this was a bit too episodic for my liking. but very funny in parts. and insightful. from my favourite chapter:
"It was well known among the citizens ofthis was a bit too episodic for my liking. but very funny in parts. and insightful. from my favourite chapter:
"It was well known among the citizens of the state that the university had pots of money and that there were highly paid faculty members in every department who had once taught Marxism and now taught something called deconstructionism which was only Marxism gone underground in preparation for emergence at a time of national weakness.
It was well known among the legislators that the faculty as a whole was determined to undermine the moral and commercial well-being of the state, and that supporting a large and nationally famous university with state monies was exactly analogous to raising a nest of vipers in your own bed.
It was well known among the faculty that the governor and the state legislature had lost interest in education some twenty years before and that it was only a matter of time before all classes would be taught as lectures, all exams given as computer-graded multiple choice, all subscriptions to professional journals at the library stopped, and all research time given up to committee work and administrative red tape. All the best faculty were known to be looking for other jobs, and this was known to be a matter of indifference to the state board of governors.
It was well known among the secretaries in every office and every department that the faculty and administrators could, in fact, run the Xerox and even the ditto machines. They were just too lazy to do so.
It was well known among the janitorial staff in every office that if you wanted to maintain your belief in human nature, it was better never, ever to look, even by chance, into any wastebasket, but to adopt a technique of lifting and twisting the garbage bag in one motion and tossing it without even remarking to yourself that was unusual in weight or bulk or odor.
[...:] It was well known to all members of the campus population that other, unnamed groups reaped unimagined monetary advantages in comparison to the monetary disadvantages of one's own group, and that if funds were distributed fairly, according to real merit, for once, some people would have another think coming." ...more
"Just after the move, for my birthday, Luke and Martha gave me a wonderful toy, La Machine à Dessiner le Monde, a machine to draw the world. Really, a"Just after the move, for my birthday, Luke and Martha gave me a wonderful toy, La Machine à Dessiner le Monde, a machine to draw the world. Really, all it is is a camera lucida, but nicely done in plastic, with a viewing stand on top. You put a piece of vellum on it, and if the light's bright enough, and it has to be very bright, it projects the thing you're looking at right onto the paper. All you have to do is trace it.
All! For just tracing turns out to be the hardest thing of all. All the clichés and exasperating French abstractions about the insuperable difficulties of realism turn out to be plain truth when you have your machine to draw the world pointed out the window at the plane trees on the boulevard Saint-Germain, your pencil poised, and then you try to decide where to make the first mark. The world moves so much - shimmers and shakes like a nautch dancer, more than you can ever know when you're in it rather than looking at it. You bless any leaf that holds still long enough for you to get it. Hold still, you tell the tree, the light leaping up and down the balustrade, as though you were talking to a small child as you try to get on its galoshes. Just hold still. Where you finally make the mark is mostly a question of when you finally get fed up.
Tracing becomes a deep, knotty problem, a thing to solve, and I am completely absorbed in it. I take the Machine to Draw the World to the Palais Royal or the Luxembourg Gardens and just watch the screen, pencil poised, at the translation of Paris into this single flat layer of translucent, lucid shimmer. I no longer try to circus it, or mourn it, or even learn from it, since just drawing it is enough. What you really need from the world in order to draw it is a lot of light and for everything to just stand still."
Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon (New York: Random House 2000), 255-6. ...more