There are a few people—two of them, notably, serving on the Program Renewal Committee at the University—who attach blame to our friends, regardless of the issue or complaint. Whatever the social concern, however obviously not related, those two are not satisfied until they bring the discussion back to what they sarcastically call "the sub-set."
Unfortunately, everyone is entitled to an opinion.
In my case, opinion is carefully tempered by meticulous research—not, I regret to say, experimentation or immersion, which would require sustained contact, but the careful gathering of remote observations, which, combined, render a glimpse or an insight into a highly specialized and locally adapted culture…
We know a good many facts about them, but these are the superficial trappings of a niche lifestyle—ephemera—according to the University. They won't fund any more projects on the subject. I have written hundreds of grant proposals. I now have to admit my work is subject to changes in fashion.
So—trivia—fine—I study trivial facts—like the dogs, or the use of dogs to portray a bourgeois invisibility. No one asks, but I think it begs the question: Why, and, why now?
These habits are an outward sign, a starting point, but they can't tell us the whole story. And the general public has a desire—the University calls it prurient—to know more. All the book sites—successful, reputable—are crammed with guides, manuals, and memoirs. I call this a market; the University calls it a flooded market.
An academic's whole life dwindles when his field of expertise is discarded from the curriculum. But I go on updating my catalog, out of habit, out of stubbornness. I don't expect to teach again, but I think my endeavors are worth noting, and documenting. To that end I need a space devoted to my archives, which, for the past eleven months, have occupied the basement of my home. Conditions are not ideal. For one thing, the electricity is sporadic. I intend to take a look at the wiring, but every glance into the clotted ruins of the basement sends me to the medicine cabinet, wheezing. I am allergic to mold…