Illustrations Of Uninteresting People, Con’t: Don’t Be Like Them
Second illustration: Several years after penning The Slash Brokers, I considered returning to school and earning a degree in creative writing. The idea of settling down in some scenic little college town and teaching writing was something that appealed to me then and still does. (The dream is fading fast.) Anyway, I called and obtained a meeting with an English professor at a major Alabama university so I might evaluate their Master of Arts program and make a decision—maybe. She seemed so nice and encouraging on the phone and via e-mail, and I was beginning to get really excited. Finally, the appointed day arrived.
I walked around campus for an hour or so—beautiful campus—and all of my fun university years flooded back to mind, fueling my desire to be student again. I met the professor at her office. She was dressed in all-black skin-tight attire. A number of bracelets adorned her wrists, and she wore what appeared to be fishing lures as earrings, massive goggle-like glasses, and her jet-black hair was sticking straight up as if moments before my debut she had stuck her finger in a 220 volt wall socket. Okay, I thought, I’m here to talk about writing. This is not about dress. Besides, these people are creative geniuses. They can teach me to write like the best! Everything’s cool! So, I smiled, albeit, somewhat nervously, and took a seat across from her.
Actually, I was quite nervous and I think she instantly sensed that I was completely out of my box. Her first question was, “Well, Jeff, why are you here?” This really threw me a loop. I thought she knew already. My brain went into hyper-freeze as I sat there watching those lures dangling about—I kept seeing a wide-mouth bass leaping from her side of the desk, snapping at the colorful contraptions; and I was sure that any moment she was going to hook an eight-pounder and slump over under its weight. “Wa, wa, well…” I stuttered. But she cut me off. “The first thing we’re going to do is deconstruct your bigoted views about what writing is!” she said, almost angrily. From that statement forward the conversation seemed to stall like one of those stunt planes whose pilot cuts the engine and lets it free fall for a while.
Once out of the clouds, she had me sit in on one of her class discussions where students were asked to critique one of the most bizarre pieces of literary trash I have ever parted the pages of. I do not remember the name of this masterpiece but, suffice to say, it might best be described as plotless and meaningless literary anarchy—rubbish. One or two of the students said as much. I guess things had changed a lot since I had attended college because neither the professor nor any of her students so much as blinked while a certain co-ed dropped the “f-word” repeatedly, one time, I think, directed at me for some remark I had made. Long story short: none of this was about education, learning to write creatively or anything even closely related to literature. It was, in my opinion, a cruel scam, in-your-face hostility toward the common decency that used to exude from every pore of our once beautiful American culture. The English Department, perhaps with the blessings of this renowned university, was, in my opinion, engaging in corruption of young, impressionable minds and defrauding the poor parents who were back home struggling to pay their tuition.
My last e-mail to the professor informed her that I didn’t think there was much to learn from her program. I guess that was my way of engaging her culture. Interesting people do not tolerate fakes of whatever stripe. There is nothing heroic about collaborating with a collapsing culture. It is honorable to engage the culture, but we should not, meanwhile, participate and aid in its demise. Interesting people bring beauty and truth to the world. They don’t play in garbage.
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