leave your lost past alone if I were you. You might have been al Qaeda.



Dear Sedaratives,

I just read Siddhartha to impress a girl, and I’m having trouble thinking of anything to say about it that would sound sufficiently deep but not too pretentious. Any ideas?

Chicago, Ill.

Dear Joshua,

Be careful. A woman who would actually request that someone she ostensibly cares for should read Siddhartha is intellectually ruthless if not criminally insane. This is a trap. You must realize by now that there is nothing that you or anyone else can say about Hesse’s novel without seeming pretentious or, even worse, foreign. When I was very young, my great-grandmother, who was old and ill, asked me to read her to sleep. I selected Siddhartha because I surmised that I was in her will. She passed away during chapter two. I was amazed that she lasted that long.


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Buck Henry wrote the screenplays for The Graduate, Catch 22, The Owl and the Pussycat, and To Die For, among many others. He cocreated and wrote the TV series Get Smart, was a writer/performer on The Steve Allen Show, That Was the Week That Was, and The New Show, and hosted Saturday Night Live ten times.

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