The new semester officially begins on Tuesday, but of course there’s been other stuff going along with that as well, so let’s get to it, shall we?
The pre-semester faculty in-service took place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and there was a general sense of optimism. We’re expecting record enrollment this year, not least because of our largest group of Freshpeeps ever — about 450 or so. While most of our growth in recent years has been driven by the addition of athletic teams, this year also marks our largest incoming group of non-athletes ever, so we seem to be appealing to potential students on a variety of fronts.
This does create a little bit of infrastructural strain, but we’re addressing that by adding new residential beds (having opened two residence halls in the last few years, with preparations underway for a third), and oddly enough, by adding lights to some of our athletic fields. This seems strange, I’m sure, but because the majority of our kids are athletes, lighting the fields opens up practice slots in non-daylight hours, which means more prime time will be available for classes, extracurriculars, and such.
The classrooms in my building have been renovated this summer as well, and there have been other significant improvements to the campus, including a new patio area near my office. So the college actually seems to have progressed from the hardscrabble survival mode it has endured for most of its 160-plus years toward a growth mode. As I said, morale seems to be improving around here.
Meanwhile, things are progressing nicely on the departmental front as well, with a new colleague (an Americanist) moving into the office across the hall, and of course, our new Writer-in-Residence for the Fall Semester:
That’s right, the Dean of American crime writers has arrived, with an office down the hall from mine, and he and the lovely Lynne are safely ensconced in the house next door to the Mid-Century Mondohaus. They got into the area early on Thursday morning, and not even a three-hour train delay dampened anyone’s spirits. We’re still working on getting everyone settled in, but things are on a positive trend.
The Blocks were kind enough to being me a kind of housewarming gift as well — foreign editions of some of the anthologies in which my stories have appeared. I now have copies of some of my stories in Polish, German, Japanese, and Chinese, and that has sparked me to wondering a little bit. Toward the beginning of my story “Ampurdan” (from Alive in Shape and Color), a character muses about what we might call the punctuation of life, punning on Ampurdan and Ampersand, and dryly suggesting that he might “lapse into a comma.” Now that I see the translated versions of the story, I feel more than a little sorry for the translators who had to deal with that. (Yeah, I should probably feel sorry for the folks who had to read the pun to start with, but I REGRET NOTHING!)
In turn, I can’t help but wonder how much I’m missing because I can only read writers like Borges, Chekhov, and Camus in translation (I can hack through French to a point, but I know I miss nuance.) Heck, maybe one day someone will release an English translation of Finnegan’s Wake.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, the Spawn is flourishing. She seems quite happy in her new place, and is trying foods and activities she never had tried in Mondoville. Now, if she can just land one of the assistantships she’s interviewed for… But still, she seems to be in a really good place, and I’m thrilled to see how well she’s doing. She seems to be, too.
I’m pleased to report that I’ll be taking part (along with our abovementioned Writer-in-Residence, and several other fine folks) in Mondoville’s first Noir at the Bar reading on 10 October, at Bar Figaro in “Historic Downtown Newberry.” Watch this space for additional information as the time draws nearer.
I’ll also be acting as interlocutor for “An Evening with Lawrence Block,” at the Newberry Opera House on 7 November, so come on down for either event — or both — should you get the opportunity. Newberry’s a friendly town. And we even have two Waffle Houses.
I think that’s a fair amount of catching up for the moment, so I’ll leave you with a bit of music. Peter Fonda died yesterday, and while he’s best remembered for his role in Easy Rider, he was also the lead in 1966’s B-movie biker flick The Wild Angels, and so I’ll share that movie’s “Blues Theme”, as done by fuzz guitar hero Davie Allan and the Arrows. Dig that Hagstrom sound, baby!
John Lennon also overheard an acid-tripping Fonda in 1965, and Fonda’s account of a near-death experience (which creeped the Beatles out) became the inspiration for one of my favorite songs, with amazing work by Ringo. It’s a song I’ve always wanted to cover, so from what I think may be the greatest record album ever, here you go.
See you soon!