ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, LITERATURES OF THE KLINGON EMPIRE
KOLOTH MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY--BAT'LETH BRANCH CAMPUS, QO'NOS
The Department of Klingonaase invites applications for an assistant professor in literature of the Klingon Empire, 0 CE-present. Applicants of any species must be fluent in all Klingon dialects; competency in at least one other relevant language (Romulan, Andorian, etc.) strongly preferred. Instruction at the university is conducted in tlhInghan Hol; universal translators are not provided. The applicant's responsibilities include a 5-5 teaching load; a strong research program in comparative imperial literatures; and service to the university, including regular battle drills and collaborative armor repair. Candidates may be asked to demonstrate their physical fitness during the interview procedure, as the tenure process normally requires extended torture with Painstiks. Salary is competitive--that is, candidates must compete for their salary, most frequently by unarmed combat with one of the Deans. Non-Klingon applicants should familiarize themselves with the local culture before applying, as attrition rates are often high, thanks to mortal injuries incurred as part of the everyday academic routine.
The Ba'atleth campus is nestled in an especially inviting village, close to several picturesque volcanoes and two major deserts. Although the village is physically isolated and civilians are not permitted to use the transporter, the region is noted for its culture, especially Klingon opera and touring productions of Shakespeare in the original Klingon. Local attractions include fire pits, combat arenas, and a variety of cosmopolitan dining options, including one restaurant noted for Klingon-Tellarite fusion cuisine.
Applicants should submit a cover letter, CV, three letters of recommendation, affidavit of battle preparedness (preferrably an advanced certificate of accomplishment in either phasers or swordfighting), writing sample, and philosophy of teaching to Dr. B'UckUp, Chair, by April 1.
VISITING ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, LITERATURES OF THE OUTER RIM
CENTRAL UNIVERSITY OF TATOOINE
The Department of Literature, Philosophy, Astrophysics, History, and Metalworking invites applications for a three-year visiting position in Literatures of the Outer Rim. The Central University of Tatooine is a post-New Republic institution, with a mandate to prepare promising scholars for careers in interstellar business, exoeconomics, and cyborg management. Our secondary concentration in Literatures of the Outer Rim is an optional track for majors in Extra-Market Commodity Circulation, an interdisciplinary program overseen by Literature, Economics, and Starship Navigation. Applicants should be fluent in at least three languages, although this requirement may be waived for those who can prove ownership of a protocol droid. Teaching responsibilities will include at least two sections of New Republic Literatures and Traditions per semester, as well as one section of Introductory Programming. We prefer applicants with at least some Jedi training (Intermediate Light Saber certification) who can defend the campus in case of Sith invasion. Although Central Tatooine does not offer tenure, employees do receive generous benefits, including all-you-can drink nights at the local cantina and full health insurance (loss of arms and hands not covered).
Despite its reputation, Tatooine is currently undergoing a cultural renaissance. The planet recently became home to the Gamorrean Royal Ballet, which won intergalactic plaudits for its new production of Pigs in Space, and the Astromech Color Guard and Rolling Band. The Central University was recently ranked 211,000th in Corellian News' list of intergalactic institutions, an improvement of nearly 5,000 places over a five-year period.
Applicants should submit an information chip, midichlorian count, and all transcripts to Dr. Reedic Ulouslang Uage, Chair. Interviewees should wear comfortable clothing appropriate for sudden sandstorms. Please note that air conditioning is rarely available on Tatooine.
ASSOCIATE OR FULL PROFESSOR, WESTEROSI CULTURAL STUDIES
CITY COLLEGE OF KING'S LANDING
The Department of Cultural Studies at the City College of King's Landing is pleased to announce a senior position in Westerosi Cultural Studies. (Please note that this position is open only to candidates who are not revived from the dead and/or wargs.) After the mysterious deaths of the previous twelve occupants of this line, we are eager to make a permanent appointment. Candidates should be well-versed in Westerosi popular entertainment, meteorology, blood magic, and contemporary politics (please see "mysterious deaths," above). We are particularly interested in scholars with a subfield in Boltonian aesthetics, for which there is additional travel funding; for some reason, our previous appointee disappeared near Dreadfort while conducting field research, so we would advise caution. Although the position requires no teaching, it does require the holder to maintain a rigorous program of scholarship, obtain outside grants, and represent the college at major events (e.g., weddings). Those who fail to perform their duties adequately will be sent to the Wall.
