From the correspondence chronofile

June 16, 2007

Mr. D——-,

As director of the library at the University of ——,  I do not doubt that your store of reading-related trivia dwarfs my own haphazardly gathered collection. I will, all the same, dare to ask whether you know of Joseph Campbell’s decision to spend five years in a cabin upstate reading nine hours each day in lieu of getting a doctorate degree.

I do not know how he financed this retreat, but I cannot imagine he had time to take even a part-time job. We can look to Karl Marx for an example of a scholar of meager income. So dire were Marx’s living conditions in London that Friedrich Engels had to work in Germany, sending Marx money to survive and continue his studies. And study he did: he is reported to have spent all day in the reading room of the British Museum, absorbed especially with back issues of The Economist.

Sir, like both of these men, I desire more than anything else a period of intense reading and study; yet I have neither an endowment nor a partner willing to support me as I undertake this. Nor am I very fit for the exigencies of the credentialist, entry-level work world which I would be qualified at this point to enter: my tolerance for boredom is practically nil, and I have never been a team player. I am sensitive and striving, yearning deeply for stimulation yet wilting in its absence.

Let me waste no more of your time. Here is what I propose:  that I be allowed to bring a bedroll and toiletries to the library, and that I be given a small stipend for food and other needs. In return, I will be at the service of your fine institution in whatever capacity I am needed. If you require, I would happily do the more menial tasks that the library needs – shelving, dusting, whatever. Or, what I believe may be the greatest service I could render, my taking up residence in your library could be the subject of a press release, written by myself; the effect would be obvious, signifying the passion that your library inspires in scholars.

Though I obviously cannot promise to produce works on the scale of Marx or even Campbell, my residence under the wing of your institution would give me the opportunity to try.


Nathaniel ——-


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