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This might be Scottyfish in newspaperChapter 6, X’s and O’s, was as cryptic and twisted as it was bizarre and even a little sad.  It was disappointing to find out how Scotty Housmann turned out.  He was the character with genuine magnetism and talent so he was supposed to be the real deal, the star.  Instead, he turns out to be a toothless, delusional misfit with an emotional compass that won’t settle in any one direction. With his hard luck and quirky ponderings, he would be pitiable if he wasn’t so twisted up and consumed with his philosophy of reality and equality.  I understood his X/O theory of the “human processing machine” to be essentially like the 0/1’s of non-human processing machines (computers) - each comprehending information. Despite what conclusions he spins to qualify equality (even when there is none), he is indulging in self-delusion.  In the end, he knows that he has not turned out as good as Bennie (no matter how he interprets Bennie’s responses to him at the office) but continues to delude himself. The author, Jennifer Egan, cleverly inserts an ending that makes the reader sympathetic to Scotty by having him give Bennie’s business card to a stuggling young musician.   

There were two parts of this chapter that were very clever.  First, the visual of this social misfit bringing the dead fish as a gift into the swanky record executives office while never comprehending why this would be inapropriate and leaving actually feeling empowered by his toothless grin. The second clever part was the explanation of the undercurrent of communication between to people who used to compete, as teens do, and then meet later in life.  I was blown away by how well the author lays out this tier of unsaid yet understood implications (at least in Scotty’s mind) with the following:

(Page 101)  “A is when we were both in the band, chasing the same girl. B is now.” I knew instantly that it had been the right move to bring up Alice.  I’d said something literally, yes, but underneath that I’d said something else: we were both a couple of ass wipes, and now only I’m an ass-wipe; why? And underneath that, something else: once an ass-wipe, always an ass-wipe. And deepest of all: You were the one chasing. But she picked me.

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