I'm at the luncheon following the morning's talks at the American Literature Association's Symposium on Naturalism. (More on the them momentarily.) I'm discussing 19th century evolutionary theory with two extremely bright graduate students and a number of professors.
We're discussing our work, and I'm enjoying not having to explain everything for once—I say Haeckel, they think ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; they say Weissman, I think de-tailed lizards—and the experience is beautiful. (To return to the previous metaphor: you shag the final out and you're jogging back to the bench, faking punches, slapping asses, feeling camaraderie.)
Only there's this feeling.
This recognizable feeling.
This familiar feeling.
But sitting at this table, having this discussion, I can't place it. So I ignore it.
This annoys it. It escalates its campaign from gentle prod to vigorous tap. This fails.
It soldiers on.
Only when ankle kicks turn to body blows do I pay it the attention it desperately seeks:
"Who are you?" I ask.
"You should be working on your dissertation," it responds.
I hate it. I really, really hate it.