More Chirbes

The second volume of Rafael Chirbes’s Diaries came out. As I wait for my copy, I’m rereading the first volume. This is giving me so much pleasure that I keep looking around in case somebody sees me in the grips of an almost indecent kind of enjoyment.

I decided to write about this book. There won’t be a word about neoliberalism or the nation-state. I will talk about how Chirbes created a completely new kind of novel in these “diaries.”

Of course, in the meantime, I’ll drive everybody nuts with my gushing about this book. All of the terrible things that happen in the world, the wars, the suffering. And this one guy, sitting alone in the tiny town of Beniarbeig, expiated an enormous portion of our human badness with his writing.

Milky Juice

Who pours milk into orange juice and for what purpose?

People are very strange.

Inflation Lessons

My sister in Canada announces happily, “I discovered a great new method to save on groceries!”

“What is it?” I ask eagerly.

“You have to look at the price before buying!”


“And nothing. That’s the method.”

We are the kind of people who even when we were poor never looked at food prices. Food is sacred. We get what we need and forget about it. But grocery prices are so wacky these days that even we learned to become observant.

Useless Degrees

Each semester I’m offered the services of one or several undergraduate students. University pays them, so it would cost nothing to my department. Students can help with research, do office work, anything I need.

I tried it out a couple of times but based on what I saw I now always refuse. I don’t want their help even for free. Trying to explain what I need and micromanaging hurt feelings is so burdensome that I’d rather do the work myself. And this is after they’ve been with us for a couple of years.

This is why I completely understand companies that don’t want to hire without a college degree. In college, we discipline their minds at least a little bit. By Senior year, they mostly start recognizing authority, stop complaining about their complex emotional states, learn to affect cheerful, calm demeanors in professional settings, stop seeing any adult as a substitute mommy, figure out that “hey!” is not an appropriate greeting in a professional email, learn to sign their correspondence, and even sometimes manage to follow a list of instructions containing 3 different items as early as on their third try.

By the time they graduate, many of them turn into people I’d hire. But in the Freshman year, I wouldn’t hire any of them unless somebody provided me with funds for my subsequent psychological rehabilitation.

Quote of the Day

“I had a phrase I kept repeating in my head over and over again, which was, ‘Tonight, I will be in my bed. Tonight, I will be in my bed. Tonight, I will be in my bed.’ . . . It was something I repeated to remind me that the pain of what I was going through was temporary and that, no matter what, at the end of that day, I would be in my bed that night.”

Tim Ferris, Tools of Titans