I created these people but I can’t control their votes!
This happened during the first month I taught at Pittsburg State, in Kansas….
Three times that first month I returned to my office after teaching to find that someone had covered my office doorknob with—glue. Rubber cement of some sort.
I mean—what the fuck? Three times this happened!
I’d only just arrived on campus—it’s unlikely I’d angered a student so quickly.
Could the vandal have been one of my alleged colleagues?
Uh, probably. I was unwanted in that department, and—even though there were some very fine people there that I like and respect (#notallgorillas)—I was never made welcome by the people I was working most closely with. I have a pretty solid theory about who put the glue on the doorknob, but, lacking evidence, I won’t name names (for now).
And...this is really pretty minor, right? Other faculty members in the profession--especially women and women of color--get treated far worse far more often. But still. The pettiness of this act was typical of what I experienced in my three years at Gulag State….
Obligatory book plug: I have two books set in the often petty and frequently absurd world of higher education—you should read them!
Professed is a comic novel filled with the struggles and rivalries and oddities and many weirdnesses American higher education...And it’s on a super sale at Amazon right now!
Normal School is an academic noir filled with murder, embezzlement, and lots of entertaining bad behavior. You can read sample chapters at the Normal School website! And you can buy it on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle!
PROFESSED: A Novel of Higher Education -- Kindle Edition
PROFESSED -- the prequel to NORMAL SCHOOL. You need to read it, you want to read it, and you can't afford not to read it!
Professed is a novel filled with the struggles and rivalries and oddities and weirdnesses of contemporary American higher education--favor-dodging, ex-girlfriend avoiding, grade-dreading, plagiarist-busting, dissertation-reading, office-mate annoying, litter-box spilling, book-stealing, unprofessional forbidden lusting, unprofessional forbidden lusting-fulfilling, cat-chasing, wrist-breaking, inopportune body-betraying, boyfriend-dumping planning, dead-professor missing, committee meeting texting, bureaucratic student miss-filing, classroom failing, hidden Confederate-history uncovering, book-writing, online teaching-demanding, student-advising failing, professional dysphoria-feeling, drunk-tank loitering, book discussion leading, unwise nasal-behaving, paper researching, academic schooling, sink-fouling, New Years' kissing, celebratory pool-playing, stranger-disemboweling, paper-writing, paper-writing failing, drinking-game playing, incomplete-taking...Yet, as the characters strive to fit into a rapidly changing institution, medicating themselves as best they can with sex and drugs and literature, learning actually happens. Somehow.
"Every academic needs to read this book."
So—I finally finished the first draft of the sequel to Professed. Now what?
Well, revision, obviously. Which I will document on Twitter and Instagram.
Then—my plans will be a little different. As of now, I think I am going to serialize the novel on a website throughout 2018—fifty installments, beginning (tentatively) January 6th. Then, when the serialization is over, I’ll pull the website down and publish the book as a paperback and Kindle. I’m inspired here by the example of Tom Wolfe, who serialized Bonfire of the Vanities in Rolling Stone in 27 installments beginning in July 1984. A difference here is that Wolfe actually wrote the novel as it was being serialized—incredible pressure on a writer who’s seen as stonecutter-slow. (Another difference is that, uh, obviously—I’m not Tom Wolfe). So I will have the advantage of presenting a work that will be in pretty good shape—though I’m also seeing the serialization itself as a form of revision and extended workshopping.
Now the fun begins….
I feel good when I get close to what is probably the end of a long project—especially the project I’ve been working on for the last year, a sequel to Professed. I can see it the end—I think. It’s there. Might take a couple of more weeks to get there—or maybe three—or maybe a couple of months—or, who knows? Willpower is not the source of productivity. Life gets in the way of art, sometimes. But—the end is there, and it’s closer than it was at the beginning….
Follow along if you want: I’m documenting my daily progress on twitter @lowellmickwhite #amwriting
Of course, once I write THE END! in my notebook, it’ll just be the end of the first draft. There’ll still be a lot more work to do….
But I’ll think about that later.
In the meantime, work is also progressing on the long-awaited story collection. It will be out soon!
Larry Mellman, at Adventures of an Errant Mind, has posted a—fine, erudite, smart—review of Professed.
"Each of the characters is suffused with a wonderfully unique humanity….We may laugh at them, feel sorry for them, be shocked by them, want to slap them sometimes, but we never hold them in contempt and that is [White’s] stunning achievement in this book, I think."
