Prelims (n., pl.):
1. A series of essay tests taken, over the span of two days, covering 150 works of literature and criticism.
2. A rite of initiation that allows the graduate student to finally begin working on his or her disseration.
3. The locus of pain, rage, anger, and hatred for all things academic in a graduate student's life. The stealer of souls, killer of free time, and death of innocence.
There. For my non-Madison friends, that's what I'm doing this summer. The test is at the end of August (21-22, or 22-23, sometime in there). I have 150 plays, novels, books of poetry, and critical articles to read before then. All of us grad students have to do that, so if you feel sorry for me, feel sorry for my friends as well. And if you don't, well screw you. I'd like to see you do it. Except those of my elders who already have done it. You are the shining stars that give us hope.
By my calculations, if I want to finish the entire list, I have to read 1.67 entries per day. Today was Rabbit, Run (1 entry) and the Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo, two plays, one entry). Luckily, I've seen both of these plays before (the movie of GGR and Bourbon and Teach's AB), so the topics are familiar. But these are all very depressing works about the crushing nature of modern life, so my day has been kinda bleak. Later tonight, I plan to read some Capote and contemplate causes of murder in In Cold Blood. I have yet to start reading any actual poetry, as I am terrified of it. Seriously terrified.
Apart from prelims reading, it's been a fun few weeks, so a quick update. Back in StL, had fun with the folks, had a truly phenomenal steak dinner, tried to go to a Cardinals' game, failed, and toured the A-B Brewery instead, leading to pre-noon drinking of free beer. Good times. And who knew Busch made a stout?
Saw Wicked on Tuesday for my birthday. Red-Headed Stepchild and I drove to Chicago to see it, with fairly decent seats. Sadly, the elderly ladies next to me felt the need to discuss everything as it happened, including the priceless revelation that the one with the green skin was, in fact, the Wicked Witch of the West. They didn't realize this until after she had been onstage for about ten minutes, despite the cover of the program clearly showing her and the fact that everyone knows this already, as it is the entire concept of the play that she is different because she is green. But God bless them, it's elderly people like that who go to the theatre simply to buy seats closer to the center of the audience than my own, preventing me from fully appreciating the sets in ways they never could. But a wiser man than myself once said that there's a special Hell for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre. I can only pray he's correct.
On the drive back, due to an offhand comment of Red's, I am now contemplating a one-man play entitled Pigs on the Move. So far, it involves pigs attempting to better themselves, and a farmer's constant upbraiding of his no-account son for letting the pigs get further in life than him (the son). Look for pre-production come the fall.
And finally, I'll be a TA for Captain Americanist's lecture this fall, which is awesome.
Look for updates containing words of wisdom from my reading throughout the summer, as I can't imagine much else will be going on here. So far I've learned this:
-People in the '20s drank more, made more money, and generally got laid a lot more than I do.
-Jews are not entertaining (Sorry McJew, but read Awake and Sing! and you'll see my point).
-When white people write about sex, it's smut (Updike). When Native Americans do it, it's amusing cultural difference (Erdrich).
-The working world stinks, but if you curse a lot and hate women, it'll at least amuse others.
-19 page one acts are the greatest gift you can give a prelim student.
-Vietnam was, in fact, not a fun place to be.
-Education is the reducto absurdum of all human experience. And no battle is ever won. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools. (Now that's an enheartening lesson to start the summer with.)