How To Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling
A Fantasy Memoir
by Julia Keefer
This is a memoir to end all memoirs, beginning as a first-person recursive narrative where Jan Klein relives her misadventures of the twentieth century as she sits in her apartment watching New Year's Eve on television, trying to figure out why she can't be a happily married, full-time professor. At the end of Part One, she realizes she should put the narcissism and megalomania of the twentieth century behind her, but since she is too depressed to continue as narrator, her cyborg, Professor Evergreen takes over in a linear pass-the-ball narrative with the aid of 18 non-human narrators such as The Statue of Liberty, The Sphinx, Watches, Shoes, Wallet, Pearls, Shisha Pipe and American Cats (Fuzzy, JoJo, Hope and Giggles) and Egyptian Cats (Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye, Maksoud and Akhenaten). Evergreen's loftier objective to "unclash civilizations" pre-empts Jan's more selfish one to be a happily-married full-time professor as the narrative moves through the terrorism and political turmoil in New York, Egypt and Iraq from September 2001 to 2004. When the Internet becomes infested with cyberterrorism, beheadings and hateful flaming, Professor Evergreen passes the ball to more omniscient narrators, the manic ElectroWeak Force and the depressed Quantum Chromodynamic Force whose objectives are to have fun in the world of electrons or to make characters conform or die in the nucleus. These personified particle physics bifurcate the narrative into a tandem-competitive run to the Apocalyptic finish. By combining all three narrative styles in one fantasy memoir we see how the exploration and deconstruction of self can move from a simple "I" to a digital extension of self and finally to the particles that form all matter which explode the EWF tale into Ronald Rump's Orbiting Casino and the Orbiting Global University while keeping the QCD grounded on earth in the past imperfect in a battle against creativity and conformity. A memoir theoretically can't end because we can't write from the grave, but particle physics can witness everything and even direct the course of events with some omnipotence. By graduating these narrative styles throughout the life of one person, we see how point of view evolves into a more complete understanding of self. By twisting autobiography into fiction and moving from realism to fantasy, we see how wish fulfillment and unconscious dreams and nightmares reveal a deeper truth.
Even though this memoir eschews balanced character orchestration and traditional plot development, it covers exciting issues in New York, Paris and the Middle East from the nineteen-seventies to 2006. The subject matter of this fantasy memoir delves into the dilemmas of higher education, wrestling, the global war on terror, European monarchy, cyberspace and outer space, particle physics and manic depression, the true face of Islam, the limitations of Republican politics and much more. In spite of these heavy topics and didactic digressions, the memoir is really a wild ride, a satirical spoof, a twisted tale that will make you laugh so hard you cry.
MEGALOMANIA OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: THE ORDINARY WORLD
Recursive narrative, by its nature, is a painful experience, as drama occurs with the revelations and epiphanies caused by a present examination of the past with the companionship of the Reader. Oedipus Rex and his entire community were stuck in the static present because of a plague, a quagmire the gods said would endure until they found the last king's killer and punished him. And so Oedipus began his enquiry into the painful spokes of the past until he discovers that he has killed his father and married his mother, a realization that provokes fear and disgust not only for its horror but because of Oedipus' exposure to the entire community. This play focuses mainly on Oedipus—it is not an evenly balanced conflict and as such only won a second prize at the competitions, but such is the case with all memoirs where the narrator/self is stripped naked for the Reader to see in all his megalomania. Nowadays we pay shrinks good money to tell our recursive narratives, using events in the past to trigger feelings to be catharsized and analyzed in order to solve problems for better action in the future, hoping they will help us get the wheels moving again without having to resort to plucking out our eyes as Oedipus did.
