On Sunday afternoons, Village cafés are packed with laptop-wielding college students, horn-rimmed twentysomethings typing analytic essays at a frantic clip. Carelessness is a facebook memory; the time for procrastination has ceased; the time for literary procreation (or, bullshitting) has just begun.
I remember such Sundays well, if not fondly. My housemate and I would trudge to a State Street café and plop our books dutifully onto an open table, hoping to claim a four-person booth for ourselves. Felicity read Tolstoy for a Winter semester that seemed to last for ages; I plodded through a 10 lb. hardcover on literary theory. By Monday morning, we were meant to brandish well-informed, cleanly typed analyses of our respective reading materials.
I was a shade of Sylvia Plath by the end of my college career, mostly due to the heartburn incurred on such grief-filled Sunday evenings. By 9pm, I could be found lazily eyeing a dauntingly thick packet of unread manuscript; feet extended across the well-worn leather of a booth cushion; nursing a bag of potato chips; contemplating the purchase of a chocolate bar; reasoning the nihilistic attitude I felt towards my college education.
Literary analysis is bullshit. What is the worth of such pretentious bullshit in the greater context of society, anyway? Words are just formalities, placeholders for purely mental concepts. I haven’t even read the novel assigned. The less words I’ve read, the further removed I am from the author’s literary concept; the further removed I am from the author’s literary concept, the less informed my mental conception of the novel will be. The less informed my mental conception, the more obscure my written analysis will be. The words, the concepts…everything becomes diluted. Literary analysis is an exercise in futility; you inevitably understand everything less, and less, and less. And if literature is a metaphor for life then, life, too is futile…
My misanthropy was my own fault; I never did a stitch of reading until 5pm on Sunday. Still, it was a kind favor that I didn’t read Nietzsche until my senior year of college; had I understood literary theory any sooner, I would have dropped out of school.
(And if I didn’t currently have my B.A., I wouldn’t be where I am today, feeding bananas to a 2 year old and washing dainty stirring spoons at a café in Alphabet City, envying the neighborhood college students who aren’t yet pressured to prove their social utility...)