Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Did Elvis Costello really write a book? Everyday?
This whole "I'm gonna write a book" thing? MUCH HARDER than I first thought. You have to be disciplined, and focused, and make time to do it: all of which makes it sound oddly like EXERCISE, and we all know how I feel about that. As far as I am concerned treadmills are just another surface on which to drape clothing.
Confession: I am a slacker about a lot of things. (But not my commitment to teach The Spawn how to use a corkscrew. My seven year old can't tie his own shoelaces, but you should see him cut the foil away on a bottle of Chard.)
My Junior year in college, I took a class called Feminism in Literature, thinking it would be a bunch of chicks sitting around discussing the latest Jackie Collins. Boy, was I wrong.
The first two tests were essay tests, and I wrote my usual quirky-innovative-insightful-bullsh!t disguised as genius-type of essays. Like an audience at a late night comedy club, I figured if I could get the professor to laugh within the first two paragraphs, that I was guaranteed a good review. Except Ms. Vandam did not have a sense of humor; it had been lost the fifth time she read "The Dam is a Dyke" on the restroom wall. So I got two D's, and while I often longed for double Ds back then-these were not the kind I wanted.
If this were a Teen Nick Movie of the week starring Hillary Duff, this is where I would of hit the books hard, and gone on to earn academic redemption. But this is a true story about Real Life, so I did what any smart, disciplined, focused and committed student in my position would do: I cheated.
My friend Liz--her last name escapes me but I know she always smelled of patrouli and got GREAT marks--took the Feminism in Literacy midterm early, and let me know what the main essay questions were on it. From there it was a matter of memorizing Ms. Vandam's lectures verbatim, and regurgitating them Word for Word into the blue test booklet.
A week later, Ms. Vandam asked me to stay after class and speak with her. I sat nervously at my desk while the rest of the students filed out of the room, composing all sorts of defenses in my mind. Ms. Vandam pulled my test booklet from the drawer of her desk and held it out to me. I could see the bright red A from two rows back. NEVER IN HER ENTIRE CAREER AS A PROFESSOR, she said, HAD SHE BEEN SO IMPRESSED WITH A STUDENT'S PROGRESS. She went on for the next fifteen minutes about my incredible insight, and mastery of the genre. Then Ms. Vandam announced that she was filming an episode for cable television on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and that TWO sudents from the entire university were to be handpicked to participate in the panel discussion. One of those students would be ME.
They filmed the cable show at 6:30 am, which in college student time is 4:30 am. I sat in a chair that was part of an arranged circle of chairs, populated by various professors and one other student. The set was bathed in blue television lighting. The chair was warm. The erudite panel began discussing various themes. Time passed. The chair was warm. In the final fifteen minutes, Ms. Vandam threw a question to me. Silence.
Somewhere in the archives of a New Jersey cable television station exists a two second shot of me, fast asleep, with a thin line of drool hanging from the corner of my lip to my crew neck sweater.