While that title may sound like a “bad” thing, losing time can be sublime. Yesterday, I continued my great quest for articles by and about Bharati Mukherjee (For those who don’t know: I’m teaching a class on Mukherjee this year to a group of savvy seniors, and Mukherjee will visit the school in January. I am very excited about this — as it has been a rewarding experience thus far; it’s like being a student again — reading texts with fresh perspective and little outside influence. And the students have such voracious responses. This is a teacher’s dream!) by going up to Northampton to the Smith College library. After my work was done and I visited several friends, I drove back to West Hartford (sniff, sniff) and listened to This American Life. This specific episode dealt with amateurs. In the final segment of the show, David Rakoff told of his experiences making crafts in his spare time. I may forget the wording, but he said something along the lines of that he forgets his life while he is working on crafts — he loses all sense of time. This was precisely the feeling I had at Smith yesterday, and many times previously.
Going the the Neilson Library, Smith’s main library, has always felt very at home for me. I spent many hours in that library during my years as a grad student and then as a teacher. During school breaks when I was in grad school — I seemed to get absorbed in one subject or another. The summer I got into Dorothy parker, I spent hours and hours in that library with old New Yorkers in my hands. I was so impressed that the college had every issue of The New Yorker since its inception. I read all of these old, original articles and tidbits by Parker. I also got into Shirley Jackson, and I looked up some of the letters to the editor after her story “The Lottery” was published in The New Yorker. Sometimes I get lost like this on Wikipedia — but actually being in a library, holding books and magazines, using the microfiche — it just does not get any better. I think the Smith library also has (for the size of the library) a decent size collection of literary texts — lots of literary criticism. I love that feeling of losing myself in the library.
When I was an undergrad at Bennington, I spent so many hours looking up random info and references in our library. I recall Friday nights hanging out with some post-baccalaureate students in the library: geek fun!
One of Rakoff’s points in his TAL piece was that when you do something for money, when it becomes a job (with deadlines, I presume), it takes that magic away. I can see how this is true most of the time. But for someone like Sujal, he still gets lost in coding. I get lost in reading and lesson planning, though I can’t say I necessarily get lost in grading. I guess we all fall somewhere on that scale.