Tuesday, January 29, 2013

either a publicity stunt or a symbol of manifest destiny

1. My publisher emails to say that author copies of The Astrologer are on their way to my house from the printer. I'm happy about that.

2. A Lear of the Steppes and Other Stories was not a brilliant collection of Turgenev. I've also read his two famous novels (On the Eve and Fathers and Sons, which books I thought were great) and poked around in Sketches from a Hunter's Notebook, which isn't bad. That's maybe 25% of Turgenev's output; I can't say how enthused I am to dig into the remaining 75%. Sorry, Ivan.

3. I am currently reading The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima. It reminds me of Graham Greene in terms of mood and character, in that Mishima's protagonist is a teenage nihilist in a gang. He's a nasty little brat, similar to Pinkie Brown, but his gang is more like a violent version of the gang in Graham's The Destructors than the hoodlums in Brighton Rock. Mishima's prose, at least in this translation, is not pretty. This is something I have run up against a lot in translations from Japanese. Is it a weakness of the writers, or of the translators? The same sorts of clunkiness keep showing up, no matter who the writer is, and this confuses and vexes me.

4. More about The Astrologer. Apparently it's time for me to start shilling for my novel. My publisher and I are working on some readings around Seattle and possibly Portland. We are also assembling a press kit. I am informed that electronic review copies are free, available to anyone who meets my publisher's review policy. Contact me if you are interested in that. I apologize for the self-promotion, even if it's buried in paragraph four of this post.

5. I am a couple of days away from completing my first read-through of the first draft of Mona In The Desert. It seems like a fine book to me. I am not at all sure what sort of book it thinks it is, which is not a problem. Merely an observation. In a couple of weeks Mighty Reader will have a look at the manuscript and then I'll put the whole thing away for most of 2013. While Mighty Reader is casting her eyes over Mona, I'll be getting my hands very dirty with revisions to Go Home, Miss America. In a couple of months, at the very latest, my writer pals will get to see what that novel is. You know who you are, writer pals.

6. I have begun assembling research materials and an outline for my big project of 2013, a new novel to be called Nowhere But North. The premise is that in 1914 a Manhattan businessman mounts an American expedition to Antarctica, as either a publicity stunt or a symbol of manifest destiny and the superiority of American technology. The expedition does not go well. It will be a story of madness, love and sailing ships. Call me Ishmael Stevenson. I'm aiming at a Henry James prose style, I think. We shall see.

Monday, January 28, 2013

'Not so, sir,' said the stranger; 'my wants are few'

"Let me only request that I may be informed of the exact minute of the birth; and I hope to be able to put you in possession of some particulars which may influence in an important manner the future prospects of the child now about to come into this busy and changeful world. I will not conceal from you that I am skilful in understanding and interpreting the movements of those planetary bodies which exert their influences on the destiny of mortals. It is a science which I do not practise, like others who call themselves astrologers, for hire or reward; for I have a competent estate, and only use the knowledge I possess for the benefit of those in whom I feel an interest."

--Walter Scott, Guy Mannering, Volume I, Introduction

Friday, January 25, 2013

mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home: the tragedy of Marcello Rubini

I had forgotten that La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini's 1960 cinematic masterpiece, was three hours long. Admittedly, at 10:30 last night when we were leaving the theater, I was wishing we'd sat through an edited version of the film that trimmed down all the scenes of empty decadence because it seemed at the time that Fellini was beating his drum a little too loud, a little too long, his point having been made already. This morning I'm happy to have seen the entire uncut film because so much of it is a gorgeous feast for the eyes. The silhouettes of the late-night party goers against the windows of the empty beach house? Beautiful. The processions through the abandoned villa? Likewise beautiful. Anita Ekberg's long ascent up the stairway of the Vatican? Etc. Etc. I'd never really noticed how choreographed this movie is, how black, white and grays are so carefully balanced in each shot. None of this is what I wanted to say.

