This review of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Prince of Mist reminded me of how I once took revenge on a group of extremely obnoxious graduate students.
These students had a huge issue with the fact that somebody who was their age (and looked the way you saw in the photo I posted yesterday) and who had just received her PhD was supposed to teach them and grade their work. The topic of the course was the same as the topic of my doctoral dissertation that I had just defended. This meant that I really knew what I was talking about in class. The grad students, however, kept interrupting everything I said with exclamations of “Just a moment, I’m going to check on my laptop whether what you say is right!” I can’t count the number of times when I would say something completely trivial only to be interrupted with a sarcastic, “Really? Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure that Goethe wrote Wilhelm Meister,” I’d respond patiently.
“Wait, I’ll check it on my computer anyways,” the students would invariably say.
I got so tired of this constant struggle with the students that I plotted a revenge on them. Over the break, I assigned to them Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. Zafon is a bestselling writer, and I knew that my snobby grad students would be humiliated by the need to read a book that had been robbed of any intellectual prestige by its huge popular appeal.
“You want us to do what??” one student asked looking terrorized. “I’m going home for the break. I can’t have my friends see me with this book. They will ridicule me forever!”
“Yes, our profession demands certain sacrifices,” I announced gravely. “It pains me to assign it to you but our love of scholarship should be placed above our private concerns.”
A week later, students returned from the break.
“So did you manage to get through the book?” I asked.
There was a long pause.
“I have to confess,” one student said, turning around and glancing at the door to make sure it was shut completely and nobody could overhear his confession from the hallway, “I enjoyed it so much that I stayed up all night long reading.”
“Oh, thank you for saying this!” another student exclaimed. “I discovered that I literally couldn’t put this book down and thought something was wrong with me. I mean, I know it’s a really crappy book, but it was so enjoyable.”
After that, the students lost some of their former superciliousness.