I had originally scheduled us to do Stranger than Fiction, but by time it came around, I just didn't want to do that film. As much of a mixed bag as Mrs. Parker ends up being, it is far more meaty than the rather slight STF. I think the students would have preferred the latter; when I announced the change, one student joked "okay, we're not friends anymore," but she brightened considerably upon the realization that she could now write on that film for her final paper. Normally the students leap onto Blackboard to begin discussing the films even before they end, but so far only one student has posted on this movie, although we finished watching it yesterday.
But it's Dorothy Parker! and the Algonquin Roundtable! Parker is amazing and her ability to skewer is unparalleled in American culture. We don't appreciate wit in this country. We consider humor too lightly. Under her jests, however, there is a steely critical eye, unerring in its judgment:
Say my love is easy had,
Say I'm bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad--
Still behold me at your side.
Say I'm neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue--
Still you have my heart to wear.
But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!
The Algonquin Roundtable has always represented for me the idea of what it ought to mean to be a writer: to be part of a lively, witty and endlessly inventive group. I have always yearned to be in that kind of milieu this hotel evokes (Vonnegut's memorial was even held at the Algonquin). I feel moments of that sensation with our pals in CT, and there's our local roundtable every Tuesday at Mahar's (ironically, not with the English department folks, but with the History and Political Science crew), but no reality can live up to the romantic notion that got fixed in my head all those years ago. It's no more "real" than Homer's drunken party recollection of a similarly erudite gathering, but it persists in my head.
That's part of what the class is about: examining all the romantic notions we tie to the idea of being a writer. Yes, we do always teach classes where we hope to learn something. I don't know how much I'm learning -- I do have an awfully sharp group of students -- but I am thinking.