La Dolce Vita is a tragedy, the story of a gossip columnist whose life once, possibly, had the promise of meaning and happiness but that promise has been abandoned by the time the film opens. Marcello Rubini, the gossip columnist, is adrift in a world of meaningless hedonism, disconnected from everyone around him, disconnected from himself. Voyeurism, cynicism and meaningless sex are the things that fill Rubini's life, or rather they are the things that fail to patch over the holes in Rubini's empty life. La Dolce Vita is not a sweet movie. Fellini wisely leavens his tragedy with lots of humor, generally pointed at his hedonists and their parasites, the press. Paparazzi swarm over the scenes like flies, crawling into fresh wounds, emotionally unengaged with whatever they see through their viewfinders. You can learn all of this in five minutes with Google, so I don't know why I type it out here today.

I saw La Dolce Vita for the first time when I was a little boy, late at night. Inexplicably, this film was broadcast on television (in the 1965 dubbed version, probably) in the late Sixties and possibly even more inexplicably, my mother let me watch it with her. She cried. I fell asleep before the end, I think. The image of Marcello Mastroianni walking around Rome in dark suits, sunglasses and thin ties has stayed with me all my life; Fellini pretty much supplied me with my idea of what an adult man looks like. I have a closet full of dark suits. I've seen La Dolce Vita three times since then, once in the Eighties and once in the Nineties, and again last night. The real-life story of my mother and me sitting up long past midnight, watching this movie on television, plays a pivotal role in my latest novel. I'm just relieved that the movie lives up to my memories of it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

among my own cohort

David Myers, critic and literary historian at the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at the Ohio State University, has written intelligently and movingly about his ongoing treatments--one hates to say battle, as Myers seems more battlefield than army, poor man--for cancer. He was diagnosed not long after Christopher Hitchens learned that he was in the final stages of this same disease. Myers' latest post, telling how he is running through therapy options at the rate of about one every three months and there is a finite number of drugs available, has given me a great feeling of disquiet. I do not know Myers, except barely via the internet, and even that hasn't been for very long. The possible demise of a more-or-less stranger should not discomfit me the way it does. And yet it does.

I find myself, uncharacteristically, filled with the urge to rail against Heaven. To rage against the dying of the light, etc. Myers, to those who read his articles in Commentary or have discovered his Commonplace Blog, is an important voice in the world of contemporary literary criticism. He is opinionated, erudite and unapologetic, arguing passionately in support of the eternal qualities of the best fiction and against the fads and empty fashions of the day. He's doing the critic's job and he's doing it darned well. The idea that he might not be around, urging writers to fulfill their promise and do their best possible work for readers, simply pisses me off. Or something. I really amn't getting at the heart of my disquiet, and possibly I don't know what that heart really is.

Like I say, I hardly know the guy. Myers' wife and children, his colleagues, relatives and neighbors are all living much more in the umbra of his cancer than I am. Maybe it's just that I'm getting older, that Mighty Reader is getting older, that death among my own cohort is becoming less uncommon and I can see the circle of people I love or admire shrinking, shrinking. I am angry and frightened at the inevitability of Mighty Reader's death. O heaven, O earth, I will be lost. One of my colleagues is having "where do you want your ashes scattered?" conversations with his wife, who is unwell.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay

I don't know. An aging man afraid of the fate we all share. I can hope for a miracle for David Myers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday, Odds and Sods

This weekend my publisher emailed me a jpeg version of the final cover design for The Astrologer, with all the sales copy and a couple of blurb excerpts on the front and back. It looks very fine and I'm told that the books will have a matte finish, which is pretty and that pleases me. On the whole, I'm pleased with everything Rhemalda has done to produce my little novel. As a small press, they can afford to pay more attention to authors than they could if they were a huge publishing house.

Also in publishing news from small houses, Chandler Klang Smith has a debut novel coming out in March, just like me. Her novel looks creepy, with a traveling carnival in the 1960s, a murderer on the trail of the master of ceremonies.

In not quite publishing news, but All About Me, I've set aside the first draft of Go Home, Miss America to read through the just-completed first draft of Mona In The Desert. Mighty Reader has asked to have a look at this newest novel sooner rather than later, so I thought I'd give it a look-see before handing her the manuscript. Good thing, too: the first chapter and a half were a real mess, having almost nothing at all to do with the actual story I'm telling. That comes as no surprise, since I had no idea what I was writing when I started this project, but I had no idea just how pointless and wandering the first 6000 words of this book were. After a day or two of panic ("This is unsalvagable," I sighed, shedding a few quiet tears), I got round to work and now, I think, the narrative is pretty solid. Solid enough for someone else to read, at least. I assume I'll revise the whole thing half a dozen times next year; it's what I do.

