Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Grad School Will Make You Crazy

I just read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. It's the second book I've read recently that switches between historical fiction and modern day, where a grad student is attempting to write their thesis. Eventually, the events of the historical fiction chapters end up becoming the subject of said thesis.

The other book I read of similar construct was My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield, which is about a lazy Shakespeare grad student at the University of California at Santa Cruz whose professor parents stupidly named him Will Shakespeare Greenberg and who spends most of his time smoking shrooms. The climax occurs when present-day Will eats an effing huge shroom and trips that he's gone back in time to the Elizabethan age at the exact same time that sixteenth century Will eats something mysterious from an apothecary and also goes into a psychedelic stupor.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was much more low-key. It featured an overachieving heroine and didn't try to claim the existence of drug-induced time travel. It did, however, claim that at least one of the witches of the Salem witch trials practiced magic and that magic exists to this day.

The novel was written by a current grad student and its insane plot, as well as that of the similarly structured My Name Is Will, led me to the question:

Is grad school really so horrific that students go crazy and start thinking the subjects they're researching actually exist?

Then, they realize that the thesis they've written is actually a work of fiction so they end up publishing a novel instead of a dissertation and have to remain in grad school forever?!

Because if that's the case, I kind of don't want to go to grad school anymore. Well, maybe I do because I'd love to publish a novel...but seriously, more and more fictional novels are being published by grad students.  And, based on the general absurdity of these two novels, grad students are really losing their grip with reality.

Besides that though, I thoroughly enjoyed both books. Especially My Name Is Will. Who doesn't love mistaken poaching and hallucinogenic jaunts amid pastures of manure?

20 New Things Update
Here's a few ideas I've come up with for my list of 20 new things before I turn 20:

Eat Indonesian food
Buy (and use) a fountain pen
See a concert in Glasgow
Read a nonfiction book all the way through

Just a few ideas. Suggestions more than welcome.


Kevin said...

Yes. Grad School does this.

CNE said...

I can tell you from my brief experience that yes, grad school does drive one to insanity. Although because I studied history it wasn't so weird that I thought my subject really did exist. And while I haven't written a fictional novel yet, I am working on it. So there's that.