Lesson Learned: Give the People What They Want, and What They Want is Butts

What my now-chastened troll army often laments is that I am a terrible voice for the academically marginalized, because all I write about is me (and I’ve been guilty of this since the third grade, during which I elected to write my own illustrated autobiography as part of a long-form language arts project, entitled Me, Me and More Me).

On this blog, that is certainly the case, because the very genre of the blog calls for self-obsession. Why else would someone self-publish hundreds of thousands of words with no regard to quality, if she did not believe in her very heart that her story was worth hearing? I realize that this is ridiculous, and I do feel somewhat embarrassed sometimes about the Secular Schumanism of this space in particular. However, in my actual paid journalism, the Schoeuvre is actually quite small, a miniature sub-minority of the Body of Work I’ve spent the past half-year cultivating as I rebirth my writing “career.”  The thing is, though, often the only thing people want to read are raw, screedy tales of my failure. Here’s a cataloging of the published fruits of 2013’s labor, in order from least popular to most.

Well-researched and pluckily upbeat articles about German literature, philosophy and culture:

  1. Don’t Ditch Deutsch (CHE)
  2. Kant Russian Gunfight Redux (Slate)
  3. Franzen/Kraus/19o0 Vienna (Slate)

90s-nostalgia personal essay:

  1. My Summer of Before Sunrise (Slate)

Pointed critique of academic labor system:

  1. Tom Friedman’s Vision of Online Oligarchy (CHE)
  2. Adjuncts and the Free Market (CHE)
  3. Bargain Basement BAs (Slate)
  4. Horrible Platitudes (Vitae)
  5. Dossiers With Dignity (Vitae)
  6. I Quit Academia! (Slate)

Me, Me and More Me:

  1. Thesis Hatement (Slate)
  2. My Academic Metamorphosis (CHE)
  3. My Calamitous Teaching Demo (CHE)

Hilariously juvenile butt pranks!!!!!!

As you can see, I’m trying to make a living here (though if you add my payment for all these up, it comes out to about $2400 total–$2300 if you count the -$100 for #ButtScan. I am incredibly grateful, but it’s hardly enough to support someone for 6 months).

It is quite obvious that if I want to begin surviving as a freelance writer, I will have to give the people what they want. And what they want–for better or worse–are stories of my failure/general shit-fits, and butts.  I hope that this changes as I write more, honestly I do–butt for now, I am destined to be known for my solipsistic work only. I do hope, very much, that even my most self-obsessed work as at its root an institutional critique, and in the coming months I will attempt to make that clearer.

OH, also, because there’s no other place to put it: read the latest from Werner Herzog’s Bear, a priceless takedown of the latest lifeboater claptrap.


7 thoughts on “Lesson Learned: Give the People What They Want, and What They Want is Butts

  1. Your solipsistic work is funny, insightful, and makes a silent but substantial number of people feel less alone in swimming against the current. Perhaps your audience just sees less common ground in German literature, and less humor and hope in abstract systemic critiques (maybe unfairly because you don’t know if you don’t read, obviously). But you could’ve picked a worse genre to hit out the park.


    • Thank you! Yeah, well, I’m hopelessly self-involved, so it works out well for everyone. However, I really want to help people. That’s what I strive for in all of my jobs. With my dissertation clients, that help is easiest to see–I see it right up close every week. With students, it comes in fits and starts, but it’s there. With my readers, every comment like this makes me know I’m doing something right, but I still wish I could be a little less Me Me and More Me and people would still be interested in my writing. BUTT, of course, nobody likes German literature, which is the entire reason I’m here doing this instead of teaching it somewhere! 🙂


  2. I found your blog through the Slate piece – “I Quit Academia,” and immediately subscribed to your blog. I completed my M.A. in a competitive, scholar-track program with every intention of getting my Ph.D, but as a first generation college student who thought college was supposed to be a means to moving up in the socioeconomic bracket not down, the ‘life of the mind’ seems too precarious a financial move (and this is only naming one problem). That being said, I read a lot in the “I Quit Academia” tradition – trying to find identification I suppose (as I still really miss it) and even validation that I am not in fact a failure for leaving. To me your writing is in the tradition of some of the best feminist writing – writing from a personal space as a means to generating and engaging institutional critique. But you have pulled me in with that writing to read your other writing…despite my once failed attempt to get through Wittgenstein. Also, the snark, I just love the snark.


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