I am in Reno again, as I must be every so often to earn my keep. To keep myself. April was wet and a strange new grass has sprouted everywhere, has blurred into deep green clouds on the red hills of the horizonlike Mars after fifty years of terraforming, right before the first Burger King opens.
Somehow I had assumed that if I became a professor, I would also become a novelist, as an adjunct to that identity; a strange thing to assume, since I knew perfectly well that a writing career is a stupid thing to take for granted at any time, in any place, though particularly here and now. If I had been born twenty years earlier, I say sometimesbut that isn’t even true.
About a week ago I was standing beside the tracks at the Rockridge BART station and saw San Francisco lit across the bay, thought of Le Père Goriot and Rastignac’s final hyper-Romantic challenge to the city of Paris: “Il lança sur cette ruche bourdonnante un regard qui semblait par avance en pomper le miel, et dit ces mots grandioses: ‘A nous deux maintenant!’” It’s understandable, even attractive, for a young man to make such gestures. I’m not so young any more.
There are arguments in favor of growing up, ceasing to inhabit a role that I didn’t create, ceasing to pretend that an affluent family background entitles me to hold money in contempt. Graduate school, like any long and weighty commitment that comes to partially constitute you (relationship, home, career, marriage, family) may appear as either a shelter or a trap. In many ways, so far, it has been the former. I’ll teach in the fall. This ought to be the core of the profession; and it ought to reveal, unlike the training exercises in the seminar room, whether it is a profession I want.