I can't find my copy of Straight Man -- the book I thought I should be reading as a newly minted department chair. Instead, I picked up Richard Russo's 2009 That Old Cape Magic, which is less focused on university life but does feature a pair of outrageous but outrageously realistic English professor parents of the main character (who is also an academic, but a far less insightfully drawn one). The book has been an enjoyable read, but having read a couple of his books already and having read SM a couple of times, his obsessions with Cape Cod and people falling into bushes to create cathartic moments isn't exactly fresh.
What has made this read particularly fun is the trail of bright blue post-it notes left behind by a previous reader. On the dozen or so notes scattered throughout the book, this reader expressed doubt ("an endowed chair. Hmm."), asked questions ("are we hard-wired to think we're fucking up?"), offered some criticism ("predictably irrational"), rooted for some characters over others ("I agree with Joy."), and just plain reacted ("wow," "laughed out loud"). The note-writer found Russo's portrayal of marriage overly cynical and expressed disapproval that professors would "look down on lowly teachers." Seems like someone young, perhaps?
I resisted paging ahead to find the notes once I recognized the pattern emerging, but now that I am down to the final pages (which I am reluctant to finish since I don't have another pleasure read at hand), I did peek. Sigh. No blue sticky notes commenting on the ending... Did they like it? Did they find it a worthwhile read? Why did they read it? Did they mean to leave the sticky notes on purpose?
And yes, I'm considering adding my own string of comments throughout the book -- some responding to the text, some to the blue sticky note writer. I think it'll be fun.
2 months ago