Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The concrete broke your fall

Having failed to read a single book not related to my dissertation in.. well I don’t think I read any non-philosophical books last year either.. I was looking around for something to read (incidentally, if anyone has suggestions I’m all ears). Meanwhile, I stumbled across an op-ed addressing the issue of being rejected from regular old college.

The piece talks about a different kind of rejection. Failing to get into college is not quite the same as failing to get a job you’ve trained for over the last 5-n years. That said, the take home message is pretty much the same. At some point you gotta get used to rejection. I just hope that I don't have to get used to this much rejection:

"You'll get tossed by a girlfriend or boyfriend. You won't get the job or the promotion you think you deserve. Some disease may pluck you from life's fast lane and pin you to a bed, a wheelchair, a coffin. That happens."

--Second Suitor

Morning after update: I've been trying to think of an excuse to link to this, and the discussion Second Suitor's started is just about perfect. Here's one question. If you were over at a date's house, what book on their shelf would make you break up with them? But, via Laura Rozen, David Glenn at the Chronicle's got a slightly different question. If you were over at a date's house, what book on their shelf from an academic press would make you break up with them?

--PGS

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

what sort of book are you looking to read: fiction, non-fiction (but not philosophy), non-fiction (but about philosophy but not philosophy, like a biography of a philosopher), etc.?

Anonymous said...

Kingsley Amis, 'Lucky Jim', or John Kennedy Toole, 'A Confederacy of Dunces': both are sorta-academic, and sorta-job-seeking, and definitely critical of academe and employment! And both very funny.

Anonymous said...

'The Sorrows of Young Werther' always makes me feel better about my own situation. Plus, it's short

Anonymous said...

I wonder if/how often philosophers read fiction? I always have a novel or two on the go (I'm a 2nd year grad student)

Anonymous said...

Anything by Alexander McCall Smith, but particularly his satire of German academia in "Portuguese Irregular verbs." There are two other volumes that contain stories about his protagonist, the German philology professor from Regensburg.

I howled with laughter.
Also, Richard Russo's "Straight Man," about academic politics in an English department.

Since neither work is about philosophers, it will be a vacation for you. But also show you how messed up other disciplines are,

Anonymous said...

I've just recently started GEM Anscombe's Intention. Interesting book. On the cover of the current edition they've got what's got to be the best blurb ever on a philosophy book: Donald Davidson says "Anscombe's Intention is the most important treatment of action since Aristotle"! I'm not sure how I never encountered it during my coursework.

juniorperson said...

A quick four:

Tibor Fischer's *The Thought Gang*--superbly funny.

Richard Russo's *Straight Man*

David Lodge's academic novels--especially *Think!* if you do phil. mind.

John Wyndham's *The Day of the Triffids* (No relation at all to the crappy film--written in the 1950s and still gripping today. Loads of interesting ethics and pol. phil. questions for undergrad. classes, too!)

Anonymous said...

I offer two "popular" novels by John Irving--A Prayer for Owen Meaney, and Until I Find You. He's a great storyteller who creates wonderful characters, is fun to read and hard to put down.

I know that it's not cool in academia to like these kinds of books, but I think they're just wonderful, and a lot of fun to read. I think of these stories often, actually--they've stuck with me for some time.

And yes, of course, A Confederacy of Dunces (keeping with the excellent characters theme)--can't go wrong there.

Anonymous said...

I went home with someone not from my program after a night out, saw Badiou on the bookshelf, and slunk out silently in the middle of the night without leaving a note. There aren't really any other writers who would elicit that reaction.

Anonymous said...

I think _Straight Man_ is the best of the academic farces, I guess because I think it's not just a good academic farce, but a good novel, full stop.

My favorite blurb on _Intention_ is the one on the back that describes the work as "Often cited, sometimes read, seldom understood..."

cw said...

I read a lot of sci-fi and detective stuff. Recently read "Spin," a pretty good sci-fi novel. Lyda Morehouse is a lot of fun too. Classics are always worth a read. Download a list of Nebula and Hugo award nominees and winners. You'll find lots of great stuff.

