Monday, March 01, 2004


Howard has insisted that we reprint some entries from his undergraduate diary for the benefit of our readers and posterity. He feels that allowing selective access to this journal, which he modestly entitles "The Growth of a Critic's Mind", charting his intellectual development with all its peaks and troughs, its triumphs and its tragedies will be an immense boon to future generations of scholars. Here's the first excerpt (note: all names have been changed to protect Howard's career):

May 29: Outside had been quite literally "outside" my conceptual universe for several months as I struggled to make my way through Foucault's "Archaeology of Knowledge". The revelation it had nothing to do with TV's Time Team had been an onerous one for me and yet, like Antoine Roquentin in Sartre's "Nausea", I had not flinched before the rigors of this intellectual endeavor. Having triumphantly conquered this challenge and my inner demons to boot I was exhausted yet exhilarated. I decided to devote my mental powers to other things and go buy some milk since my mercenary roommate was reluctant to lend me "any more" of "his". Crossing the door was certainly a transliminal experience (assuming we are permitted to talk about "experiences" any more- I'll have to check with my supervisor). Inside/outside, I thought. Now I understand the polarity. Deep. The sun was in the sky, hanging there like an overrated lightbulb in some dreary bourgeois household (like my mother and father's, for instance."Wasn't that a lovely dinner party?" "Yes, it's a shame the Hapgoods couldn't make it." "Yes, terrible shame, still, never mind. By the way, we really must do something about this lightbulb. It's quite blinding". Me trying not to puke!). There were shops and houses and trees, all coexisting in astonishing multiplicity and totally beyond the bounds of language and the power structures we impose on them. And squirrels, like little gray things running around grayly but very fastly too. What does Derrida say about squirrels in De Grammatologie? I forget. Bet it's deep though. There were even some people there. I was aware I was in the presence of the Other and acted accordingly and (I hope) responsibly. I was trying very hard not to other them and thinking about what Derrida said about squirrels when I saw this guy beating up on a girl. It was totally gruesome and awesomely "realistic" (I know that's a problematic concept but bear with me) . I got some kind of impression he was mugging her. Anyway she was screaming and he was pulling on her handbag and just hitting her and there was blood everywhere. And, get this, nobody was doing anything to stop him. Nobody. Not that there was anyone around, but even so…I must have stood there for fifteen minutes watching him punch her teeth down her throat and nobody came to help. Finally, it occurred to me I had to do something. I realized I had borne important witness to the alienation of post-contemporary society. I now had an excellent topic for my next paper and rushed back to my room to get it all down on my computer. Oh yeah, I looked up Derrida and he says nothing about squirrels in De Grammatologie. Deep.

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