None of this fussing about with Mona, I think, will interfere with my plan to have Go Home revised by March, at which time I'll begin harassing literary agents for representation. I'm getting excited about the changes I want to make in that book, which is a good sign. Blah blah blah. All of this gets thrown onto the blog just so I can look back and see what I was doing in January of 2013.

Mona and my mother had their disagreements over family history. A fight raged for hours about how old the Triplets were at the time of their arrest and my aunt wouldn’t speak to my mother for weeks afterward. You just stay away from those years, Mona said. My mother agreed and the facts surrounding the births of Mona’s daughters were moved into the no-man’s land where family stories are never challenged. Traumas and mistakes generally find themselves stored in this no-man’s land.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

hell lay about him in his infancy

He trailed the clouds of his own glory after him: hell lay about him in his infancy.

I’m a bit more than halfway through Graham Greene’s 1938 novel Brighton Rock, a sort of crime novel about small-time hoodlums running protection on bookies in Brighton, England. When Kite, the leader of the gang, ups and dies, his seventeen year-old protégé Pinkie Brown steps into the role as leader to Kite’s three middle-aged hoods. The action begins with the murder of Charles Hale, a reporter who’s briefly come back to his old home town of Brighton for a ridiculous promotional stunt. We learn that Pinkie and his gang kill Hale (for reasons that haven’t been made clear) in a manner that somehow fools the coroners into thinking Hale died a natural death. Ida, the woman Hale spends some time with before his murder, is not convinced by the coroner’s report and realizes that the evidence read into the record is at least partially inaccurate. She’s convinced that Pinkie, briefly glimpsed pursuing Hale, has committed murder. Ida is an unsophisticated busybody who took a liking to Hale for no real reason, but she will see justice done and begins to play the part of amateur sleuth, asking questions all over the waterfront, confronting Rose, a teenaged waitress who has seen too much. The game continues from there. This is not a synopsis or a review.

This is a good book, by which I mean that it’s well-written (imagine Fitzgerald writing hard-boiled noir) and Greene has more on his mind than a crime drama. It’s also a violent book, an unsettling book. The prose is angular and violent, not pretty at all. It’s writing that irritates in a peculiar way:

“I know one thing you don't. I know the difference between Right and Wrong. They didn't teach you that at school."

Rose didn't answer; the woman was quite right: the two words meant nothing to her. Their taste was extinguished by stronger foods--Good and Evil.


He looked with horror round the room: nobody could say he hadn't done right to get away from this, to commit any crime... When the man opened his mouth he heard his father speaking, that figure in the corner was his mother: he bargained for his sister and felt no desire... He turned to Rose, 'I'm off,' and felt the faintest tinge of pity for goodness which couldn't murder to escape.

Grim stuff, you see. I have watched a few films that were either scripted by Greene or based on his novels, but this is the first time I've read a book that Greene wrote. If you read the Paris Review interview with Greene, you find yourself face to face with a scholarly old Brit, thoughtful and well-spoken and concerned with craft and theme. You don't come face to face with an English Raymond Chandler, is what I mean.

For some reason Greene's prose is making me uncomfortable with my own writing. Possibly it's that Brighton Rock is so concerned with Evil (theological and moral evil) that any violence or sinful acts outside that novel are somehow infected by Greene's thick and poisonous evil and amplified, at least in my mind, at least while I'm reading this novel. What I fail to say is that I made an attempt to start reading the first draft of my novel Go Home, Miss America and I find that I am absolutely hating what I've written. I am appalled by the low morals of my male protagonist, and put off by the violence in the world of my female protagonist. "What a horrid story," I think, less than two chapters in. "Who would write such awful stuff, and why? Who would want to read this?" I've put the draft away for now. I'm not going to look at it while I'm reading Brighton Rock. I have a strong urge to read something pretty and clean and light next, not a contemporary story of middle-aged infidelity and third-world warfare (which is to say, my own novel). I've never hated one of my own works-in-progress before, and it's quite an alarming sensation I assure you.

