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Vag sat down with a book. It wasn't the first time he had ever performed that simple action, but somehow he hadn't found himself turning pages so frequently this year. He couldn't understand how the days went flipping past so fast. This week, for instance. He'd read three picture magazines, been to two movies, spent one evening at Wellesley, and frittered away three nights in McBrides, quietly getting drunk over discussions of sex with some friends.
This evening, Vag had decided, he was going to get something done. Something concrete. Something definite. He was going up to read a book. Something intellectual, he concluded, with a smile of self-satisfaction. No more of this time-wasting for the Vagabond. Tomorrow he was going to start rationing out his time. Every minute was going to mean something, something he could remember in years to come and say, "That moment I really lived. That moment I was happy."
The best thing was to start on something easy, just to break himself in to the routine of the thing, so Vag had decided on a novel for tonight. Something light and frothy but with a problem. His roommate said he had just the book for him. About Vassar. (Wonderful place, Vag thought. Must get up there and see that Daisy Chain lassie again.) Enough sex so as not to be boring, but serious withal. Just the thing for a flabby mind that was eager to get back into intellectual training.
Unfortunately, Vag discovered by the time he had reached page three, there was no sex at all. The book was about a young brightie who did all her work and some extra besides and thought she could write. She was so intellectual that she made Vag deucedly uncomfortable. She kept reading things like Andrew Marvell and the early works of Henry George. Vag had started "The Portrain of a Lady" once but he had given it up because the type was too small.
When this girl, this brainy fiend, wasn't reading she was talking about books and authors that Vag Knew nothing about. About James Farrell and Steinbeck, and W. H. Auden and MacNeice. (MacNeice? MacNeice? Never heard of him. But Steinbeck wrote "Of Mice and Men" and he had seen that in the movies.) About Dreiser and Dostoevski and Proust and Flaubert and Sterne and someone named George Borrow. Vag felt dumber and dumber. He hadn't known there were so many damn authors in the world he hadn't read. About Gide. Vag thought he was the bird who wrote the French 6 textbook, but he wasn't sure. About the young Radical Poets of England and Gerald Manley Hopkins.
A sobar, saddened Vag Closed the book and lit a cigarette. For three minutes he was silent, pensive. Then with one integrated motion he crushed the butt into an ashtray, tossed the book onto a table, and rose out of his chair. He crossed over to his roommate's bedroom.
"Hey," he said, opening the door, "what's up at the U.T.?"
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