But the dream of the pirates meant nothing to me, just like the dreams of panning for gold in my parents’ bathtub and the dreams of driving strange cars. The dreams that disturbed me were the dreary, mundane ones, the ones too similar to reality. The ones that left me awake in bed, momentarily unsure how I got there. Like the dream where I, without incident, ate my usual dinner at the Chinese restaurant near my apartment, sitting at my table near the door. A woman walks in looking bewildered and goes straight to me. She seems very small under her rust-colored hair and her heavy blue parka and slick yellow rainboots. “I’m sorry to startle you,” she says. “I don’t usually do this, but I was just walking outside and I just got this feeling that I had to come in here and tell you that something terrible is about to happen.”
I am too startled to speak. Inside me, there is a dark, tentacled knowledge that what the woman said is true. “That’s all I know,” she says. “Again, I’m sorry.” With that she bows her head and shuffles out again, jostling the bundle of bells tied with red ribbon to the door handle.
But it’s not a coincidence that I paused in front of that Chinese restaurant later on my way home from work. If I dream about eating greasy Chinese food, I will wake up with a craving for it. Just the same way I would dress myself in the clothes I dreamt of wearing the night before. Or how I am momentarily perplexed when I see the friends I last saw in my dreams. But when I pushed through the restaurant door and heard the dull clang of the bells, I decided I wasn’t hungry and that I had food to eat at home. I swiveled on my heel, causing a sidewalk bicyclist to swerve out of control. His front tire jammed into a sandwich board and he flew headlong over his handlebar, landing facefirst onto the sidewalk. At that moment, a crack of thunder unleashed a shower of sloppy rain (which, I should mention, is not unheard of in the springtime). The biker remained inert on the sidewalk as a puddle formed around his face. I bent down to turn him over. His eyes fluttered open and he asked if he had hit me. No, I said, but blood was streaming down his crushed nose. The rain was running down the sidewalk, rinsing the blood off his face and a carrying pink stain down his chin to his T-shirt. This was how I met John.
I have a good feeling about this scene, guys.
Handy advice by writers. As part of their “Shared Worlds 2013”, Wofford college asked Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Lev Grossman,Joe Haldeman, and more artists, editors, and writers for a photo of their writing advice written on their hands. Check out the rest.
truth and wisdom, hand-sized. Check the link for more…
In light of the last article I posted, which stated the value of English majors as writers, communicators, critical thinkers, and analyzers, I still believe that the article gave a skewed picture of what English majors actually study, and what their education actually does for them. For example, I sort of found it odd that it assumed all English majors could write well. While it’s true that every English major I knew could write effectively, shouldn’t every college-educated person be able to cohesively craft a logical argument and state it clearly? Secondly, it implies that English majors study the craft of writing. Not true.
1. University-level English is not an extension your high school English class. Fun fact: I used to teach high school English. In high school, you learn about symbolism, and you get “discussion questions”. (Personally, I think the word “symbolism” should be abolished from high schools because it messes with peoples’ heads, but that’s a whole other essay.) Most people think of English classes as reading something and then talking what happened in the story. It’s an extremely watered down, almost unrecognizable form of literature studies. For example, if you read D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” in high school, you might glean that the rocking horse “symbolized” greed and futility. In college, you would contextualize the story into a product of a nation’s uneasy transition into industrialization, classism, capitalism, or whatever. In other words, you might read a work as an in-depth glimpse into the public’s psyche.
You also learn about grammar, essay structure and writing in high school. English majors never learn about writing. It’s assumed that we can all write (not exclusive to English majors, by the way). We are taught to analyze and critically think. We use composition and grammar skills to communicate our ideas, but we don’t study them.
2. This is a skill, not knowledge. What an English major’s contribution to a workplace is not simply a knowledge of literature. First of all, simply knowing plotlines isn’t all that useful. What an English major knows is a little bit of philosophy, a little bit of history, a little bit of cultural studies, basically anything you would to understand a story the way it would have been understood at the time it was written. With that, an English major has the ability to look at information set in front of him/her and squeeze out every last bit of implication and meaning. Likewise, an English major is able to communicate with a stronger command of language, because we are naturally interested in all the nuances of words. With critical thinking and analysis skills, we are able to make more intangible-type implications from hard data. The same way we can draw anti-utilitarianism out of Charles Dickens (it’s totally there), we can take hard data and find a deeper social implication.
3. We were never taught how to write. At my college at least, every student had to take a 100-level composition and rhetoric class. Not just English majors. Of course, creative writing majors took writing class, but that’s not an English major. English majors can write well because we’re naturally drawn to words. They affect us and we can’t bear to see them misused. Literally. I’m no grammar Nazi; in fact I personally find those types grating and almost never correct grammar or spelling. For me, if any writing is slightly unclear, I am actually more confused than an average person. My mind is bogged down with the possible meanings of every ill-chosen word, and it all becomes TV static in my mind. Most writers and editors will tell you that the average person can’t fully express what they mean with words, an English major, hopefully, can.
3. It wasn’t a book club. I won’t explain this one. It just wasn’t.
5. If you understood it, you’d be the one explaining it.Instead, you assume it’s pointless because you don’t understand it. This is my pet peeve. Not just with literature, but with anything. I hate people that look at a Jackson Pollock and say “THIS is art?” Or “The Mona Lisa isn’t even that good.” Let me get this straight, you have never even attempted to study art for one hour and just because you have eyeballs you think you’re qualified to proclaim it bullshit, and you don’t think people who actually study art are zany hippies so you don’t trust their educated opinion, and you know you’re right because your friends who have also never studied art agree with you? DO GO ON.
In general, I’m tired of the liberal-arts-grad-doomed-to-be-a-barista stereotype. I’m far from being a touchy-feely dilettante. I, just like anyone else, look at data, analyze it, and connect my conclusions to the world around me. College cost me tens of thousands of dollars and afforded me the opportunity to learn from and share my own ideas with brilliant minds. You’re damn right I spent my money and time working on something I loved. I can learn Excel on my own.
My Personal Life: A reverse chronology of #ceilingsquirrel tweets