The similiarities between Brighton Rock and A Clockwork Orange are worth commenting on. There, I've just commented on it.

Friday, January 11, 2013


So that's the first draft of my seventh (I think) novel finished then. Possibly my best work so far. I hope so, anyway. The word count stands at 68,400 which is much longer than I'd ever planned. I originally envisioned this as a novella. But that's fine, and I feel quite free now, so I think I'll put the kettle on for some tea, because that's the sort of whooping it up we do around here. Last word in this manuscript: forever. I shall now proceed to ignore this book, this Mona in the Desert, for about a year while I work on other things.

There is a lot of Shakespeare in Mona in the Desert. I hope I've gotten some of that out of my system for a while. What are the odds?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Against the sky (Mona in the Desert excerpt)

Forty years, more or less, before Gemma wished me good luck with Josephina, Gemma’s virgin mother walked south along the highway under a shimmering white sky. A few cars slowed as one man after another offered Mona a ride to wherever she might be going. I’ll walk, Mona said. It’s not far. Well where are you headed, Miss? Not far, thanks. By now she could see the smudge of Albuquerque ahead and she’d fallen into a rhythm, her arms swinging at her sides, her steps regular and long and the sun felt good on her shoulders. Fair-skinned as the O’Hurleighy women are, Aunt Mona never burned and the thought of how brown and glowing her flesh would be when she returned to Roberto pleased her. The air tasted of diesel and dust and Mona suspected that a blister was coming on her right heel but she walked on, satisfied and determined. Love is an energy, hope is a current passing through our bodies, the future an electromagnetic field in which our lives vibrate forever. Mona would never be this happy again and she almost—but not quite—knew that this moment was the center point, the fulcrum around which everything else moved for her. Almost, but not quite. She walked on, swinging her arms, until she came to the city in the desert. Her first stop was a gas station where she bought a bottle of Coke and a pack of cigarettes. A mile to the west, turkey vultures hovered over the Rio Grande valley, tiny pricks of black against the sky.
I have completed 14 chapters, for about 66,000 words. I thought this book was going to be 14 chapters long, but it looks like there will have to be an additional chapter because I still haven't made my way to the scene that makes the book necessary. I have no idea at all how long chapter 15 will be, but I swear that's the final chapter in this novel, which was supposed to be a 50,000-word novella. Things are getting out of hand chez Bailey.

Friday, January 4, 2013

To Be Read in 2013

I make this list so that I can refer back to it when I'm between books and am casting about for the next thing to read. I always forget what my intentions were, so here is a provisional statement of my reading intentions for 2013:

Anton Chekhov: Tales of Chekhov, Volumes 9-13
William Shakespeare: the dozen plays I haven't read yet; mostly English history stuff (my prediction is that I won't read more than five Shakespeare plays this year, including rereads which are inevitable)
Nabokov: Mary, I think. Ada, or Ardor too, maybe. We'll see.
Albert Camus: The Plague (reread) and whatever else of his I have sitting around. A couple of volumes.
Alice Munro: whatever book of stories I have already on the shelf
James Joyce: Dubliners again and Finnegans Wake
John Hawkes: either The Blood Oranges or The Lime Twig. I have them both.
Isaac Bashevis Singer: something, at least. It's been too long since I read him.
André Gide: The Counterfeiters. Supposed to be a hoot.
Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks
Michael Chabon: something, probably Kavalier and Clay because we might have that on the shelf already.
Philip Roth: The Plot Against America. I have never read Roth, and we have this one. It's like alternative historical fiction, right? Charles Lindbergh elected president of the USA, collaborates with Nazi Germany, or something? Sounds scary and interesting.
John Updike: Claudius and Gertrude. I've avoided this book for years.
Henry James: The Awkward Age and possibly a reread of The Portrait of a Lady.
Lots of Greek plays, though not Sophocles; I've read those too recently to see again.
William Faulkner: Intruder in the Dust
Hillary Jordan: Mudbound
Yukio Mishima: The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. I picked this up almost a year ago.
Charles Dickens: something, possibly Bleak House
Elizabeth Strout: Abide With Me
Muriel Spark: something, possibly Memento Mori
Virgina Woolf: something, possibly Orlando
Tales From the Arabian Nights
More WB Yeats
The Green Knight, but I don't know whose version
Beowulf in whatever translation I own
More Seamus Heaney, but not his Beowulf
lots of books about seafaring and Antarctica and exploration and early 20th century America
Nathanael West: Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust
Nikos Kazantzakis Zorba the Greek
Victor LaValle The Devil in Silver

