Do you ever feel like this?

Fellow, sometime-and-in-some-fashion, academics or others dabbling in paper writing?

Dixon looked out of the window at the fields wheeling past, bright green after a wet April. It wasn’t the double-exposure effect of the last half-minute’s talk that had dumbfounded him, for such incidents formed the staple material of Welch colloquies; it was the prospect of reciting the title of the article he’d written. It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool. ‘Let’s see,’ he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: ‘oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485…’

Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis.

I never tire of this book – it’s one of my favorites – even as I pretty much dislike the main character and the object of his affection, the tepid and colorless Christine. What are your favorite campus, or academic, satires?

Update: David Foster and Jim Bennett, in the comments section, both voice the same thought I had on re-reading the above excerpt: an article on the economic impact of shipbuilding techniques sounds pretty darn interesting, actually. I think the scene says something about the main character, Dixon, and his lack of interest in the very topics he is meant to research and study. In short, his heart’s not in it. Either that or Kingsley Amis had zero interest in economics and the title struck him as the most vapid imaginable. Anyone know?

“All children live in blocks of flats or in houses,” says Amalie. “Every house has rooms. All the houses together make one big house. This big house is our country. Our fatherland.”

From the Herta Müller novel The Passport. As previously mentioned on chicagoboyz, Herta Müller is the 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. The above excerpted passage continues:

Amalie points at the map. “This is our Fatherland,” she says. With her fingertip she searches for the black dots on the map. “These are the towns of our Fatherland,” says Amalie. “The towns are the rooms of this big house, our country. Our fathers and mothers live in our houses. They are our parents. Every child has its parents. Just as the father in the house in which we live is our father, so Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu is the father of our country. And just as the mother in the house in which we live is our mother, so Comrade Elena Ceausescu is the mother of our country. Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu is the father of all the children. And Comrade Elena Ceausescu is the mother of all the children. All the children love comrade Nicolae and comrade Elena, because they are their parents.”

Chilling, no?