Perennial in the face of catastrophe

A student has just sent me an email apologizing for missing his assignments this week. “I lost focus on some of my classes,” he explains, addressing me by name.

But he isn’t my student. I’ve been retired for a year. Exegi monumentum aere perennius, sings Horace, confident that genre is forever: “I have built a monument whose bronze is everlasting.” For Horace the genre is the ode. For students it’s the excuse.

Allegory carved in eternal wood

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47da-4051-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.wG

“The illiterate is as a blind man. Failure and unhappiness await him everywhere.”

Russian Revolutionary Era Propaganda Posters, Harold M. Fleming Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-4051-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. Artist: A. A. Radakov. Published 1920. Photoshopped. The big word in the bottom margin translates as “Books,” but I can’t make out the rest of the text.

Under the Trump administration, librarians will get the respect they deserve

Russian Revolutionary Era Propaganda Posters, Harold M. Fleming Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-4027-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. Artist: N. Pomansky. Published 1919. Photoshopped.

The headline reads, “Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Workers of the world, unite. Day of Soviet Propaganda.” The caption reads, “Knowledge for all!” The four books behind the librarian’s peasant-booted right heel are titled History of Bondage (or History of Serfdom), Socialism, Capital, and Class Conflict, and the book behind his left elbow is titled History. The names on the pediments of the buildings are University, Academy, and Library.

On his weekends, the English professor reads the Daily News

And there, on February 19, 2016, he reads the headline, “Martin Shkreli really is a bad boy of pharma, government argues.” The text by Daniel McDonald explains that the hedge fund guy Martin Shkreli, a middle-aged white man who dresses like a teenager and talks like a gangsta rapper, is being accused of witness intimidation.

But because Mr. Shkreli is already under indictment, he has an advocate.

Reading the advocate’s email in defense of his client, the English professor uncaps his red pen and goes marginal.