Favorite police procedural: Peter Robinson's Detective Banks series.

Also loved Russo's Straight Man. Empire Falls is good too, but not funny.

Jane Smiley is good. Moo, among others.

As for dumping? Any "academic" work by Jonah Goldberg or Ann Coulter. Complete idiots. Haven't encountered any fiction that would count as a deal-breaker.

doctaj said...

anything by peter kivy, provided its presence is sincere and not mocking or ironic.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how getting rejected from college is different from getting rejected from your ideal profession. The distance in quality of life is far greater between college grad. and non. when compared to academics and non. Yes I am speaking in primarily economic terms, but if you have been preparing for five years, what about the rejected student who has been preparing for 12. And while you may say that a rejected college student probably deserved it based upon poor performance at earlier stages in his/her education, I would say the same thing of a failed academic.

Anonymous said...

Join me on a fishing expedition, Doctaj?

Bobcat said...

Not to be a party-pooper, but I can think of so many different kinds of reason to buy/read almost any book that there is no book that would cause me to leave someone's apartment. However, if I were convinced that the apartment-owner actually agreed with it, Mein Kampf would be a bad sign.

Anonymous said...

If Crime Fiction mixed with Rolling Stones allusions is your thing: Ian Rankin

Nicole Krauss: Man Walks into a Room

Mary Gaitskill (the short stories, not the novels)

Anything by Jane Austen.

Thomas Hardy: Jude the Obscure (it will make you feel so much better).

Anonymous said...

i recommend vonnegut (cat's cradle or slaughterhouse 5), tolkien, david sedaris, or stream of consciousness writing like a heartbreaking work of staggering genius by dave eggers.

Anonymous said...

No, that is complete snobbery. Get a grip.

Anonymous said...

I also love Alexander McCall Smith! Though his Sunday Philosophy Club is a little heavy-handed on the 'philosophy' component. Just finished Waugh's _Decline and Fall_, for something a little snarkier.

I'd still have to say Ann Coulter as a deal breaker, even if the book was bought as a joke. Financially supporting that nut job even a little is deal breaker enough. Same goes for _The Secret_.

Anonymous said...

If you dump someone over a book sitting on a shelf without, then your retarded.

Anonymous said...

Waugh's *Brideshead Revisited* is absolutely wonderful.

Also try Ronald Wright's *A Scientific Romance*, which is shockingly good.

I couldn't stand *Moo*--far too laboured.

Anonymous said...

I think a good read would be Marc Bosquet's 'How the University Works'...

Mysjkin said...

Try Haruki Murakami and Michel Houellebecq. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is worth the time. Here's a favorite bit:

“Dear God!!” cried Fitzroy Somerset, “What language is that?”

“I believe it is one of the dialects of Hell,” said Strange.

“Is it indeed?” said Somerset. "Well, that is remarkable.”

“They have learnt it very quickly,” said Lord Wellington, “They have been dead only three days.” He approved of people doing things promptly and in a businesslike fashion.

Anonymous said...

'Matilda' or anything else by Roald Dahl is gold.

'Kafka on the shore' is fun. So is 'House of Leaves' for the most part.

Anonymous said...

Ah, "then your retarded". Love it.

Anonymous said...

i didn't break up with someone when i saw ayn rand on his bookshelf, but i wish i had. would have been a real time-saver.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your efforts, Rebecca. Unfortunately, when challenged about injustices in their field, all too often the philosophical reaction is: Prove it! It isn't enought that philosophy's percentage of women is way down in comparison with the other humanities, and even now with many of the sciences. It isn't enough that women report and complain about discrimination. In fact, nothing is enough 'cause the guys know they have just hearts.

Excuse me while I go ...

Anonymous said...

Mark Steele's _Vive La Revolution_

It's a genuine history of the French Revolution, but Steele is a professional comedian... the result is hilarious and also surprisingly moving.