Party for the Students

Students approached me to say that they wanted to organize a gathering at a restaurant for me because many of them are graduating and they want to do something to express their feelings towards me. 

There are 18 students altogether, and I thought that a restaurant is not a good idea because at a restaurant I’ll just get to talk to those who sit next to me while the others will not receive any attention. So I invited them all to my house instead. Of course, I announced that no alcohol will be served because, first of all, we never have any alcohol in the house and, besides, I don’t want to get into the whole checking of IDs thing, etc. And also, we all carry the baggage of our identity whether we want it or not, and a single beer at my place has the potential to transform into “a drunken bash at that Russian prof’s house.”

Back at Yale, we had this tradition where every last day of class took place at a professor’s house. And it’s a great idea because it allows the students to see the human side of the professor, which in itself is very educational.

Book Notes: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Title: The Girl on the Train

Year of publication: 2015

My rating: 4,5 out of 10

The Girl on the Train belongs to the category of trashy mega-bestsellers of the Gone Girl caliber. The “girls” in both titles are my age but the titles are not imprecise. These are not Bildungsromane. The adult protagonists live the results of the female development that pursues infantilization. The three female narrators of The Girl on the Train are not just infantilized. They are infants. These women refuse to reach at least the toddler stage and learn to form and retain memories. Their helplessness and neediness can only be compared to that of an infant. And the symbolic mother from whom they demand constant nourishment and comfort is, obviously, a man.

Men are needed to mother the infant-women but, at the same time, they are an object of intense rage and resentment if they fail to bring the nourishing tit to the screaming infant-wife the second she demands it. The men are all-powerful, mysterious forces who sometimes choose to torture the infants by keeping the crucial tit away. This process could not be more similar to the psychoanalytic description of the relationship between an infant and his mother’s breast. And, of course, the consequences of the breast staying away for too long are the predictable oral-stage traumas.

As trashy and devoid of any artistic merit as they are, these bestsellers are an important cultural phenomenon. The moribund Gender Studies programs could be reinvigorated if they started with a course on what actual women actually read, talk and care about so massively. There is absolutely nothing in today’s gender theory that would even remotely try to address the issues that preoccupy women today. Feminist theory (theory, not practice) has grown completely irrelevant to the majority of women. These bestsellers that I keep reading – in spite of their long-windedness, poor quality, and extraordinary repetitiveness – are enormously more valuable than the mountains of recent publications on gender that I study for work.

I can’t give The Girl on the Train more than 4,5 stars because the author is inexperienced, clumsy, and drags things out like’s she’s paid by the word. There is definite value in the book, however.

Pop-psyching Germanwings

It sounds like the Germanwings tragedy is about to be buried in a barrage of meaningless pop psych terminology :

Prosecutors investigating the Germanwings crash have said there were indications the co-pilot hid his illness from his employers.

If it’s a mental illness, you can’t conceal it. A person who is so crazy that he flies off his handle in the middle of a flight would manifest some symptoms before getting on a plane.

But the pop psych verbiage has entered the common usage and colonized minds. As a result, the employer did treat this malignant fellow as someone with an equivalent of a chronic common cold or persistent acne, and here is the result.