You know what to do: buy it, rent it, check it out of the library, say nice things about it.
The new edition of Professed is lovely--as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.
Read it! And once you've read it (of if you've already read it) go over to Amazon or Goodreads and say something (good, bad, whatever) about it....
Here's a reading I did at Malvern Books a couple of months back, along with the Great John Domini and the Greater Alysa Hayes. I read a few short sections from Professed that deal with--grading.
Thinking about last night's death of Muhammad Ali, surely the greatest American of my lifetime. Writers often get asked about who influenced them, and usually the writer responds with a list of safely dead (and too often usually white) writers of the past. But my influences stretch beyond beloved books and writers to musicians and filmmakers and—Ali. The Triple Greatest!
This excerpt has nothing to do with Ali but does consider the past, a little. From Professed:
We are still in Eden; the wall that shuts us out of the garden is our own ignorance and folly.
I have always liked to think that I am a careful person, that I pay attention to details, that I plan ahead for contingencies. But still I was shocked one afternoon when I swung through the department mail room and saw that the photographs of the dead professors were gone.
The dead professors: nearly a hundred years of them, eighty years of them at least, 8x10 black and white portraits of professors who had been members of our department; most of them male, of course, and fussy-looking, and prissy; some of them dull and tweedy, some with sparkles of intelligence flashing up from the past; some famous; most not. I had been in the department for about five years, and they had been gazing out at me the whole time; until they weren’t. The walls of the mailroom were aged to a dull brown pumpkiny sort of color, except for the pale yellow-white rectangles where the photos had been; an ill-looking checkerboard effect.
“What happened to the dead professors?” I asked. The only other person in the room was Drucilla Hastings, a colleague—a Modernist, a Joycean. I guess I was asking her.
“What? Oh.” Dru looked at the empty wall. “They took those old pictures down—I don’t know, a couple of weeks ago.”
And here I flattered myself that I paid attention to things. Perhaps I’ve been delusional all along.
“How long ago?” I asked.
“A couple of weeks? I don’t know.” Dru dropped a handful of flyers—memos, and advertisements for irrelevant lectures—into the recycling bin and plodded out, and I was left looking at the ugly, bare wall.
The Strategic Planning Committee was meeting in a high-ceilinged room off the department office, and since it was the first time I’d attended in a long time, I took a seat at the far end of the conference table, with the window behind me, and tried to be inconspicuous. Still, when the Assistant Chair, Ralph Moore, came in, I asked him about the dead professors.
“You’re the first one to ask!” he said. He seemed tickled by my question.
Ralph taught 20th Century American Lit surveys when he taught; teaching it poorly, I’d always heard; but he didn’t teach much since his appointment as Assistant Chair.
“So, tell me,” I said. “What happened to them?”
Ken Wytowski, a Victorian, a curly-headed little man going through a messy divorce, came in and sat at the table.
Ralph said, “Camille just asked about those old pictures we took down.”
Wytowski smiled at me. “You know, you’re the first person to ask about them.”
I didn’t say anything more. There was no point in being patronized by these fools. I arranged the materials I had brought to the meeting: a clipboard with the (very slight) agenda for the meeting clipped to it, a yellow legal pad, my iPhone. Bringing a cell phone to a meeting, having it out on the table in full view, might, I suppose, be considered very rude, but my boyfriend, Clayton, was in the hospital after a heart attack, he was getting stents placed in his heart, and I was expecting a text or an email from him when he emerged from the cath lab. I checked my email: no new messages.
I looked up at Wytowski and didn’t say anything, and blinked.
“Well,” Wytowski said. He wanted me to react; I didn’t. “Well, we took them down.”
I looked at my phone again; ignored him. I was trying to come up with a kind but efficient way to break things off with Clayton—to dump him, yes, to move on—but his heart attack was perhaps complicating things.
Ralph said, “We’re going to use the wall space to put up artwork by the children of department members.”
“And children of graduate students,” Wytowski said.
“It’ll give everyone a greater sense of community,” Ralph said.
“What?” I looked up from my phone, and spoke. “So—you’re saying there’s no community with the past?”
Wytowski smiled at me. He said, “You’re the first person to even notice they’re gone.”
But I didn’t notice very quickly; and I do try to pay attention; or thought I did.