The story’s protagonist hears cryptic advice emanating from the philanthropic plaques she passes as she walks to work and makes her way through the hospital. ‘A walk down a hospital corridor reveals the outrageous inequality of contemporary health care …’ says writer Carol Guess about the story. Some of the more absurdist scenes from the ER in ‘Little Tiles of Wealth’ are courtesy of my friend who works the nightshift in a busy hospital.
Another of the story’s themes was first suggested to me by my boyfriend: the campy potential of sports. One of the protagonist’s biggest fears is that her son is forsaking science for the pleasure of watching athletes onscreen. D. A. Miller writes about how athletes are seen as active rather than performative—although they are being watched, their movements are not scripted, but rather made in ways that deny the fact they’re on display. They’re part of a team that works together to dominate. Men on stage, however, have difficulty reading as masculine. They are not doing, but rather performing. According to John Berger, ‘men act and women appear.’
‘It is no accident ...’ writes David M. Halperin, ‘that sports matches—with one or two rare exceptions—are never reenacted, restaged, or reperformed exactly as they originally transpired. They must be seen to occur only once, because their very definition demands that they appear to be unscripted: in order to qualify as an “event," they must consist in a single, spontaneous action that concludes once and for all when it is over and that cannot be repeated.’
As athletes allow themselves to be more flamboyant, though, and—like David Beckham—sexualized, I wonder if spectator sports are changing. Maybe I’m just too gay for ESPN, but when I see its commentators debating, their humor feels frigid in a way that's weirdly outdated. The protagonist from ‘Little Tiles of Wealth’ feels this each morning as she walks past a sporting goods store and sees its employees clowning around, roleplaying as star athletes behind Xeroxed-face-on-popsicle-stick masks.
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