King's Landing, in addition to being one of the great cultural and economic centers of Westeros, also features unique local furniture and intriguing, if mysterious, cuisine. The climate is pleasant, although we expect a slight cooling trend in the immediate future. The political scene is especially entertaining, and subject to change at a moment's notice.
There is no pre-screening for this position. Please come directly to the college for an interview; bread and salt will be supplied on request.
Cats have long been regarded as ideal companion animals for academics: they are relatively self-sufficient, do not require regular walks, and spend long periods asleep--all of which enable academics to focus on their research, teaching, and service-related tasks. It is our contention, however, that living with cats in fact produces a skillset that can be usefully generalized to many aspects of today's academic working environment.
We differentiate between two primary types of skill: a) skills learned from cats b) skills learned by co-existing with cats. Our study will classify and evaluate the relative applicability of each skill to the academic environment, focusing on their respective cultural, political, and social ramifications. By the end of our study, we will better understand the practical importance of cat companionship to academics, and propose new targets for assessing the positive and negative effects of such companionship.
To our surprise, despite the presence of cats at all levels of the academic workforce, no study of this exceptionally important topic has yet been undertaken. As a result, we are free to forge new methodological ground in our pathbreaking investigations. We therefore propose a cross-sectional study, drawing on eighty-six volunteers from diverse demographics who are united by one thing: their longterm co-existence with at least one cat. This is a participant-observer study, as the grant applicants are all owned by multiple cats apiece. Data will be collected via interviews, questionnaires, and personal observation. To analyze the data, we will employ a multidisciplinary blend of empirical sociological research, statistical analysis, animal behavioral study, French feminism, and Derridean deconstruction. Although the grant applicants are all English professors, we have devoted at least three weeks' worth of study to each of these modes of inquiry, and are confident that we can deploy them with considerable proficiency.
Sample interview questions
1) Do you remove cats from chairs before sitting down, or do you opt for a different chair? Explain your reasoning.
2) Estimate, to the nearest HZ, the frequency at which you converse with your cats.
3) Describe how living with a cat has affected your home decor. Be sure to include such examples as carpet color, upholstery types, and so forth.
4) When a cat sits on your book, how do you respond?
5) Estimate your annual expenditure on cat toys, catnip, and treats.
Skills to be assessed: learnt from cats
1) Ignoring human communication. Potential applications: evading requests for grade changes and extra service assignments.
2) Sleeping at all hours. Potential applications: dozing off surreptitiously during long department meetings.
3) Demanding food at 5 AM. Potential applications: gaining favors from department chairs by nagging them early in the morning.
5) Staring at walls for no reason. Potential applications: producing the appearance of serious thought during exceptionally dull conference presentations.
Skills to be assessed: learnt from co-existing with cats
1) Sneaking up on cats to medicate them. Potential applications: introducing potentially boring topics to students by concealing them within shiny apps.
2) Being ignored. Potential applications: learning to be philosophical about the department chair's refusal to grant favors (see #3 above).
3) Effluvia avoidance. Potential applications: avoiding unpleasant departmental conversations about new office assignments.
4) Physical contortions to avoid disturbing cats. Potential applications: negotiating the space between door and desk in one's cramped office.
5) Spending more on the cat's needs than your own. Potential applications: discovering creative ways of using the department's pen budget to fund a wine-and-cheese party.
Participants will be asked to maintain Excel spreadsheets tabulating the frequency with which they use each cat-related skill, noting important results (e.g., whether or not the department chair retaliated for being nagged at 5 AM by assigning the faculty member to teach a Saturday morning course the following semester). In follow-up interviews, the practical use-value of each skill will be evaluated on a one-to-ten scale, with "one" indicating that the skill had no academic applications, and "ten" indicating that the skill worked consistently in multiple academic contexts. Our final report will then analyze the data utilizing a groundbreaking statistical method that melds quantitative analysis with the Greimas square.
Dissemination of final results
We expect to present our work at the 2015 MLA conference, where it will receive additional exposure from journalists looking for unusual titles. The tentative title: "Cat People or Pet Semetaries? The Discursive Construction of Relations between Cats and Academics in Upstate New York." We anticipate that an international publicity tour, including multiple daytime talk shows and a possible hosting gig on SNL, will ensue shortly thereafter.
