I very much agree with what Jess wrote about your comments on Stu’s entry — this is a challenging time for the MIT admissions office, and hearing your thoughts, whether supportive or critical, is always enlightening.
As I wrote back in February, I’m reading three heavy-duty books in the class 21L.702 Studies in Fiction: “James Joyce and the Legacy of Modernism.” Joyce’s Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man were both difficult but possible to understand. I really enjoyed both of them, and am fairly confident that I knew what was going on in each book. I haven’t often feel this way at MIT, so I was enjoying it.
Ulysses is something else. It is the most formidable piece of literature I have ever attempted, and, not gonna lie, it’s been rough. Between the changing narrative styles, extensive vocabulary (250,000 words from a vocabulary of 30,000 words), and hundreds of jokes/puns/foreign phrases that require 700 pages of annotations, it is a monster to read… let alone understand. But enough complaining. I am in a superb lit class that is tackling this book, and I diligently take pages of notes each class to supplement my reading comprehension. All good, right?
Not last Tuesday, when I left my copy of Ulysses, along with my awesome notebook of class notes from Dubliners, Portrait, and Ulysses in the Building 4 Athena Cluster. I rushed out of the cluster around 5:15 PM when I got an urgent email, and forgot to bring my books with me. When I went back around 8:00 PM to pick them up, they were gone. Yikes.
On Wednesday morning, after a sleepless night (not kidding), I went to the undergraduate math office in the same hallway and asked if anyone had dropped off my books. Nope. I then left a short note in the unlucky terminal that said, “If you found a brown notebook or the book Ulysses, please contact [email], thanks!” By Thursday, I was pretty bummed, since I figured that if the person who took my books hadn’t contacted me within a day, they were as good as gone.
With my last drop of optimism, I turned to the Athena gods. My awesome friend Phil ’07 taught me the useful Athena command last. I typed this in on the Athena computer I had used Tuesday and learned the names of the last ~40 people who had logged in on the same computer. I emailed the following message to the 3 users who were there between 5:15 PM and 8:00 PM Tuesday
I left my copy of Ulysses by James Joyce in the bldg 4 Athena cluster, and I see you logged on after me. Did you happen to pick my book and notebook? If so, I'd be happy to come get it from you
I got some very thoughtful responses, like
Hi Mitra, I'm afraid I haven't seen it. Good luck
Sorry, I was actually in a rush to print something out, I didn't even notice anything on the table.
Sorry again! I hope you find it
At this point, I was beginning to lose all hope. Buying a new book wouldn’t have been a huge deal, especially since I don’t write much in my books, but the notebook was key. Then I miraculously received this email
Yes, I did! Sorry, I picked up the book and notebook intending to find out who owned them, but I got distracted. I have a big thermodynamics test today which has left me scatterbrained.
The test has got me jammed up today, and it would be hard for us to meet up. Can we meet Friday? Any time or place Friday is good for me.
I'm sorry for the inconvenience I've caused; I should have just left the books there and in all likelihood you'd have recovered them by now. Anyway, email me back and let's find a time and place to meet up and get/give back your stuff.
As you may have guessed, I was thrilled to get this email and am currently guarding my Ulysses book and notebook with my life. I am not sure what the moral of this story is, though I suppose it can be any one of the following: keep track of your stuff; learn your Athena commands; people at MIT can do great things for each other. Any others that I’m missing?
In any case, I’m off to reread and “Scylla and Charybdis” to try and figure out what Stephen Dedalus’s deal is.