Email 1.

Dear prof, here is the essay that was due on May 27. I know it’s a little late but I’m trying to catch up and was hoping you would accept it.

Email 2.

Dear John, the course ended last Thursday. The final grades have been calculated and submitted. You missed not only every assignment since May 27 but also the final exam.

Email 3.

Oh really?? So what grade did I get in the course?

Remote Sky Is Out!

Several promising Russian-speaking writers have decided to make their work available to English-speaking readers and have started a literary magazine called Remote Sky. Here are some excerpts from the first issue:

Arkady Margulis with a short story “Stagecoach for Lunatics.”

Hayk grinned, rustled grimly with a banknote in his pocket, and cheered up the small change by making it rattle. After all, he was a little better off, he could afford a teapot and baklava, sticking to the saucer, and a pack of cigarettes, certainly long ones. This always turned sad thoughts away. Yes, it did, but it didn’t comfort him. The most important thing was not to chew himself out because of the immigration woes – the irritating everyday routine and the oppressive difference between “there” and “here”. The sweet “before” – school-university-job – was opposed by the hateful “today”. The “today” was impossible to get used to.

Andrei Romanov with a short story “Marshal and Margarita.”

‘You’re mine, you’re mine’, my lips were whispering, while my hands were doing what they wanted without understanding what exactly it was.

‘Please don’t, comrade general, please don’t, my dear…’

Simon Kaminski with his absolutely hilarious “Wakeup Yordahk.”

‘What’s the p-patient’s n-name?’ I whispered, stammering.

‘Yordahk,’ she said firmly.

‘What? Who?’ My English is definitely worse than that of Faulkner or Mark Twain, especially since I felt so frightened and sleepy that I failed to understand a single word. ‘I… I not know…’

‘Yordahk’! ‘Yordahk’! Understand?’

Zinovy Sagalov’s fascinating “Prediction.”

It was a dim day of September 1951. Outside the dacha windows, a lazy autumn rain was drizzling; stormy sea reels were coming from afar. The night before Stalin ordered a fire to be started in the fireplace. When he was young, he had had tuberculosis, and it was now easier for him to tolerate frost than rickety dampness.

And also, Jacob Grinsberg from Israel with “Where Am I Going?”, Michael Blekhman from Canada with his bitter-sweet Reflection, Tamara Alexeeva from Russia with her tongue-in-cheek “I Have to Become a Girl,” Vladimir Khokhlev from Russia with his philosophical “Tsar Tales”, and Evgeny Verbitsky from Germany with his fascinating essay on Vladimir Nabokov and his son.

The magazine is available on Kindle and is absolutely free for Prime users. Let’s wish continued success to these talented and tenacious writers who are keeping Russian literature alive in spite of enormous odds.

As a special bonus, please find the enlightening story of the Fornicating Fanny under the fold. This is my favorite part in the entire first issue of the magazine. I was the one who came up with Fornicating Fanny and I’m very proud of her.

Continue reading “Remote Sky Is Out!”

Second PhD

This year, a friend went on the job market with a PhD in Germanic Studies. The field is currently in a very bad situation, so the search was not successful. The friend has one more year of funding and if the second job search is fruitless will have to decide what to do next. There are several options people get in such cases:

1. Try to get a Visiting Professor position (the best option of all these because it does not preclude the possibility of a subsequent tenure-track job);

2. Try to get a post-doc (a less appealing option because in the Humanities this is a position that brings zero respect and offers zero added value on one’s CV);

3. Get an adjunct job (the worst option of all because this is pretty much a professional and financial suicide with zero prospects. I would advise everybody to think very very carefully before embarking on the adjuncting path);

4. Look for employment outside of academia (it heavily depends on one’s personality whether this is a viable option. For some people, it is the best choice of their lives, while for others it is an unmitigated tragedy. It’s quite like getting married or having children: phenomenal for some and horrible for others).

My friend, however, is a very original thinker, so she came up with option number five. If her second job search is not successful, she will start doing a second PhD in a different field. Such a plan would have finished me off because I was as unhappy as a PhD student as I’m happy as a tenure-track professor. For my friend, though, this is a great decision. She thrives in the PhD program, travels constantly, has a very rich, fulfilling existence. So a second PhD means five more years of joy for her.

People are coming up with very inventive ways to address the problematic nature of the job market in the Humanities.

Talks With My Sister

Sister: You know, when I go out for lunch or drinks with my employees, they always fall silent and listen with the utmost attention whenever I say anything. Even when I say something completely trivial. And I have to confess that I kind of like that.

Me: Ah, now you get why I dig my job! Remember that I normally have more than six people shut up whenever I speak. And they also write down everything I say. The only problem is that when I leave the classroom, it’s hard to accept that people don’t shut up whenever I open my mouth and never write down every word I say.

P.S. Jokes aside, remember that everybody’s personality is impacted by their profession but people of the highly aggressive professions, such as teachers and doctors, have to be especially careful. Without regular and intense psychological hygiene, they begin to bring their aggression home.