New high-performance gaming laptops with HD touchscreens, to maximize ease of use while Skyping and to test feline aptitude for electronic media: $2000 ea/$10000 total
Weekly first-class ticket purchases to upstate NY, to maximize one-on-one access to subjects for the duration of the study: $1000 ea/$2600000 total (note: may be offset by frequent flier miles)
Luxury hotel accomodations, necessary to produce the correct frame of mind for conducting interviews: $500 nightly ea/$390000 total (note: may be offset by hotel rewards programs)
iPhones for each candidate, in order to enable ease of data collection and exchange: $500 ea/$46000 total
Dinner budget, to reward candidates for participation: $100 ea dinner/$8600 total
Deluxe catnip toys, for experiments: $5 ea cat/estimated $1000 total
Variety of high-quality cat food, for experiments: $520 ea cat/estimated $4000 total
This social constructivist reading of the Book of Common
Prayer is unusually slick in feel, and redolent of Judith Butler, but startling
undertones of Stephen Greenblatt and Gloria Steinem combine to produce an unusual
chocolaty aftereffect. The finish is
reminiscent of slightly undercooked green beans, but with an intriguing aftertaste not unlike parboiled Foucault.
Verdict: Revise and resubmit.
Although the multicolored hues of this new digital edition
of Eliza Cook’s poetry promise a cherry-like taste, somewhat akin to Lacanian
interpretations of Dickens, the actual result resembles nothing so much as a
combination of Ouzo and petroleum, liberally seasoned with pizza, and with
pulsing undertones of Pepto-Bismol. The mélange
of digital humanities jargon and New Criticism in the body is liable to upset the stomach,
rather like subpar Jungianism. Verdict:
This exceptionally fruity deconstruction of Emily Sarah Holt
has been nicely aged in the author’s hard drive, and thus has pleasantly warm
tones of circuit boards and Microsoft Office ’97, with a slightly tart
finish. Close attention to Lollards
provides structure to an article that, thanks to its potentially unsettling
infusion of Derrida, might otherwise lack body.
The nose promises a tangy tartness not unlike a sour
gumdrop. But the body of this Foucauldian
interpretation of Windows 8 is so acidic as to dissolve all tastebuds in the
immediate vicinity. Unpleasant tones of
spoiled milk in the finish merely clinch the final effect. May benefit from further aging. Verdict: Revise and resubmit.
As one might expect of a New Historicist analysis of
late-Victorian hymnals, the nose combines rag paper, leather, and just a hint
of active mold. It’s a little startling,
then, to come across an aroma of overspiced cranberry juice in the footnotes,
drifting across the more substantial body of dark chocolate (72% cacao),
cinnamon, and neo-Darwinian theory. Strong
notes of Lyotard in the finish make for an unexpectedly pleasant read. Verdict: Accept with minor revisions.
This article, written on a topic in which I specialize,
starts off well, with enjoyable, inviting aromas of slightly overripe pears, well-aged
Cheddar cheese, and a slight hint of triple-chocolate-chip cookies. But the article itself, which fails to
reference my seminal contributions to the field, entirely lacks taste. The ill-judged mix of Derrida, Irigaray, and
Bakhtin in the finish reminded me of unwashed socks. Read my work instead! Verdict: Reject.
PANEL OVERVIEW. Archaeologists excavating a long-buried physical campus in upstate NY discovered an Office in what they termed a "miraculous" state of preservation. They were particularly excited by the number of paper artifacts in the room, apparently in their original locations. The Desk proved to be of especial interest:
This panel draws on cutting-edge methodology in supramodern materio-textual studies to analyze the possible ramifications of this find for our understanding of academic ritual in the Late Postmodern period (granting, of course, that in recent debates over periodization, scholars have proposed that this era should be called Presupramodern, or perhaps -Postmodern, as opposed to +Postmodern). The panelists seek to undermine recent arguments that Offices were merely locations in which one could find academics, as opposed to sites of ritual contestation and spiritual identity formation. We believe that this panel will raise important questions for the further study of Late Postmodern Academic culture as it relates to the production of new literary spatiotemporalities (see J. St. Joking, Thinking in the Box: "Writing" in the Age of Gravity).
