Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Lost Books, or, deliberations while writing a final paper on Montaigne

"Where is my book?"
the esteemed LSU English professor asked me one warming afternoon in Allen Hall. "I would greatly appreciate the return of my book." Now, I thought to myself, is this the appropriate time to put aside the conclusions I have in the past made concerning this individual's sanity and pertinence when it comes to knowledge and love of art?

Or should I answer him from this place of confusion and mockery?

I do not have your book, I wanted to say. Or, What book are you talking about? was another utterance. But that would be working from the place in me that treats everyone the same: 1) Tell the truth, 2) seek information to perform request asked of you.

I recently got a new bookshelf. Months before, I interviewed aforementioned professor about the injuries suffered by Baton Rouge during the Civil War and driving tours I might make in the area (not, mind you, the siege of vicksburg and the lovely ladies who dwelled in caves during the Union's occupation of the city---but I am not an appointed custodian of southern Lincolnalia, and thus, did not control the course of the interview)

I left the office with not one but two brochures, and not two but four pages of notes, and not, mind you, before I was accused (for the third time) of making an anonymous complaint to the Department chair regarding the professor's violation of written, graded essay assignments for undergraduate students.

Where is my book? The question haunted me. Not where is my time machine or where is my tango partner---both questions that have before come from his mouth, but this one a very reasonable one that all of us might ask each other several times a year as we dig in our heels to living the life of the mind, no matter how much our relatives beg us to find pensions, purpose, use.
"I may be moving and it is very important to me that I get that book back."I knew better than to respond based on Pyrrhic unknowingness. No. Not for this particular specimen of the ivory tower. I reminded myself that internal decisions of deception are translated onto the face and can alter others' reactions. (See Of Physiognomy)

I dissembled. I controlled my audience's reations. To be continued.

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