I’m currently on the thirty-second of fifty-nine chapters, and I have about 25 hours to complete those remaining. This is my singular focus, aside from eating (and apparently writing this brief) for this time period. The following is what brought me to this sorry state:
- I sponsor book groups out of my other office. In essence, I bribe faculty and staff to talk to one another by providing a cheap lunch and a book, and then offer the support to organize the groups and lunches and ordering. It’s a sweet deal, even more so for faculty who are cheap bastards and will come out of the woodwork for free text and sustenance. I’m one of these bastards.
- I get to choose the books, more or less. I like to choose things that are redeeming in one way or another, represent authors who might be coming to campus, give us things to ponder about the nature of education, etc. I also will often pick something that I know would be good for me, because after all is said and done, this is what everything I do really revolves around.
- So I highlighted Great Expectations, because I’ve read very very little Dickens (all I can remember is reading Christmas Carol, as well as watching Karyn read Bleak House from afar — and watching Karyn read things is often as close as I get to substantive literature), and I thought this was probably criminal. I aspire to be a better person.
- Upon offering the book groups, an English faculty member piped up and noted, with her British accent and her respected tone, that this is her favorite book, and that she’d love to read it again, provided I, myself, joined in. Of course, I was planning to anyway, but since she knew this was missing from my personal canon of readings, I think she’s viewing this as an opportunity. An “opportunity” for what? I don’t know, but I suspect it could be anything ranging from a pleasant discussion to a teaching moment to public humiliation of a science educator. I need to be ready for any of these. Yes, I’m scared. Mostly I’m scared of embarrassing myself.
- Our book group discussion has been scheduled, many weeks in advance, for 24 hours and 20 minutes from now (which gives you some insight into how easily I can carve out time to even write this simple passage — I’m now nearly done and can get back to reading after only three interruptions, one of which was actually relevant).
And so I’m compelled to read, because I’m scared of my colleague and scared of humiliation. More than this, I’m so very fucking tired of not finishing things. So I’m going to leave everything else unfinished so that I may, myself, rise to some Great Expectations.* I need to get to the end (and I realize that there are two different endings) and to chapter 59 so that I can say I’ve read Dickens, so I can speak about reading Dickens, and most of all so that I can remind myself that I can, in fact, stick to an obligation. Having a British accent ringing in the back of my head, if that’s what it takes, is perhaps exactly the thing I need.
*Not yet knowing how these “great expectations” end for Pip, I don’t know if I’m being ironic, prophetic, or otherwise incidentally humorous. If Pip’s own great expectations end in some tragic event in which he’s berated in front of colleagues over a cheap lunch in the student union building, I’ll feel that much more connected to him.