Bonaparte offended Austin Returning to the University after an absence of three years I have discovered to be a mildly frightening experience. Here I enduring the anticipated much remarked on bureaucratic horrors, I went to class. In my first class everyone put down their crayons at the assigned time and took up their pens. The subject was Shakespeare, a person my mind is determined to associate . with Max von Sydow. The professor looked average I mean, he was a very average looking person. I had met him before and he had seemed pleasant. His initial question in class was “What do you want to get out of this course?” “Alive,” someone said, stating my position exactly. No, no one said that. Someone did say something like “I would like to follow Shakespeare’s development as a playwright.” I remembered this person from each of the other 17 English courses I had been a party to. We were handed an assignment sheet for the next day’s class. Our assignment was to hand in an exercise in which we wrote on any three of five offered topics. The third topic was “How amusing are Clarence’s murderers?” So there you are. It is only in the rarified atmosphere of a university that you can use words like “amusing” with a perfectly straight face and not be ignored or shot. What I suppose I am arguing is that atmosphere in a university is probably the world’s most ,abused privilege. And it’s not just lowly English professors, the abuse is pervasive and is practiced by our most noble and illustrious professors and liberal administrators. For example, when some of our most noble and most illustrious educators strike the heroic and self-sacrificing blow for liberal education by resigning from the University, there is present a little trickle of irony. I sympathize with the act of resigning, but gape at the text. The question is, How righteous can I be, on my way to the Ford Foundation? After you’ve become an educational or cultural gewgaw, do you have the right of righteous protest \(and read purchased tires of you? Put another way \(the subject is abuse of rarificationl I remember a conversation about the loud public resignation of one of our leaders, a professor whom I myself had had. “A teaching assistant gets $1,250 for teaching 60 students,” said the friend, who only talked out of one side of his mouth; “He gets $40,000 for teaching 13. Do you think you got your three thousand dollars worth?” I didn’t feel I had. THE RARIFICATION can work for you as well as against. In dealing with the petty bureaucrats who actually run the university, a little rarification can go a long way. For example, if when you slide into the office of the secretary of the Dean of Humanities to get his signature on your petition to drop a course, you open with a line like “I’m fine, but I felt’ better on March 27” or can talk like Bugs Bunny, you’re way ahead of the game. You’re liable to get those signatures with a rubber stamp and a smile, and likely without even having to really ask. Occasionally, however, you run into the honest-to-God creep, born into the creep’s section of the wrong hospital on the creepy side of town. This is a person who has been raised with the Creep’s Code of Honor always before him on the dusty road of life, someone admitted under the university’s quota system for creeps and later employed on much the same basis. Crisp, direct, powerful. This person sits behind the desk in her creepy frock and answers your question with an authoritative statement that has nothing at all to do with your question. Three times. Referring you to someone else \(who you fatalistically acknowledge will only refer like “You won’t be able to do it; it’s not in the catalogue.” After you have broken her nose with the ashtray which you carry in your pocket, you step lightly out of her office and out of the building abandoning whatever obscure project for credit you had in mind. That’s called failure, but it would have had some redeeming social value if only I had broken her nose. Or taken incriminating photographs. Or died in her office. The other depressing thing that I have noticed about the university now is that it seems that love has replaced sex. Which is fine for peace and order but a bad sign for the race. It is not that there is any lack of negotiable nubile effervescent ladies between the ages of 16 and 26 \(like the glare from millions of bright shining Buicks that no one seems to look at them with any sexual menace. When one person does look at another, it is always only to smile absently and say something like “Want some sunflower seeds?” It’s enough to make a base ugly soul retreat to his luxurious carpeted, CA-CH, disposal, vaulted ceiling, sundeck apartment and read Richard III. “Sex is dirty,” like Richard Daley, is a phenomenon of popular culture that will be most after it’s gone. After all, all reasonable scholars and historical figures agree that dirty sex is the best kind. The analyst agrees with me. June 23, 1972 13
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.