Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Silk Purses Yet.

My dear professor D.W. is a kind, good, and erudite man. He claims he is not social, but he actually loves people. He told me the other day that one day he'd met a man during his morning exercise routine, and struck up a conversation with him. The man invited him to a football game,and DW accepted ("Ordinarily, not being very interested in football or society, I would have turned him down, but he just looked like an interesting guy, so I found myself agreeing to go."). Turned out the man was a neighbor from down the street, and over the course of the following weeks, the two of them became fast friends. B.B. was a professor of Shakespeare and a writer of poetry and stories as well. BB died recently, and DW was devastated at the loss. In sharing this with me, DW loaned me a couple of books by BB. One was a memoir of BB's stint in the Army during WWII, and the other, co-authored with another man, was a more scholarly treatise on a unifying view of Shakespeare's plays, and essays on some internal structural features of certain sets of them.

The former I read with interest. BB was a very subtle writer, and very deadpan about those sorts of wryly humorous or outright ironic incidents that seem to be basic to Army life in wartime, not to mention the ones that ought to make one despair..but only latch on to a man for the rest of his life like some sort of leech, draining him of blood a little at a time without actually killing him.

The latter, it quickly became apparent to me, was quite over my head. Some of these plays I had not read in years, some not at all. To read the essays would have required a familiarity I do not possess, and have no time to cultivate at the moment. So, a bit sheepishly I returned the book to DW.

The best professors are the ones who befriend their students, and instill in them an interest in all of life. They encourage study of those things outside the realm of their own expertise; they work hard to expose their students to every realm of human endeavor and study. That DW had loaned me this book was a proof of his confidence in my brains to grasp it, and I'd let him down. But I could not lie about it and pretend to know what I didn't know and had no time to learn.

So after I handed it back to him, he said, "Are you sure you won't want to try to delve into this?" I told him I was afaid I just could not. He was silent for a few moments. Then he said, "Well-- I was never able to read that book, either."

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