Tuesday, July 31, 2018


When I was 25 and temping as a secretary in DC and worried that I had no brain at all, I decided to test graduate school waters and signed up for two courses at a nearishby university: a poetry workshop, which was kind of insane of me, and a feminist literary criticism course, which was scary, because I hadn’t been an English major—partly because I didn’t figure out in time that I probably should have been and partly because I have trouble remembering detail and plot points and thought I would fail exams—so I was intimidated to enter a graduate school classroom because what if it turned out I was brainless, but in the evenings, before the calendar caught up with the syllabus, Tim read Frankenstein aloud to me, so that when I read it, it was like a second read (I can’t recommend this enough, actually, and what a fucking amazing book—I still have that cheap Penguin Classics paperback from the class, all yellowed), and, as stated in Letter 1 to Mrs Saville, England, “You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprize which you have regarded with such evil forebodings,” for even though I was not brilliant, neither were some of the enrolled students, so I held my middlin’ own, and there was this woman in both my classes with big red glasses and an outsized gift* on whom I developed a fan-girl crush and we’re still friends, which is worth the price of tuition.

*I don’t mean to imply that she was all talent. She worked hard. But damn, she’s good.


  1. Tim must be a good reader. Not surprised.

    I'm seriously ashamed to admit this, but when I read "outsized gift" my thoughts went immediately to her bosom. Oops! Sorry.

  2. Outsized now, Susan, but not then!

  3. This is what kept me from grad school for so long. I was afraid I wasn't smart enough. I was wrong, which was a huge relief!

  4. Everyone's outsized compared with me. And Sally, you're clearly smart enough. But boy do I get that fear.

  5. Oh, the curse of women - the fraud syndrome. Sigh. I can relate.

    Also, now I'm curious - what was your major?

  6. I think I read Frankenstein, but I am not 100% sure.

    I, too, avoided thinking about grad school because I thought I was not smart enough. It turned out I was smart enough and I loved it.