There is no possible way to capture the comic self-obsession of New York Times writer Charles Blow without reading firsthand any one of his desperately overwrought, twice-weekly columns.
Capturing his absurd level of narcissism isn’t something the average person can’t live without experiencing. But he does hold one of the most coveted positions in American journalism — a regular space in our premier newspaper — and I’m sorry to say that, as a journalist, tracking the infinite ways that Blow self-fellates is endlessly fun.
A piece he wrote this week for the Times is a perfect introduction to Blow’s mind, a space where all things Blow are interesting, admirable, and worthy of your rapt attention. The subject of Blow’s column was an opera, in which he is portrayed, based on one of two memoirs Blow has written about himself.
“I have learned not to bask in any adulation too fully or feel any pain too deeply,” Blow wrote at the start of the column about himself. “I have learned to keep my life as even and steady as I can, so that I can better survive it and also better enjoy it.”
He noted that at the opera’s premiere in New York, “There was a tremendous amount of press,” and that he “was interviewed multiple times.”
You might want to know what questions were asked of Blow about Blow. “What the interviewers invariably wanted to know,” he revealed to his gripped audience, “was how I felt about my life being presented on the stage.”
Ultimately, Blow said in his column about the opera about himself, “I accept and am honored by the idea of being an inspiration.”
But this wasn’t a column just about a performance centered on a book Blow wrote that’s based on his own life. Included was also a tip for aspiring writers. “If you are going to write a book like mine,” he said, “you have to have a great purpose and a greater mission.”
Some might call this narcissism, but as an avid Blow observer, I can say it’s not of the anti-social variety that could be found in, say, a dangerous psychopath. This is the self-centeredness more commonly found in children whose brains haven’t developed to the point of understanding that real and consequential events happen outside of their own personal experiences and interests.
Nonetheless, absolutely enamored by Blow’s life, I had my own pressing questions. I was unfortunately not there for the opera, but I emailed Blow hoping he might be interested in talking a little more about himself. As of this writing, he had not answered, but below is my full letter:
Hi Mr. Blow — I’m a columnist for the Federalist and just read your essay about the opera that’s based on one of your two memoirs. I have yet to see it — hopefully someday! — but had some questions for a piece I’m working on.
1. If you had to rate the opera on a scale of “I loved it” to “This show will get you pregnant,” what would you say?
2. Do you see yourself first and foremost as a role model for every young boy and girl or more as a sex symbol for old ladies in church hats?
3. When you sit down to write, do you have a self-editing process or does your fountain of brilliance splash onto the ink-stained parchment in one draft?
4. In 2017 you wrote, “I prefer the boot of truth to slam down to earth like thunder, no matter the shock of hearing its clap.” How does that ingenuity stack up to a line you wrote this year that said, “The death dealing of COVID amounts to the Appalachians of ignorance”?
5. Now that you’ve written two books about yourself and also have an opera about yourself, what will you do that features yourself next?