Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

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Book Notes: Tana French’s The Secret Place

Teenage years are like the teething period of the soul. They are inevitably painful, and the uniformity of that pain makes them boring. Not everybody gets to hit their teenage years in their actual teens. Some people are terrorized into not even attempting to grow their own soul until they are 30 or 50. Or ever. And if you have to wait that long, the process becomes atrociously hurtful.

I hate reading about teenagers. A good depiction of teenage life is the most boring one. If it’s less boring, then it’s not realistic. The teenagers in Tana French’s novel The Secret Place are realistic but that’s what makes them so soporific. French is a good author but this is a subject that can’t be rescued. No matter what you do, it’s coming out just like the billion and one similar novels written before you.

Our Little Techie

Klara loves to play with the remote. Whenever she manages to do something with it – turn the TV on, turn it off, change the channel – she gets scared and hides under my arm so that I can hug her and reassure her that everything is good.

She also really loves cords. She only decided to learn to crawl when it became clear that she can’t get to the cords any other way. I spread the most enticing toys around, yet she ignores them and heads directly for the cords. And yesterday she found a very inventive way to switch off my desktop. She tugs on all the cords she can reach until she gets the camera cord. The camera falls and hits the computer’s switch off button.

Marital Bliss

On weekends, I get to sleep until 11 am. I have the best husband ever.

Single people: follow my example and never settle for anybody but the person who will be perfect for you. Every day of married life brings endless opportunities to grow to detest your partner, and only an absolute, dumb, gooey love for them will save you from that.


And she’s finally got a tooth! 

We went out to a restaurant to celebrate this momentous occasion. Klara loves going out to restaurants. She is so happy to be able to observe all the new people and new surroundings that she sits there, quiet as a mouse, requiring no attention or entertainment. We’ve been going out to restaurants with her since she was barely 2 months old, and there’s never been a problem. We know that we are extraordinarily lucky because a baby is under no obligation to be this kind.

Ideal Classroom Novel

This is what the perfect novel for a high school or a college will be like:

1. Everybody is a eunuch.

2. Nobody ever mentions any distasteful, unpleasant things such as racism, poverty, divorce, violence, species extinction, or disappointing weather.

3. In fact, nobody mentions anything at all because any topic has the potential to offend somebody.

4. There are characters representing all possible identity groups. It’s hard to integrate gay people into the story because, remember, everybody is a eunuch devoid of sexuality. Gayness should be reduced to parenthood because, as we all know, gay people who aren’t mommies and daddies do not exist.

5. The only  topic characters discuss is how important it is to respect everybody’s opinion. Since nobody in the novel ever expresses any opinions, that’s a very easy task.

6. The ending is very happy. And so are the beginning and the middle. 

7. Everybody speaks in clichés. Characters are convinced that perseverance conquers all and the sky is the limit. 

I’m sure we can find a few titles that fit this mold.

School Censorship 

A school in Virginia was bullied by an ignorant hysteric into banning Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird on the grounds of the novels being. . . racist. It’s clear that this person didn’t read either novel and is too intellectually limited to understand them (read the link for proof) but the school caved because nobody gets paid enough to deal with loud, obnoxious freaks like that. People are understandably ready to ban the alphabet if it allows them to avoid hearing more of these outlandish complaints.

The dumb hysteric in question is now proposing that a censorship committee should be formed to supervise the school’s curriculum:

The parent proposed a committee made up of parents and teachers of different cultural backgrounds come up with a list of books that are inclusive for all students.

Note how fast even the most simple-minded among us have learned to brandish the meaningless verbiage of Twitter politics: cultural backgrounds, inclusive. Now they will cudgel into obedience everybody whose worldview is more complex than this collection of silly labels.

Epsilon Is Really Tiny

Beware this, youngling professors — when you are a committee chair, you will do way more than 100%/N of the committee workload, where N is the number of committee members. You will do 100% – epsilon, where epsilon is an infinitesimally small number.

So true. As I discovered this semester. Being a committee chair is like teaching. You get to work while everybody else gets to lose their homework and forget to show up on time.

Protected: The Smile

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Baby Vanity

Klara learned to crawl. I’m trying to film her to show N but whenever she sees me point the phone at her, she sits up and smiles for the camera. 

Social Responsibility

An academic in my field – whose work I’m being told to use in my research, by the way – suggests that at the time of hiring professors should be judged not only on their teaching experience and research agenda but also on the “social responsibility” of their work. What is this but a blatant attempt at introducing censorship into a profession that is already censored to the gills?

We will truly police and censor ourselves into extinction one of these days.

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