As an English major I read… stuff


I decided recently that the only reason I’m an English major is so I can tell people that, no, I am not going to be a teacher.

Then I get this look, as if to say that I am the most unprepared, apathetic and purposeless college student on the face of the earth.

“Well then what are you going to DO?” they ask, genuine concern in their voice.

I’d like to tell them that I’m going to become the next great American novelist. But this is not looking hopeful, as I’m having a hard enough time reading other people’s works, let alone writing my own.

(This column does not count. If this column is to be considered literature, then Brach’s kerosene-flavored Circus Peanuts marshmallows are gourmet food.)

Right now, for instance, I should be reading an assigned 55-page excerpt of “Candide,” which is a French satire written in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher from the Age of Enlightenment and Electrical Sockets.

Tabor has been on fall break since Friday, so I’ve had plenty of time to do my reading. But don’t get me wrong, I have been doing plenty of reading lately.

For example, I recently finished a book by Mary Roach titled, “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.”

I bought it at Waldenbooks a few weeks ago because it was half off. Ironically, this could be said of some of its subjects, also.

I might add that at the same time I also bought a book called, “Waiter Rant,” which is a particularly cynical waiter’s memoir. So on the same day I purchased a book about people who are stiff and a book about people who get stiffed.

“Stiff” is a non-fiction piece about the wide variety of ways in which donated human cadavers are used in research. Among the uses discussed are body-snatching in the early years of human dissection, cadavers as crash test dummies in car and airplane accidents, head transplants, medicinal cannibalism, the nature of decomposition and the use of heads for cosmetic surgery practice.

Just so you know, I am currently holding back a slew of cadaver-related puns. “Morbid curiosity,” “dying to read it,” “the topic got right down to the bones,” “a head is a terrible thing to waste,” “grave subject” and “deep plot,” to name a few. And I’ve always wondered if dead music writers de-compose.

The book really is quite engrossing (sorry). Unfortunately, I have a feeling—being as I am not a pre-med student—that I will never find an academic use for reading it.

However, I will note for the sake of my English professors that “Stiff” was published by W.W. Norton & Co., which is the same company that publishes many of the literature anthologies used at Tabor.

Perhaps that will earn me a few points.

As far as off-topic subject matter goes, I did write an eight-page academic paper two weeks ago arguing that Batman is a modern-day Odysseus. Which begs the question, did the Trojan army have Troy-outs for the battles? Or did they just horse around?

(It is self-diagnosed ADHD such as this that will prevent me from ever writing the next great American novel.)

But back to “Candide.”

I had plenty of time today to start my reading. However, I have a new distraction in my life.

I recently found a Web site called mylifeisaverage.com, and procrastination will never be the same again.

MLIA, for short, is a site where readers from around the world submit short stories about their day that are true, funny and random.

For example: “Today, my brother and I were talking to our 3-year-old cousin. We asked him what his favorite food was, and he said ‘chicken.’ We then asked him what his least favorite food was; he said ‘socks.’”

Or how about: “Today I was sitting at a red light and a car pulled up next to me. Their music was up really loud and kind of getting on my nerves. As I sat there listening, I realized it was ‘The Imperial March.’ I looked over to see Darth Vader staring me down from the passenger seat. We stared at each other…until the light changed. The car sped away as Darth held a red light saber out the window. I must find these people.”

One final: “Today, my best friend gave me his password to his Facebook and I asked, ‘why?’ He simply said, ‘So when I die you can play tricks on people.’ I then gave him my password.”

And every day DOZENS of stories like these get posted. Can you see how this could begin to take priority over “Candide?”

But, in my defense, let me add that most of these posts are filled with grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, and I take a great deal of seriousness and delight in locating these mistakes and correcting them.

And if you want my Candide opinion on that, I’m an English major and I’m just doing my duty.


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