Mike Kinsley has been running a most boring story ever contest in the Atlantic and the winner was announced today. It’s a perfectly innocuous little vignette by a Connecticut writer about a night she spent on a train. It’s not really boring, it’s not not boring. It just evokes a familiar string of events for any lonely traveler – awkward chat with a stranger, sleepless night, morning unmoored. Poor woman is writing a memoir, which, having been told that her little vignette is the most boring thing ever written, will likely now have a hard time stretching it out for 200 pages.
So why choose this piece? I always resist the idea that men and women read differently, or write differently. But this seems to me an irrefutable example of this. I’m not saying this is the most powerful piece of personal writing ever. (That prize this week goes to Christopher Hitchens on his illness in Vanity Fair ). But most boring? Please. I could name you an op-ed every day this week in the Washington Post or the New York Times that’s 100 times more boring than this thing. It’s the same debate they had in the 19 th century about the novel: You can be pompous, self-important, unoriginal but for God’s sake, don’t be domestic.