PAPER #1: "Piles upon Piles: Stacking Papers in Late Postmodern Offices" [R. U. Sure, West Moon Crater University]
I argue that Desks were uniquely productive spaces for Academic ritual subject-formation, involving as they did myriad opportunities for the creative disposition of materio-textual goods. Drawing on the recent theoretical interventions of W. Ayout There (How to Do Things with Material Texts) and Paul Eesestop (The Paper Men), I demonstrate the links between paper arrangement and recently-discovered ritual incantations ("Do the assigned reading!" "Study for the exam!") that hint at the tensions between the liturgical aspects of Academic spiritual life and more spontaneous modes of self-expression. In particular, I show that we must pay careful attention to this Desk's manipulation of vertical as well as horizontal space, especially the deliberate balancing of high and low stacks.
PAPER #2: "'I'm so blue': Parsing Bluebook Culture" [Knott Reely, Intergalactic Jupiter University--Eye Branch]
This paper calls into question previous theories about the nature of Bluebooks, which have been found repeatedly in Academic Offices. According to the Null-Belowzero Hypothesis, first adumbrated in How Blue Was My Valet and Other Academic Mysteries, Bluebooks were ritual offerings from Students to Academics, possibly sacrifices intended to facilitate good luck. More recently, Goode Idea has argued that Bluebooks were Student intellectual autobiographies, collected by Academics as testimonials to the power of their teaching. I, however, show that current advances in supramodern materio-textual studies conclusively demonstrate that the "writing" found in Bluebooks was an exercise in spiritual discipline required of Students by all Academics. By "writing," Students dynamically reconstituted their frequently-oppositional subjectivities in the more complex, yet possibly more hegemonic literary structures associated with Academic thought-production, and therefore elevated themselves to a spiritual plane now commonly associated with Type Three energy beings. Academics therefore kept such Bluebooks on hand as potent signifiers of Student transcendence.
PAPER #3: Booking It: A New Theory of Assigned Reading [Lou Minous, graduate student, Halley's University]
Is there any concept so mysterious to the supramodern mind as "assigned reading"? In our post-pedagogical and post-textual era, the function of "assigned reading" seems beyond baffling. Why would anyone undertake such an activity? What spiritual purpose might it serve? Building on the recent studies of the late O. H. Deere (e.g., Do It Or Else! Why the Ancient Ones Believe in Rules), I use the presence of Books on this Desk to investigate the performative aspects of ritual reading in Late Postmodern Academic culture, emphasizing the transformative potentialities of reading for both Student and Academic practitioners. Paradoxically, archival research on newly-discovered caches of electronic communications suggests that "assigned reading" may have had its most powerful effect on Academic spiritual development when Students did not do it. It is my contention that the various testimonials to unread "assigned reading" left by Academics, some of which achieve a remarkable rhetorical force and vitality unequalled in other fields of Academic prose, demonstrate that meditating on this phenomenon led Academics to formulate new modes of Being and, perhaps, Higher Thought.
This blog has existed at Typepad for a decade, and had a brief existence at Blogspot prior to that. After so long, it's time to change things up a bit. Renovate the joint. Offer my readers a new! thrilling! and stimulating! experience!
Thus, I take this opportunity to announce a new focus. Academic consultants of one sort or another are becoming increasingly the rage, I find. Never one to miss out an a potentially lucrative opportunity--after all, that's why I'm an academic, right?--I am jumping aboard this particular bandwagon by offering something many academics admit, with some fear and trembling, that they truly need.
I speak, of course, of fashion advice.
Now, by "fashion advice" I mean nothing so dull as recommendations that you vary the uniform of basic black with basic navy. Instead, I propose something a bit more innovative, more cutting-edge, more likely to amaze your students and colleagues. Let's call it "synecdochal fashion." For example:
Let's say you're teaching Dracula.
Now, I can't say that I advise coming to class tricked out in full Bela Lugosi gear. The key here is to discover which part of Dracula adequately figures the whole, and then incorporate it into your outfit. And that part would be...?
My fees, I hasten to add, are reasonable: one hardback from Cambridge or Oxford UP per consultation. Just imagine the look in your students' eyes! The response from your colleagues! The comments from the dean during your tenure process! Results guaranteed.
HOUSE STYLIZE. Reformats entire manuscript to suit publishing house style. Roll a D12 Citation Check if the manuscript needs to be changed from Chicago to MLA format, or vice-versa.
SPELLCHECKAZAM. Ensures that both the word and the spelling are correct. May be blocked if Microsoft Word successfully casts a counter-spell of GOOD MANORS.
