Monday, November 28, 2005

Leading the children astray

Nawaz announced his intention to change majors from engineering to creative writing. I suppose I should be thrilled or at least flattered: after all, it was my suggestion.

But I also must admit to being a little troubled. The idea of being a fiction writer is infinitely more appealing than the life in practice. When I'm visiting colleges, someone eventually asks the inane question: do you have any advice for aspiring writers? After I smirk, roll my eyes or groan I usually respond by saying that they should give up the notion of success, steady income or ever having any of the stabilizing pleasures that most other middle class Americans take for granted. I tell them that they will probably spend most of their lives working at some job that they despise in order to buy time to write, either that or they will be living in the basement of their parents' home in suburban Cleveland until they are in their mid-forties, in which case masturbation will take up a bulk of their time. I'll also suggest that they try to marry rich, though unfortunately this is more difficult than it sounds.

But Nawaz was so giddy when he announced his intentions to me today that I decided I would hold back and let him bask in the glow of his expectation before breaking the truth to him. He isn't a bad writer. He's written some clever poems since he started working for me. One, about the recent earthquake in his home country, was so poignant that I pulled out my bank book on the spot and wrote him a check for fifty bucks (he's been collecting funds through the Muslim Student Assn.), my hand trembling as I signed my name. Only my dear friend Jesse Jackson, the master fundraiser, is able to shame me into parting with my wine allowance so easily.

Nawaz assures me that his father will disown him. He is holding out hopes that his fiancee will keep him, though. I will pray for this grinning beanpole who inhabits the stool in the corner of my office.

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