8 feb. 2011

Breakfast of Champions

I don't remember the content of what I wrote about Breakfast of Champions in the 9th Grade. I'm pretty sure I drew on my knowledge of other Vonnegut novels and short stories. It was the work of a specialist in Vonnegut, more or less. I understood the novel completely because I knew all of his moves already. I'm not making any claims for this paper, because I no longer have it and couldn't back them up, but I remember how it felt to write the paper: I had mastered something.

I memorized Miguel Hernández's "Elegía" written for Ramón Sijé when I was in Spain for the first time, when I was 19. You know, the one that starts of "Yo quiero ser llorando el hortelano / de la tierra que ocupas y estercolas / companero de mi alma, tan temprano." Now, when I look at that poem, I understand every word. I not only remember it, but remember remembering it for the first time, parsing the syntax and figuring out each word. It has echoed with me for thirty-one years.

After I got back from Spain, the summer I turned 20, I read almost all of Galdos's novels from the 1880s and some from the 1890s. We're talking about 500-1500 page novels. Galdós published one a year on average during these decades. I innocently thought that every person I would be competing with in Graduate School would have read thousands of pages of novels. I thought I was doing the bare minimum! I also read most of Gabo, Cortázar, and Varguitas during my senior year, because at that point I was going to be a Latin Americanist. The "Boom" was big in those years.

When I got to Graduate School, I felt somewhat defrauded by the lack of seriousness in some of my colleagues and professors. Jean Franco, the big Latin Americanist there, could hardly speak Spanish and assigned three novels for an entire course. That's what I was used to eating for breakfast, a couple of difficult novels. Her entire comments on the paper I had written were: "Nice job. A-."

Maturity as a scholar takes a long time to develop, and it would be easy to go back and condescend to earlier versions of myself. Immature enthusiasm, however, is the real driving force behind all of this. If you can't get excited about it anymore, then it doesn't matter how well developed your metacritical language is. Breakfast is more important than dinner.

1 comentario:

Felix dijo...

Christ, you are one smart cookie.