I’ve got a bit more grading and data entry to do, and I think I’ll wrap it up this evening. But in the meantime…
The Spawn just returned from her last final of the term — actually a stop-and-drop, turning in a last paper. She came downstairs, and noted that she only has one semester remaining at Mondoville. Next summer, if things work out, we’ll be helping her get started in grad school.
It’s been quick.
In fact, the whole semester has been quick, but dense and therefore draining. I’ve mentioned it to a few of my colleagues, and they seem to concur. In my case, it may be because 75 percent of my classes were for freshpeeps, which means there’s a lot of getting the students acclimated that comes with the job. It was also a pretty busy semester for the Tenure & Promotion Committee, where I’ve been a member for several years, and I’ve been engaged in another project at the college that I hope to reveal soon, but it’s occupied a lot of my imaginative space. (No, I’m not going to become an adminiscritter — God forbid. But I’ve had to look at things from that perspective a bit more than I usually do.)
It beats selling tires and batteries, though, and I can’t think of a job I’d rather have as I’m one semester from what I’ve always figured would be the midpoint of my career.
In my spare time this week (that is, at dinner and on breaks from Gradeapalooza), I’ve been re-reading John Wain’s biography of Dr. Johnson. While not as immersive as Boswell’s masterpiece (how could it be?), it’s a fine work in its own way, not least because Wain brings our contemporary sensibility to the subject in a way that makes Johnson and his world easier to understand from here.
I’m not arrogant enough to imagine myself even a road-company Johnson, but like generations before me, I suppose, I can see my reflection in some of his facets. The unusual memory, the eclectic interests, the love of conversation, the hunger to learn things — even this blog may be a pale descendant of a Rambler or Idler.
But I see some of the other things as well — the fear of wasting talent, the suspicion of wasting time, the discomfort with isolation, the long, dark torpors of depression, which heighten the guilt and fear. I’ve known what it’s like to know that I’m not as good as ought to be, want to be, need to be. I know what it’s like to be sometimes abstinent, but incapable of moderation. I see the sometime bluster that comes with insecurity. As Wain observes of Johnson, I grew up with the smart-but-awkward child’s sense that one’s value depends on being able to dazzle on command. Like Johnson, I’ve known what it’s like to be underestimated and rejected because of my appearance, clumsiness, or social background.
Ultimately, though, I know that Johnson’s struggles were far greater than my own, and whatever success I have is smaller. But I also know that when he left us, he was respected, honored, and yes, loved, both by the people around him and those of us who have come to know him and his work in the ensuing two-plus centuries. In my own little way, I hope it isn’t too much to hope for an analogous conclusion myself.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’m optimistic that I’ll be getting to do musical stuff again before too long. That’s good, because while I enjoy the work I do when I write fiction, I also enjoy the feeling of being in a band, of making something exciting and interesting in collaboration with others. I’m looking forward to getting back to that.
And speaking of writing, here’s a reminder that I’ll have a story out soon in Lawrence Block’s anthology, At Home in the Dark. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you, either in the limited-edition hardback or the following trade paperback and e-ditions. Keep an eye out!
And speaking (again) of music, I’ve mentioned before that I’ve long been a fan of Gordon Lightfoot. I saw him here in Mondoville a few years ago, and was in the mood to listen to him a bit earlier this week. In particular, this song has rattled around my head for a couple of days, so I thought I’d pass it along. From 1967 or so, here’s a live performance of his “Song for a Winter’s Night.”
See you soon!