Some of America's most accomplished literary figures were present at the recent national book fair in Miami. But the longest line of people I witnessed was there to obtain the autograph of a highly distinguished, world-renowned, fabulously successful quack.
Dr. Brian Weiss writes about how we all have past lives, and future lives, and how we can explore them through meditation. He divulges these secrets in his books, and on his CDs, and through his workshops and, most recently, in his past-life "Voyage of Enlightenment" cruises.
The amazing thing about this block-long queue awaiting Dr. Weiss and his signature was that it consisted entirely of individuals of one sex. Can you guess which sex?
Did you guess "female"? You must be psychic!
Watching this phenomenon with me -- a little sullenly -- was Gina Barreca, who is not only my co-author on a humor book about men and women, but an expert on feminism, feminist theory and the obvious superiority of females. I invited Gina here to explain the cultural implications of what we saw.
Gene: Since, as we all know, women tend to be more mature and practical than men, why do they also almost single-handedly support the vast, charlatanic New Age industry that is composed of astrology, feng shui, palmistry, crystal healing, seances, reiki, labyrinths, auras, face reading, aromatherapy, zen shiatsu, therapeutic touching and past-life regression?
Gina: It is because life is terrifying, and the two sexes deal in different ways with their existential fears of loneliness and death. Women react with characteristic warmth, sometimes reaching out to others in shared, mystical pursuits that you may find silly. Men, on the other hand, deal with their existential fears by reaching out to porn and beer. Or by invading small countries.
Gene: Do you acknowledge the stupidity of most New Age pursuits?
Gina: No. Like many women, I remain open-minded about them.
Gene: As we write this, Gina and I have just finished an open-minded conference call with Marlana, a blind West Coast telephone psychic whose one-hour counseling sessions cost $240. We didn't tell Marlana who we were, for fear she'd have someone Google us in advance. We basically had one question: Have Gina and I known each other in a previous life? How do you think she performed, Gina?
Gina: I was impressed. She was very personable and correctly said you are five years older than I am.
Gene: That's your entire review?
Gene: I see. So this will be like pulling teeth. Okay, what did I tell you before we began?