Your English Degree

The Alleged Review wherein Ross Nervig reviews whatever he feels like reviewing.



You’re lazy. Let’s get that out of the way before we proceed. If you prefer an evening spent with a book, a joint, and a bottle of red wine to a young professional mixer, you are one lazy piece of shit.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, whether you’re ready to admit it to yourself or not. I bet you’ve had a few hard conversations with yourself in the mirror about this very topic. Those flecks of toothpaste and puke that surely dapple the mirror augur nothing more than more mirrors flecked with toothpaste and puke in bathrooms you’ll share with the same crazy drunken souls whose arms you’ll cry in and whose legs you’ll find yourself between because they’re probably English Majors as well and all the two of you can do to keep sane is drink beer until you feel like trash bags full of beer and bang the sorrowful bang of a couple beings who feel themselves too rare for a world that wouldn’t recognize this very sentence as the best thing this side of Faulkner if Faulkner mattered at all.

Let the knowledge that you’re having a better time than the Business Majors be a consolation. Cuz you are. You’re operating in an innocence that is exquisite. Those poor rational kids, those card-carrying members of the business fraternities, they understand the world and what fun is that? They won’t know the peaks and valleys of success and failure like you will, English Major, because nothing makes those peaks and valleys sharper than an existential crisis hanging like a storm in the distance. Savor that until about 28. Or 32. Never past 33, where as legend has it even the good Lord got tired of his son’s peripatetics and called him home.

Faulkner does matter. Because Faulkner didn’t give one shit about his job at the post office. He nearly ran it into the ground and he won the Nobel Prize. You’ll man one lazy post after another. Barista, Server at a diner, Server at fancy French restaurant. A teller at a bank. Bartender. Pray to an author photo of Faulkner that your talents don’t entropy in the ensuing years of cheap labor. And they will get you for cheap, my friend.

You’ll read Barthelme once saying (and I paraphrase): “I write because I am very interested in failure.” It would behoove you to make this your mantra and you’ll perfect a bemused expression when viewing the world. Become tough and prickly but easily broken up.

You’ll pick up and put down that How-To-Write-a-Novel guide during one of your countless trips to the bookstore where you’ll pass testament after testament of writers who are stronger-willed, more stubborn and more patient than you are. Tougher and pricklier than you are. Once the bookstore spits you out its revolving doors for the millionth time, you may find yourself doubling down on the rage and the entitlement you feel and actually write. Or you’ll watch a movie. You’ll probably watch a movie. You’ll tell yourself you need to watch this movie because it will inform your writing, it may even be the most important influence of your creative life! Who could argue against that?! I can’t! Am I doomed to only take pleasure in the narratives of others! Must I keep howling from this abyss of endlessly awesome movies!

Rail! By all means, rail!

The only words you’ve seen in motion this week are printed on the asses of sweatpants. It’ll be a thought you have. The faint reflection of your face in the bus window will travel along the facades of buildings and you’ll sit there like the beaten-but-not-finished protagonist of the novel you plan to write, waiting for the poetry to hit you. Maybe you’ll understand that you’re not seeing all the souls on the sidewalk for your face in the bus window. Maybe.






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Front page image by Derrick Tyson.

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