We'll see what else happens, and how much of the above I actually get to. The best laid plans, etc. I have a Cervantes novella coming from Melville House, more unread books piled up than I can recall, and God alone knows what I'll be buying this year. The above list includes only about half a dozen novels I'll have to go purchase. I think between us, Mighty Reader and I acquire about 50 novels a year. Probably another 50 nonfiction titles. They make excellent insulation and we still have some wall space for new shelves.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Crime of Miss Jean Brodie

So if I've got this right, the central argument of Muriel Spark's 1962 novella The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is that Calvinism is a form of fascism, and a Calvinist God is no better than a Mussolini or a Hitler, and that in a predestined universe there are no moral ramifications and so every act is above reproach, neutral and meaningless, and also since such a Calvinist God owes us nothing as individuals, we owe Him nothing and it is impossible to betray one to whom we owe nothing. I think. It turns out to be a lot more of a book than the story of a spinster school teacher and her adolescent charges in Edinburgh between the wars. I know very little about Calvinism, but Miss Spark seems to have had definite ideas. So, interesting.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's the moon done to you? (a Mona in the Desert update/excerpt)

This is the final paragraph of chapter 13 of Mona in the Desert, a first draft novel that will be complete, I predict, by the middle of this month. I have only to write the final chapter and the book is done. It's going to be pretty short, as novels go: this first draft will be around 65,000 words. I imagine that after revisions it'll be around 70k, which is certainly novel length, but fewer than 250 pages.

All the usual caveats apply, and this excerpt contains a possible spoiler, if it's possible to spoil a book that spoils itself as it goes along.

Ruby, at that moment, was buying cigarettes and tequila at the grocery store a half mile north of her house. She had slept away the entire morning and a good deal of the afternoon, her head down on her crossed arms at the kitchen table, Senora de Barrios’ loaded pistol safe in the pocket of Ruby’s deep red cotton apron. When she awoke, dehydrated from the night’s drinking and smoking, Ruby knew she’d been having vivid dreams and that some of them were likely important but she was unable to snatch any of them up for examination. The dreams swam away from her, darting like rainbow hued fish into the receding ocean of sleep out of which Ruby awakened. Ruby got to her feet and stretched, her small hands groping toward Heaven as a yawn took her captive and then Ruby remembered that she’d dreamed of the rocket man. His face, round and unassuming, floated in Ruby’s memory but there was nothing else though Ruby concentrated hard, fighting to recall the dream. Nothing more came until an hour or two later when Ruby was digging for change at the bottom of her purse. In her dream, Ruby had been here at the cash register, buying Pall Mall reds and Sauza and the rocket man was the cashier. What are you doing here, Ruby said. Working on a test burn for a new solid-fuel single-stage launch vehicle, the rocket man said. I thought you’d gone back east and died, Ruby said, a few years ago. Nineteen forty-five, the rocket man told her. But I’m not going to let death slow me down, ma’am. You should, Ruby said. You should stop your work. You will do terrible things, terrible. Look what the Germans did with rockets. Ah, the V2, the rocket man said. I had the pleasure of examining a captured V2 once. Quite a machine, ma’am. If I’d had half the funding the Nazis had, think what I could’ve done out there in Roswell. Terrible things, Ruby said. Rockets to the moon, ma’am. Nothing so bad as you’d like to think. Why don’t you leave the moon alone, Ruby asked. What’s the moon done to you that you wish to crawl over her face? Some men are never satisfied. Nor some women, the rocket man said. Ah si, that is also true. I prepare for one now, Ruby said, holding up her fifth of tequila. I will be ready for her.