BLOCK PROCRASTINATION: Denies the user access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the spell's duration. Does not protect against spells of BARHOPPING or MOVIEGOING.
NO DOZE: Protects the user against spells of BOREDOM cast by the MALEVOLENT class of MANUSCRIPT MONSTERS (see Rules, 58th ed., for more information). Has the same effect as drinking a +3 CUP OF JOE (usually found only on COFFEE SHOP LEVELS). However, the spell has a 20% chance of misfiring, in which case it will instead DAZE the user.
1st-LEVEL PROOFREADING SPELLS
SUPERSTET: Automatically STETs all changes to the user's prose style. Despite its low level, this spell should only be used by PROFESSORS of Level 15 (ACADEMIC SUPERSTAR) and higher, as it frequently results in a -25 penalty to PROFESSOR-COPYEDITOR RELATIONS.
PARENTHETICIZE: Transforms any style into MLA format; may be useful in conjunction with HOUSE STYLIZE, above.
BIBLIOGRAPHY CHECK: Matches all bibliographical entries to the appropriate data in the user's discipline-specific databases. Interdisciplinary users must roll a D20 Transgressing Boundaries check in order to obtain results in more than one field; otherwise, there is a +5 chance of EMBARRASSING ERRORS.
FLOATING TEXT: Particularly helpful to users working on scholarly editions. The spell creates a hologram of the copytext, which can be laid on or next to the user's own manuscript.
2nd-LEVEL PROOFREADING SPELLS
DETECT BRILLIANCE. Identifies scintillating ideas in need of further clarification. However, users who fail a D12 Spot Obfuscation check will add +10 to any REVIEWER's resistance rolls.
ACTIVATE. Translates all sentences in passive voice to active. Must be used with caution, as the spell will work even when the sentence would make more sense in passive voice.
OKEYDOKEY: Accepts all COPYEDITOR's stylistic changes to the manuscript, with a temporary bonus of +10 charisma points to the user. Many PROFESSORS find themselves incapable of casting this spell.
NUMERACY: Automatically fixes errors in page number references. Especially helpful when used in conjunction with BIBLIOGRAPHY CHECK, above.
3rd-LEVEL PROOFREADING SPELLS
PROJECTION. Telepathically conveys the PROFESSOR's original intentions to the COPYEDITOR. Highly advisable if the PROFESSOR is utilizing a BLESSED PEN OF JARGONIFICATION (q.v.). Unfortunately, this spell does not work on REVIEWERS.
GO TO LIBRARY. Teleports the PROFESSOR to whichever library holds a rare reference which s/he transcribed a dozen years ago, and now has doubts about. PROFESSORS not yet experienced enough to use this spell should contact someone capable of SUMMONING LIBRARIAN. Users must roll a D6 Shelf Check to see if the reference is still available. There is a 15% chance that the spell will misfire, sending the user to the wrong library.
FOOTNOTE FRENZY. Wherever possible, adds references to works by PROFESSORS at LEVEL 10 (BIG NAME)
or higher, even if the works in question are of only limited
relevance. A double-edged spell: if the spell succeeds, it adds +10 to
the user's charisma, but there is a +5 chance that a REVIEWER may counter-attack with an ACCUSATION OF BROWN-NOSING (q.v.); if the spell fails, there is a +10 chance that a REVIEWER will fire a ROCKET OF HIGH DUDGEON (q.v.). Interdisciplinary scholars have a +30 chance of failure.
SPELL NAMES. Automatically corrects all misspelled names in the text. Failure to cast this spell may, at the very least, result in a sneak attack by a SHADOW OF HUMILIATION (q.v.). If the user does not cast the spell, or the spell fails, roll D10 to check whether or not one of the misspelled names belongs to a REVIEWER.
I am currently teaching James Malcolm Rymer's (er, maybe) Varney, the Vampyre. And, of course, I am teaching Sherlock Holmes. Rymer's prose style sets new records for word inflation. Although his paragraphs are usually quite short, his characters engage in meaningless dialogue, repeat themselves (and other people) endlessly, and inject vapidities everywhere, all in the name of getting each installment to the right length. Conan Doyle, by contrast, is most economical with his language. The Rymer/Conan Doyle combination on my teaching schedule has led me to contemplate a proposition that may or may not be brought on by delirium: how would Rymer have written The Hound of the Baskervilles? I offer a sample below.
