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During “Scone” manuscript production, we (Greer and I) submitted a survey to a valid sample of critical theorists around the country on allowed narrative endings. We wanted to be sure “Scone” met current theoretical standards given that all fiction is actually written for the reductionist analysis. We also needed to contact a specialist on subtext to determine if “Scone” had sufficient metaphoric content, sufficient thematic development, and sufficient thing density, symbols, allusions, irony, and onomatopoeia. After all, we all know that Shakespeare wrote first for the scholars and critics and theorists.
Given that this is an academic farce, surveying MFA writing program administrators on the sufficiency of angst in “Scone” seemed necessary given only one use of the word “angst,” one dead character, and others that suffered slings and arrows. We also consulted other experts on end punctuation, embedded clause use, trauma theory, new historicism, old historicism, modernism, post-modernism, pre-modernism, pre-post-modernism, ecofeminist theory, Marxist theory, digital theory–especially on the digital negation of conclusion in electronic narrative wherein revision never ends. . . .
Notes collects 30 essays, articles, fiction, and commentary published by the writer who caused the governor of Oregon to yell at the Oregon State University faculty senate, the writer who caused Graham Spanier to yell at the chair of the Oregon State English Department for twenty minutes, the writer who did stand up to Graham Spanier, the disgraced and fired former president of Penn State University. Read “Spanierism at Oregon State University,” “Educating Joshua,” “Kill the English Department,” and other gems about the absurdities, inanities, and corruption of academic life by a writer praised by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Jon Franklin.
The observations run the usual gamut: sleazy administrators, bogus tenure, shady financial deals, arrogance, nepotism, cronyism, labor exploitation, union busting, grading games, football. Stuff like that. Wherever you have money and power blended, corruption is brewed. And a few names are named, such as Graham Spanier, the disgraced former president of Penn State, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, Saddam Hussein, Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, Princeton University, University of Massachusetts, Bryn Mawr College, and many others.
Comments: “Barry Roberts Greer’s ‘Notes from the Academic Underground’ illustrates the wisdom inherent in taking the long view of history, even those painful portions which trap us at their center. In Greer’s clear-eyed snapshots of injustice in the halls of academia, readers also glimpse gems of wisdom more commonly found in Greek tragedy. Perhaps, as in the case of Graham Spanier detailed in these pages, ‘a man’s character is his abiding fate’ after all.” –Jean Anderson, PEN Syndicated Fiction winner.
“Now I get Vladimir Nabokov with this passage: ‘These observations on the absurdities and inanities in higher education run the usual…'” — Bill Manville, The New York Daily News
Paper Graders brings together the work of highly accomplished writers and poets, among them nominees and winners for O. Henry, Ginsberg, Fulbright, Pushcart, PENN, American Academy of Poets, and numerous other awards. They have one other thing in common–being members of the academic underclass. The great Albert Shanker wrote the foreword shortly before his death.
Comment: “If the men and women who tell their stories in Paper Graders: Notes from the Academic Underclass were doing something of no importance, they could hardly be treated more carelessly, and even contemptuously, than they are in many U.S. schools of higher education. These ‘paper graders’ or ‘migrant workers’ or ‘academic gypsies’ or ‘comp dogs’ are teachers who are not on the tenure track. They struggle along on salaries that are a fraction of what their more privileged colleagues make. Many have no benefits or job security or even a desk where they can stow their grade book. ‘Yo-yo teachers,’ as one of the writers in this volume calls them, they can be engaged at short notice and let go without warning. And yet they teach courses that everyone believes are basic to a good education.
“But unlike many exploited workers, these comp dogs are not mute. They write poems and essays and stories about the injustice of their situation. They are understandably angry; they are also eloquent. This book gives us a chance to hear what they have to say. Many people will be surprised at the ugly realities behind the humane facade.” — Albert Shanker