Thursday, October 29, 2015

Scenes from a failed novel: Special "Ripped From The Headlines" edition!

Earlier this month I read about the latest developments in a notorious suit based on allegations that University of Miami didn't fulfill its Title IX obligations to investigate charges of sexually inappropriate behavior by one of its faculty luminaries:
When Morrison worked as McGinn's research assistant, the famed professor pressed the student for a photo of her, repeatedly asked if he could come to her apartment and made multiple references to Lolita, the novel in which an older professor becomes obsessed and sexually involved with a 12-year-old girl, according to emails HuffPost reviewed. At the time, McGinn was 62 and Morrison was 26, something he noted in one email. In the emails, McGinn wrote about wanting to kiss her, floated the idea of their having sex over the summer and stated she was "much better off with my support than without it." [. . . ]

Morrison's attorneys say she often avoided his direct questions about his coming to her apartment or wanting to see her, saying she was sick or had spotty Internet or simply was too busy.

One March 2012 text message exchange provided to HuffPost is emblematic of her general response to his comments, the attorneys claim:
McGinn: I love your essence
McGinn: Plus it gives me a slight erection
Morrison: Can I borrow your philosophy of physics book…the one by lange [sic].

There's more at the link, and you're certainly welcome to follow the link and read about it, but I've already thrown up a little in the back of my mouth as it is, so you'll have to make that journey on your own. (Pro tip: If you're texting someone about your erection rather than sending a photo, it's okay to go ahead and tell her you have a "substantial erection." No one will be the wiser, eh?)

But the story sounded familiar. And after some digging around in the cellar, I discovered the following fragment of a manuscript, circa 1992, covered with whisky-glass stains and half-hidden under a pile of hard drives found in a recycling bin ("Think Globally, Act Locally") about two blocks from the Clinton compound in Chappaqua NY: 

She took a seat at a table and looked over her list again. Wormel had let it slip that it was a faculty member who was holding onto her book. The odds were good that only one professor was both theoretically interested in that particular book and relentlessly self-centered enough to keep an overdue library book for over a year: Emile Thoreau.

Maggie felt her spirits slip slightly lower. Emile Thoreau, self-conscious bad boy of the art history faculty; Emile Thoreau, whose French accent came and went according to the number of sophomore coeds present in the class; Emile Thoreau, tenured champion of the masses, ass-grabber extraordinaire. Maggie groaned to herself. Kathleen had once called Thoreau a "Volvo Marxist": He believed that, after The Revolution, his second car would still be a Volvo and he would still get to nail his grad students. Still, if he had the Jaeger and Prinz book, maybe she could borrow it from him.

She fished some change out of her copy machine bag and walked over to the pay phone. His number was listed, and she dialed it. Thoreau's answering machine took the call. She hesitated, then hung up without leaving a message. If he did have the book, leaving him a message would only give him time to move the book into the bedroom and dim the lights. Maggie shuddered.
Well, it's not the first time a book idea has tanked because it was ahead of its time, I suppose. (For other excerpts from this tragically doomed work, go here.)

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