Sunday, April 26, 2009

I don't have much to say, this is just my excuse for why I haven't written the post about Maps and Legends. I can't remember if I talked about my abortive attempt at grad school in this blog or if it was in the first iteration of Aunt BeaN's blog. But the short version is: it wasn't a very good experience. Not to mention that it was a very long time ago, and in a state on the other side of the country. But for some reason, a couple of weeks ago I got the idea to finally finish my master's in English. It seemed like the perfect thing. I might actually be able to get a job teaching at our community college-- and wouldn't it be one of the greatest imaginable ironies, if I could get a job using my English degree when I can't get one using all my computer skills?

So I started e-mailing the extremely nice and extremely helpful people at our state university, and quickly became overwhelmed by how out of the loop I am. I still love to read, and I still love to read criticism, which I think is something that not many people can say. But I had forgotten about academia. Just reading the course descriptions for the graduate seminars was making my stomach hurt. Do they write those things specifically to make you feel intimidated? Because if so, it was working. I'm now feeling like one of the world's six dumbest people. But I haven't given up yet. If they'll let me in, I'm going to at least give it a shot. It's going to take me six months to a year just to get my application together, because so much of what they require is no longer available to me. If any of my grad school professors are still alive, would they be willing to write a letter of recommendation for someone they barely knew more than 20 years ago? I think not. And a ten-page sample of critical writing? I think my four posts on reading Lolita are not quite going to do the trick.

So I'm no longer feeling competent to comment on Mr. Chabon's Maps and Legends (I did find out how to pronounce his name, though: SHAY-bon. I was sort of hoping for something down in your throat like Chaim, but that's not it). I really enjoyed reading it. It was the perfect travelling companion for some reason that I'm not sure I can explain. I always have a terrible time with jetlag, so I have many hours awake in the middle of the night-- so I usually make sure I have a stack of interesting books, a flashlight and a lot of batteries. This one book, even though it is quite slim, kept me happy through a whole week of sleepless nights-- it was practically a page turner. "The Receipe for Life," one of the essays toward the end, was like finding a kindred spirit at 3 a.m. Beijing time a world away from home. It's such an odd thing to find someone who can articulate so clearly an experience similar to your own, and yet they don't have the faintest idea who you are or that you even exist on the planet. But that's one of the cool things about reading, yes? Maybe I will revisit it later, but that's all for now. Well worth reading, if you enjoy reading about books and writing.

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