An open letter to Mick White

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Friday, December 30
St. Paul

 

Mick, I finally read Professed and enjoyed it a lot, laughed out loud a few times, and learned about things I’ve never thought about, all to the good.

Tom’s narrative was fun for the Woody Allen-esque horny, inept, shleppy guy quality. But your people are all more real than Woody’s; his are always like looking in a fish bowl at a peculiar breed of Jewish New York exotics. Tom and Nelda and Emily and Camille and Barnes and Travis are funny for very different reasons (“the valorization of blondness in this society is a disease” vs. “knowledge of the feline Heimlich maneuver could be invaluable when coping with Ben’s digestive tract,” vs. “All you ever do is see them whining on TV. I mean, they’ve got casinos, right?” (Nelda sounds curiously like Javier 😉

Camille’s narrative was my favorite although it’s difficult to explain why. It’s funny, but where I laughed at Tom, I didn’t laugh at Camille. She made me laugh. I loved all the nuances of her character and the way she dealt with the others as critical older sister, indulgent ersatz mother, baffled friend, disappointed romantic, etc.

Travis was the most unexpected. Although at times he knows a little too much (“it was sort of like TV, sort of like the jail scenes in Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, but not quite…”), ultimately I loved his POV. It’s certainly the flashiest and most charismatic. He’s the kind of character Woody could never dream of, and he’s not only comic— he is The Inexplicable, the object against which everything else plays (IMHO) so it’s great that he has, in a sense, the last word (“I guess that’s maybe because all those other people don’t know enough to fucking care—?”)

But for me the real triumph is that none of them are played solely for laughs (well, Nelda… maybe… I’m  not so sure… ask me sometime what I would have done with her 😉 ). They are all up against the corporatization of education (a new concept for me I’m embarrassed to admit). They are all its observers, its critics, its victims, its antagonists. The corporate university is devoid of soul, the object of hate and dread and deadly irony. The animus is centered there. Each of the characters is suffused with a wonderfully unique humanity. You never condescend to them; you are never needlessly cruel to them; you open them up only to show us their incandescent cores. We may laugh at them, feel sorry for them, be shocked by them, want to slap them sometimes, but we never hold them in contempt and that is your stunning achievement in this book, I think. I have read many books where the author holds so much — sometimes everything — in contempt; or condescends to his material; or to his audience. But Professed is suffused with a generosity of spirit that makes the enemy — the corporate educational boogeyman — all the more heinous. Ultimately we can, in one way or another, “identify with,” or understand, or like, or cherish is some way, every one of these characters, just as much as we loathe, as they loathe, the big white elephant in the room that is sucking the life out of their lives.

Anyway, thank you, Mick. A lovely book, a lovely read. It was time well spent 🙂

Larry

 

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