My dear--very dear--quite precious, in fact--friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes--he of whose exploits I have written in many a narrative, which you may purchase at the nearest bookstall to peruse amidst the noise and bustle of your railway commute--my dear friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, as I was saying, who normally slept the sleep of the dead until all hours of the day, unless he he had burnt the midnight oil and thus remained awake until the glorious sun's rising heralded the dawn, was eating toast and jam. I, who lacked toast and jam and, in any event, preferred marmalade, contemplated the cane that lay before me.
"It is a cane," said Holmes.
"Your thoughts?" Holmes inquired.
"About the lack of marmalade?"
"True, I had deduced that you were displeased about the marmalade by the peculiar shifting motions you were making with your feet. But I meant the cane."
Holmes sighed. "The cane."
"I believe it has an owner."
"Its owner is a doctor."
"A wealthy and highly-vaunted doctor."
"Amazing. A wealthy and highly-vaunted doctor?"
"A wealthy and highly-vaunted doctor."
"You are brilliant."
"Finally, you agree!"
Holmes smirked. "Pray continue."
My self-love now considerably inflated, I continued. "He is fond of perambulation."
"Thank you, Watson," Holmes said, rolling his eyes, "the word is in my vocabulary."
"As the engraving upon the cane attests, our doctor has been gifted this fine cane from the local hunt, which no doubt appreciated his skill in patching up the broken heads of its members."
Holmes arched one fine eyebrow, stretched out an immaculately-trousered leg, and tapped his right index finger against the table, thereby dangerously jostling the toast and jam. "Watson, you have out-scintillated yourself on this fine morning. I am impressed. Impressed, I say. Impressed!"
"I am glad to hear it, Holmes. Glad. Very glad."
"You are, of course, three-quarters in error, but I am impressed, all the same."
"I am glad--wait, three-quarters in error?"
"Not two-thirds? Or perhaps one-half?"
"Neither two-thirds nor one-half."
I deflated. Manly tears sprang to my half-lidded eyes. I turned away, weeping, and attempted to console myself by smashing Holmes' pipe-rack to the ground. Holmes, no doubt distraught at the loss of his pipes--a calabash not among them, despite the wicked misrepresentations of that mountebank William Gillette--nevertheless sprang to my side with offers of coffee, fresh eggs, and toast and jam (but no marmalade).
"No, no, Watson--no--no! Forgive me--forgive! I meant not to cause you such stabs of pain."
I sobbed incoherently.
"Watson!" Holmes cried, nudging with one booted foot at the shattered remnants of his treasured smoking paraphernalia. "Watson!"
My skin paled. I swayed, then swooned to the ground, overwhelmed. My chest heaved--my eyes closed--my heart hammered. Dimly, I heard the rustling sounds of our good landlady's skirts, before I was revived by a wholesome splatter of marmalade across my face...
You are sitting at a desk. In front of you, there is a laptop computer with an internet connection. To the NORTH, mirrored closet doors reflect your angsty expression. There is a window to the EAST. A closed door is to the WEST.
There are seven hundred pages of ROBERT ELSMERE here.
You are unable to open the door.
The window is shut, and ROBERT ELSMERE keeps it.
>this is not LOTR
No, but it's in the spirit of the thing.
You begin to watch ballet videos on YouTube. Suddenly, the connection fizzles out with a sharp CRACKLE. A MYSTERIOUS NOTE appears on your screen.
>read mysterious note
"This is the voice of your all-powerful publisher. Proofread Robert Elsmere immediately, or you will be cursed to spend all eternity correcting OCR errors."
>read ROBERT ELSMERE
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find a MISSING COMMA.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find an UNNECESSARY COMMA.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find a MISSING COMMA.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find an UNNECESSARY COMMA.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find a MISSING COMMA.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find SOMETHING THAT LOOKS ODD.
Yup, that was odd.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find an INCORRECT SEMI-COLON.
I'm sorry, I don't understand.
You are on page three.
Have you seen a doctor about your blood pressure?
For some reason, Firefox refuses to let you access Twitter. You'll just have to continue proofreading.
Sorry, there's no chocolate here. Just keep proofreading ROBERT ELSMERE.
What exactly was that supposed to accomplish?
For some reason, you hear a hollow voice say, "Plugh."
