I was procrastinating from job applications and article-writing and general end-of-degree freaking-out-edness yesterday by re-reading Mary Stolz’s Who Wants Music on Monday. (I’m allowed; it’s for an article). Everything was fine and normal and Stolz-like until I reached chapter four, where Stolz managed to somehow encapsulate my entire undergrad experience (and a bit of grad school too) between pages 75 and 86. I was particularly surprised by the passages that seem to be verbatim transcriptions of conversations I experienced during my undergrad years.
(A little context: while the novel mostly focuses on two sisters, Lotta and Cassie, every so often the narrator flips over to describe Vincent, their older brother, who is away at college).
A wee sample of Vincent’s world:
In the second semester of his second year at college Vincent Dunne had only fitful, insubstantial ideas of what it was he wished to do or to be, of what he wanted from life, except to be happy–a sensible, reasonable desire, condoned even by Samuel Johnson, no casual condoner. (75)
Right, so, typical Stolz. A long sentence, lots of punctuation, a little name dropping, and some big words. LOVE it. But that’s only the introduction. Let’s move on.
“If my recollection serves,” Mr. Dunne had gone on that day, “you have now been a geneticist, an oil engineer, a metallurgist, a doctor, a psychologist, and a trial lawyer. All pretty high-sounding, all right. But what I want to know is, what are you going to be when you get your nose out of the air? And when’s that going to be? Do you think you have the rest of time to decide in? Or maybe you think I’m going to [send] you to graduate school? Seems to me you fellows go to school longer and longer, and if you ask me, it’s just to put off getting out and actually making your way. A bunch of ostriches calling yourselves scholars. You make me laugh.”
There was enough truth in that to make Vincent uncomfortable. Graduate school seemed to be becoming not the exception but the rule, and though he dared not mention it around home, Vince was pretty sure he’d have a go at one himself if he could figure out which one and if he could earn the money. That last he could probably do. Lab jobs, tutoring, summer work. He already, with his scholarship, earned part of his way just working summers. If he dug in and made a real go of zoo, some foundation or industry might even pick him up and see him through another two or four years of research. Dr. Vincent Dunne, the eminent zoologist. Or even Dr. Dunne, a zoologist. Was that what he wanted? (77-78)
Oh, Vincent. I know your dilemma well. (I think we all know your dilemma well). But it gets even better. Now Vincent’s friends, David and Enoch, get in on the action:
“I’m not sure I even know what college is for anymore. A corridor to graduate school? Doing what? Wasting more time? A plain B.A. doesn’t give you much of a leg up–and don’t ask me a leg up where because I don’t known–than a high-school diploma. And if it’s just a question of money, why not be a plumber or an electrician? Twenty-five hours a week and a pay scale like a Brink’s robbery. Half the time I think we’re going to college to work our way up to the lower-income groups.”
“Will you say that over again in different words, Professor?” said Enoch. “Your meaning got away from me.”
“If,” said David, “I were a professor, I’d be making less than a plumber. Clear now?”
“And you’re the guy,” Vincent said to David, “who said last week that you love college because where else would it be perfectly right and acceptable to read Plato in the morning?”
David shrugged. “I believe that. I’m being honest. You want me to be consistent too?” (86)
And the kicker to all of this? Who Wants Music on Monday was published in 1963.
Well, as they say in the Norway ride at Epcot, “you are not the first to come this way…”