Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 28


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; we got a new coffeemaker at the office. It’s a big red 12-cup Mr. Coffee. It brews 3x as fast as our old machine and the cups come out without the skunk of brewing pots for years with minimal cleaning. It’s got less character, more quality. I like it well enough. My favorite part is it’s got a function to brew ‘stronger’. It puts the same amount of water in the cup, so I can only assume it’s upping the pressure to get more out of the grounds. The cheap Maxwell stuff tastes a bit better this way. However, my colleagues have had the jitters.

A long, productive day. So long and so productive I don’t have much energy to talk about it. Instead, I’ll talk about English classes:

I read an article about how small colleges are cutting their English Major. There’s competing thoughts on this: some people moan, others cheer. Regardless, the courses are getting cut primarily due to lack of enrollment. The students themselves don’t want to bother with Brit Lit. And who can blame them? In an economy where it costs you more than a mortgage to get a degree – and where there’s no guarantee of a good job just for having one anymore – who but the inherited wealthy can afford to spend four years studying something with no economic value?

Thankfully, you don’t need an English Major to appreciate good English.

Here’s a secret – people read more now than at any other point in human history. By many magnitudes, even. Where once reading and writing were prized skills of an upper class concerned only with the luxuries of power, now everyone can read, more or less, and not thanks to school (which doesn’t teach you anything, take it from a former teacher) but to the preponderance of lives lived predominantly through social media. We read each other’s identities on the daily. We consume news, art and entertainment in 250 word bites.

Some might scream: where’s the grammar? where’s the spelling? Woe to the death of cursive! But whether they realize it or not, all those things – the normalized trappings of the English language – belong in a museum. A deeply complicated, darkly revealing museum about human oppression. Why do black Americans have a different dialect than the mainstream? Because their white oppressors wouldn’t let them read or speak ‘proper.’ And so on and so on, ad infnitem.

So what I’m saying is: there may still be some value in an English Major, but if there is one, it’s primarily as a historical study of insidious oppression.

God bless twitter. I ❤ u all

Novel Count: 31,808

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes


After three years of English at Cambridge, being force-fed literary theory, I was almost convinced that literature was all coded messages about Marxism and the death of the self. I crawled out of the post-structuralist desert thirsty for heroines I could cry and laugh with. I was jaded. I craved trash.

Samantha Ellis, How to Be a Heroine

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 23


Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; I think these beans have it in for me. On the second cup, I got the jitters. On the third, I was queasy. I spent the whole day not wanting to eat anything. My gut evacuated – bad news, best to get out of dodge. That said, the taste was fine.

I’m sitting ankle-deep in writer’s block. Or – I know what to write next, I just don’t feel like writing it. Instead, I’ll talk about something that bothers me:

Every other book I read feels artificial.

I won a copy of “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes at an open mic. This was months ago, I just got around to reading it. Before I get any further, I should say I’m only a quarter in. But that quarter left a sour taste in my mouth.

For those that don’t know, “The Sense of an Ending” won the Man Booker. Etc, etc. The story so far follows a group of friends through a private high school. They’re all eclectic, aggressively so. The writing takes simple scenes and puts a lot of wax on them. Barnes is always going on about something. It’s meticulous, literary, sort of impressive.

To me, it stinks. What truth is there in a bunch of prep kids talking philosophy and sneering at their teachers? Why are so many writers obsessed with asserting some kind of carefully constructed world-view?

Today, I did nothing. I sat and moped. I wanted to write but couldn’t. No-one was around. I played video games. I got groceries. When it was time to exercise, I drank two beers instead. There’s no greater meaning in any of that – just a drudgery. But damn if it didn’t feel inescapably real.

My favorite passage of one of my favorite books spends a long describing the inside of a Denny’s. It’s an ordinary Denny’s. It’s an ordinary night. The protagonist sits inside that ordinariness. And that’s it – no big revelations. What more do you need? The truth is this: ordinary life is the most strange, beautiful, sad, gripping, dangerous thing of all.

Novel Count: 30,740

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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The music playing at low volume is “Go Away Little Girl” by Percy Faith and His Orchestra. No one is listening, of course. Many different kinds of people are taking meals and drinking coffee in this late-night Denny’s, but she is the only female there alone. She raises her face from her book now and then to glance at her watch, but she seems dissatisfied with the slow passage of time. Not that she appears to be waiting for anyone: she doesn’t look around the restaurant or train her eyes on the front door. She just keeps reading her book, lighting an occasional cigarette, mechanically tipping back her coffee cup, and hoping for the time to pass a little faster. Needless to say, dawn will not be here for hours.

After Dark, Haruki Murakami