>read ROBERT ELSMERE
There are six hundred and ninety-seven pages of ROBERT ELSMERE here.
You read ROBERT ELSMERE. You find a MISSING COMMA...
My first impulse was to describe Adam Roberts' I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas as a "charming concoction." Except that the book has multiple graphic incidents of various people having their faces chewed off by zombies, which I suspect most readers would not find charming. Impaled, blasted, and bludgeoned zombies are probably also low on most charm meters. And yet...despite the zombocalyptic goings-on, this novel's essentially lighthearted approach to its blood-and-guts (OK, brain-and-guts) subject matter is, well, charming.
Strictly speaking, the entire genre of zombie/vampire-and-classic lit mashups qualifies as undead literature, and not just because of all the bloodsuckers and brainsuckers shambling about: these are works purportedly re-animated by injections of gore, but the result is at best a Frankenstein's monster (minus any acquaintance with Goethe and Milton). Not, of course, that the new soft porn-and-classic lit mashups are any less undead. In any event, Roberts' brief novel--which, not incidentally, is a new work, not Dickens with zombies erupting at random intervals--parodies this trend instead of playing it straight. As in many of the mashups, the often-digressive narrative traces how our hero, Ebenezer Scrooge, discovers his destiny (or Destiny) as a dreaded slayer of zombies. At first, Ebenezer is convinced that the lesson he's supposed to learn is one of charity to all mankind: "'I have been a miser and a misanthrope--I have sealed myself away from human company. But I shall do so no longer'" (62). Except that, as it turns out, charity is precisely the last thing needful under the circumstances, given the true nature of his mission. (Indeed, charity is also what gets the Cratchits yearning for brains.) Instead, Scrooge must learn why he's the only human being immune to zombification, which also unlocks the secret of Ni Timh, or Tiny Tim, who is neither tiny nor in the habit of requesting God's blessing on everyone. However, his crutch does make a useful tool for spiking zombies.
Roberts actually is a Victorianist, and the novel has good gory fun poking holes in nineteenth-century literary and cultural cliches. Given that the only way to deal with meandering zombies is to do them in, the novel as a whole mocks Victorian calls for mutual sympathy and identification as the best means of pacifying the impoverished lower orders. The entire narrative, after all, is about society quite literally eating itself; it's not for nothing that Marley pops in not as a ghost, but as a zombie out to nosh on Scrooge's brains. No posthumous moralizing there. (My students, who recently had to suffer through an excerpt from Past and Present, would probably cheer at Thomas Carlyle's decapitated head being toted down the street.) Similarly, Scrooge's nephew Fred, who turns out to be a self-aggrandizing twit, is a mashup in his own right of Victorian conservatism in matters both political (he reads the zombies in terms of property-smashing radical mobs) and domestic ("'this, our home, is as good as a castle'" ). For that matter, Scrooge's belief in his zombie-motivated redemption--"'this Zombie Catastrophe has been the making of me, as a man'" (96), he explains to a soon-to-be zombified Charles Dickens--seems more than a little callous, requiring as it does the extermination of a considerable proportion of the human race.
Quite a bit of the humor comes from the galloping anachronisms and literary call-outs--beginning with the title, which pays homage to Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (which I know only in outline, but I Am Scrooge's basic plot does seem to be a Matheson/Dickens mashup--as the complaint about Will Smith in the preface suggests). At various points, the novel lurches into steampunk and/or H. G. Wellsian science fiction (Wells, like Dickens, puts in an appearance). I was pleased to see that Roberts is about as irritated as I am with Jack the Ripper's omnipresence in neo-Victorian fiction: that gentleman not only appears (gussied up with several Jack the Ripper conspiracy theory details), but, more importantly, gets promptly chomped by a zombified "victim." Of course, Jack shouldn't be wandering about in 1843, and neither should John Brown (the Queen's favorite Scot, not the abolitionist), but hey. Alert readers will catch allusions to, among other things, The Pirates of Penzance, Dr. Who, Shakespeare (Christmas Past has a thing for cod-Shakespearean iambic pentameter), W. B. Yeats, The Wizard of Oz, Stephen Hawking, John Tenniel (the illustration of Queen Victoria comes from this caricature), Edward Lear, and quite a few others I'm sure I've missed here. (The final explanations of what Christmas is really all about, by the way, sound suspiciously...academic, dare one say.) Overall, a fine antidote to books like this.