And yes, this is all one paragraph. It's a book made up of very long paragraphs. This is an example of one of the shorter ones.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Books Read, 2012

Books Read, 2012 Edition:

Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird
Flannery O'Connor Wise Blood
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Volume 5
Charles Dickens Great Expectations
Michelle Davidson-Argyle True Colors
William Shakespeare Coriolanus
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451
Henry James The Coxon Fund
Edgar Allen Poe The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
Vladimir Nabokov Invitation to a Beheading
Banana Yoshimoto Kitchen
William Faulkner Sanctuary
Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Volume 6
F. Scott Fitzgerald Return to Babylon & Other Stories
Herman Melville Benito Cereno
John Hawkes Death, Sleep & the Traveler
Leo Tolstoy Short Stories
Rudyard Kipling The Man Who Would Be King
Laurence Sterne A Sentimental Journey
William Goldman The Princess Bride
Alexandra MacKenzie Seattle Sleuth
Henry James Washington Square
William Shakespeare King Lear
Leo Tolstoy Hadji Murad
William Dean Howells A Sleep and a Forgetting
Lydia Davis Collected Stories
Michelle Davidson Argyle The Breakaway
Joan Didion Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Davin Malasarn The Pagani Project
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Volume 7
Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary
William Shakespeare The Winter's Tale
Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children
Vladimir Nabokov Pnin
W. G. Sebald The Emigrants
William Shakespeare The Life of Henry VIII
Jean-Jacques Rousseau On the Social Contract
Fyodor Dostoyevsky The Brothers Karamazov
Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles
Virginia Woolf To The Lighthouse
William Shakespeare The Tempest
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Volume 8
Anton Chekhov A Life In Letters
Anton Chekhov Plays
James Longenbach The Art of the Poetic Line
Vladimir Nabokov The Defense
Yasunari Kawabata Snow Country
Benito Perez Galdos Fortunata and Jacinta
Jose Saramago Death With Interruptions
Kazuo Ishiguro An Artist of the Floating World
Blaise Pascal Pensées
Ludwig Wittgenstein Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote
Virgil, The Aeneid (Fitzgerald, trans.)

The Aeneid, possibly, is the best thing I read in 2012 but possibly I say that only because I just read it and I'm still excited by the thing. It was 402 pages long and I wish it was twice that, so I'd still be reading it. The prose, in Fitzgerald's translation, was electric But more than that, it's just a ripping good tale. I was on the edge of my seat for a great deal of it, as if I was watching an action film. Virgil had an excellent sense of story telling, and I enjoyed the way he'd introduce a character and then tell us that this person was fated to die shortly, and then step back into the narrative to unfold the (usually tragic and ghastly and ultraviolent) character's fate. Fabulous stuff, and everyone should read it, or at least every novelist.

Right now I'm reading Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and it's amazing. Totally groundbreaking stuff from 1962 that's completely fresh today. There's no way to predict what will happen from paragraph to paragraph. The way Spark builds characters is surprising and shocking and absolutely spellbinding. I'm also enjoying the way Spark steps out of the narrative timeline to tell the fates of all the characters, in ways similar to that used by Virgil. This interests me in both Brodie and The Aeneid because it's something I'm doing--in my own way--in my own current work-in-progress novel. Anyway, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is eye-opening and funny and sad and riveting and terrific and I'll have to read more Muriel Spark.

But Miss Jean Brodie is quite droll, as I say. Here the title character (a teacher at a private school in Edinburgh) explains to her young charges why she's not the least worried about an upcoming meeting with her nemesis, the headmistress:

"When I see Miss Mackay on Monday morning," said Miss Brodie, "I shall point out that by the terms of my employment my methods cannot be condemned unless they can be so proved to be in any part improper or subversive, and so long as the girls are in the least equipped for the end-of-term examination. I trust you girls to work hard and try to scrape through, even if you learn up the stuff and forget it the next day. As for impropriety, it could never be imputed to me except by some gross distortion on the part of a traitor. I do not think ever to be betrayed. Miss Mackay is younger than I am and higher salaried. That is by accident. The best qualifications available at the University in my time were inferior to those open to Miss Mackay. That is why she holds the senior position. But her reasoning power is deficient, and so I have no fears for Monday."

Of course Brodie's methods are improper and subversive, and of course there will be a traitor. Great stuff.