This afternoon, I stopped by the English department to visit with one of my professors. He wanted to hear about my internship (which was flattering) and I wanted to talk about my thesis (which is swelling out of control like the Blob). This professor is the kind of man who, at first glance, would probably intimidate most people on an intellectual level. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything other than buttoned shirts and vests, and he wears glasses with round silver frames. He blended right in in England, wearing his tweed cap and worn-out book bag. If it was published before 1980, he’s read it, and if it was published after that, he’s going to read it. He’s a published poet and his office is crammed with shelves and boxes full of books and tea. Today we inevitably got to talking about books, and in order to prove my deep intellectualism (cough), I mentioned that I’d read “Atonement” recently.
“What did you think?”
“Oh, it was beautiful. It’s beautifully written, but I never want to read it again. It was too dark.”
“Yes, McEwan does that.”
And we talked about Ian McEwan for a while. After that, I asked him about Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” which was sitting on his desk. And…you know, I fully intended to recap everything he said about “The Road,” but I can’t even remember the words anymore. All I remember is that his review made me sounds like a kindergartner at show and tell.
However verbose and wise he may be, this professor is not someone to be feared. He has a fake sandwich on his wall, above the printed-off portraits of Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. Across the room is an inflatable moose-head, mounted by the window. He recently put up a vintage British poster from 1939, which reads “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
Even though I’ve been in his office multiple times, I’ve never really gotten a chance to ask about the sandwich. Today I finally did. His response:
“To remember to never take life too seriously.”
I can think of a great many people who should have sandwiches hanging in their rooms.