Astrology, to put it mildly, is not my thing. I don’t understand it, and I don’t want to understand it. So when Gary Goldschneider’s Everyday Astrology came across my desk, I had a very hard time with it—not because of my ignorance, but because I simply could not bring myself to read it. Many, many tasks got completed while I put off reading this book. I finished a 600-page draft of my novel. I sent my CV to thirty L.A.-area universities. I went to Vegas. I emailed the editors of Killing the Buddha several times to apologize for missed deadlines.
I finally did look through it, but when I sat down to write about it I was faced with another quandary. I felt caught between (a) the desire to avoid being snarky, and (b) the desire to be downright vicious. Which gave me the excuse to procrastinate for another week or two.
Then I ran into my friend Brad Kronen. Brad is an astrologer and Tarot reader. This guy is a professional—he’s appeared twice on Real Housewives of the OC. Brad, I thought, would be able to assess the book on its own merits. So he and I sat down over herbal tea and discussed it. What follows is the text of our conversation, along with a few editorial interjections.
Gordon Haber: So here is the book, Brad. I think it’s very nicely designed.
Brad Kronen: I do too.
GH: The full title is Gary Goldschneider’s Everyday Astrology: How to Make Astrology Work for You. It is divided into sections by star sign. Within every star sign there are sections that tell you how to deal with a person of that sign in three different ways: “Work,” “Love,” and “Friends and Family.” For instance, if there’s a Sagittarius in your life, it tells you how to handle a Sagittarius boss or employee or how to have a good relationship with a Sagittarius spouse. It’s very comprehensive.
BK: It is. Wow. Can I ask you a question? Did you immediately look up Scorpio?
GH: Because that’s my birth sign? No. I went to the Pisces section to learn how to deal with my Pisces girlfriend.
BK: Did you look at anything about Scorpios?
GH: I did not.
I did not turn to the Scorpio section of the book because I don’t feel that I need Gary Goldschneider to describe me to myself. However, the fact is that I do read my horoscope every morning in the newspaper. I think, “Isn’t that interesting,” and then I go about my business. I can’t recall a day wherein my horoscope has influenced my subsequent actions in any way—or, indeed, a time when, seconds after reading it, I remembered what it predicted. Nevertheless, I read it every day. Which suggests, I think, more self-involvement than any latent occult interests.
BK: Okay, of the Pisces stuff, how much did you agree with?
GH: Um—tell you what, let’s take a look. In the Pisces section, under “Love,” there’s a whole thing about what to do with a Pisces on the first date. It says, “Pisces first dates are often immediately responsive to your advances, that is, if they find you attractive.”
And what the hell does that mean? That Pisces girls are easy? Really, it’s a meaningless statement. Unless Goldschneider actually surveyed a viable sample of people by star sign that asked if they put out on the first date. And I would bet my car that he didn’t.
GH: Let’s go on. “Meeting Pisces under strange or unusual circumstances is par for the course. Usually Pisces first dates will not go out of their way to meet you, but will just kind of drift into your life, often more by chance than by plan.” Okay, yeah, sure, we met under strange or unusual circumstances, and she kind of drifted into my life.
BK: So that stuff is on the money.
GH: I suppose.
I met my girlfriend—now my fiancée—at an artist’s retreat. Neither of us was looking to meet that special someone, but we found each other anyway. So I suppose that she did drift into my life by chance. Then again, you could say that I drifted into her life by chance as well. And that almost everybody drifts into almost everybody else’s life by chance. Besides, I never had much luck with online dating, especially with J-Date, probably because I was always honest about my income.
BK: Do you mind if we look at the Scorpio section? The book is great, by the way. My only criticism is that with all these sections there’s just not that much detail. It’s rather generalized. But also decently written. From what we’ve seen of the Pisces stuff, as an astrologer I know what he’s referring to, but he did it in common language. I mean he’s not using planetary terms so it’s more accessible to the reader.
GH: Planetary terms like “Uranus?”
BK: [sarcastically] Oh, that’s really funny, I’ve never heard that joke before. Okay, we’ve looked at the Pisces partner, and you have a Scorpio roommate. Let’s look at the Scorpio roommate. Okay, here it is. “Privacy is usually the top priority for Scorpio roommates. Not only is their room an inviolable territory, but they may come to look on the entire apartment or house as their own hidden den also, one that just incidentally involves you to help pay the rent and share expenses.”
GH: I don’t see that as true, not for me or for my roommate.
BK: “Scorpios are notoriously grumpy upon awakening, and often need infusions of black coffee to get them going.”
GH: That’s me, sure, and about half of the United States.
BK: Wait. You don’t agree with this? It sounds too general to you?
GH: Well, I don’t know if I’m—I mean, I don’t want to make this a conversation about why I should believe in astrology.
Because I don’t. I can’t. Nor can I understand why so many people actually believe that astrology can describe anyone’s nature or future. And aside from the hocus-pocus of it, I can’t stand how astrology, like so many other occult practices, always leads inward. To the ego. It’s a way of pretending to discuss something outside of the self while talking about the self. It’s what they specialize in here in Los Angeles—world-views that operate like a U-shaped telescope.
BK: Okay, if you want to talk about the book, I think it’s pretty well done. Because, like I said, he’s going into astrological detail but he’s putting it in common terms. He doesn’t say, “Because of the Plutonian influence on the Scorpio, he longs to seek privacy.” He’s saying, “The Scorpio likes to keep to himself.” And I think that’s pretty good. I also like that he has the positive and negative qualities of the sign on every page. Look at these sidebars here. He’s got the strengths, weaknesses, and “interactive style” of the Scorpio roommate, the Scorpio boss, the Scorpio lover, whatever. It’s what I call the “evolved side” and the “unevolved side.” I think it’s very interesting.
Now I feel I’ve done my duty. I’ve given the reader an expert assessment of Everyday Astrology, along with my own thoughts on the matter. But one question remained: Why did I have such a tough time facing this book?
After Brad left, I am a little ashamed to admit that I did look at the Scorpio section of Everyday Astrology, to see if it said anything about procrastination. To some extent, it did. Apparently Scorpios “can procrastinate in some important areas while investing needless energy in others.” Okay, so what?
Proponents of astrology believe that if we understand the forces that govern us, we can better understand ourselves and our personal interactions. For example, if I knew that Scorpios tend to procrastinate, I would have planned accordingly. I would have warned my editors of this, explaining that the stars and planets dictate that my first draft—and every subsequent one—will take more time than they might expect from, say, a Libra. And they would be correct to tell me, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and then to find someone who can shut up and put first things first.
You might then reasonably ask why I bother with my horoscope every morning—why I’ve been reading about astrology to put off writing about it. Aside from my Scorpio tendencies, I have no good answer. Nor, come to think of it, am I particularly interested in investigating it any further.
Gordon Haber writes about religion and culture. His short story collection, Uggs for Gaza, is available from Dutch Kills Press. He does not live in Brooklyn.