Recursive narrative lends itself most naturally to the oral tradition where the speaker is the central "me of memoir" because the past is snatched and filtered through his eyes and because the present is often too static for the Hollywood film tradition. In some respects this is the narrative that we try first, which is why I chose it for the first tome of my trilogy. Oedipus Rex is a recursive narrative where the past is used as a treasure hunt, while in my novel the past is opened up to be shared with the Reader as a problem-solving exercise, catching memories from the wheel of time as the narrator and the Reader spin in the static present waiting for the millennium on New Year's Eve. In this way, it is predicated on a belief in causal relationships more than luck for if life were determined by fate then there would be no point in looking at the past to see what went wrong. But it is also an excursion into the past to show off, to exhibit Jan to the Reader as a potential narcissist, megalomaniac and then altruist.
Megalomania of the Twentieth Century is in the static present waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square in the year 2000 while digging into events that occurred since the seventies. Space in the static present is a tiny writing studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with memories of other spaces such as enormous mansions, castles, colleges and the wilderness. The matter is self and all its manifestations and it bounces off the reflections of others or exhibits and opens up to an unknown Reader. The energy of the narrator is reflective and nostalgic but also a furtive, desperate attempt to learn from the past to fix the future and to hold and entertain the Reader. There aren't many forces in the present but the past is filled with events like lovemaking, rape, academic adventures and of course, wrestling matches as the push and pull of conscience and desire, memory and regret, hope and frustration compete for places in the layers of self and Reader's mind. The narrator is first person memoir style addressed to second person, Reader in the static present with thwarted dream flashback: Paris: the Call to Romance and Academic Adventure, The Costume Wedding, Vending Machines, New York the Great Eraser, Plato's Retreat and Southampton, Our Lady of the Saints and Wrestling, The Prince and the Porn Star, Cats' Birth and the Cat-House, Pointe Shoes, Words and Dead Fish, Electricity, Central Park Anonymous, Tuxedo, Big Mountain Men, Cyberperformances, The Ball Drops and Through the Broken Glass.
It is also a way of highlighting the second half of the twentieth century when New York usurped Paris as the cultural capital of the world and free sex, expensive universities, cosmetic conformity, wild nature and cyberspace competed for places in our hearts and minds. Its tone moves from screwball romantic comedy, spiced with so much sex it's almost pornographic, to drama. It begins with Jan's studies at the Sorbonne in the seventies where she met a French Arab man whom she married in Boston at a costume wedding where her parents were killed by vending machines, moves through her work in New York as an adjunct professor who survives by wrestling, and her amorous adventures with a European prince, a porn star, married doctors, gay dance teachers and big mountain men until the end of twentieth century when she has her climax and emotional epiphany and confesses to some of the real reasons why she can't love. The inner rim of the spinning wheel is the world of supermarket sex, monopoly game real estate in the Hamptons, corruption in the European castle, decadence in the whorehouse, Oedipal transfers in Balletland--all fodder for creativity so the adjunct professor can publish. Narcissism in some respects is absence of self. In rape, self is consumed by the other. Once the narrator tells how she saw her rape through the eyes of the rapist, thereby saving her life, she realizes that she has broken the glass of narcissism and is ready to accept the true Call to Academic Adventure.
THE SPECIAL WORLD
Unclashing Civilizations brings in politics and some religion with the Inciting Incident of 9/11. Jan falls in love with Jalal, her Islamic student, and tries to help her students in every way. But the more committed she becomes as a teacher, the more conflicts ensue with Mary, the administrator who is threatened by her ideas. Her love for Jalal pulls her into Islam and the genre changes from romantic comedy to action adventure as she is forced to choose between her trust of Jalal and desire to save her country from a terrorist plot. This novel is visualized as a railroad flat because of its pass-the-ball narrative. Each non-human narrator creates a different world/room with its story, lending insight to a linear time-bound narrative from early September 2001 to 2004, introducing a political thriller into the romantic comedy. It features a kayak escape from the burning towers on September 11, the professor's affair with a student-terrorist, an incredible adventure into the Cairene underworld, and the discovery of a bioterror plot to be unleashed on July 4th. The style of this novel is determined by the voices of the non-human narrators who see their short piece of history through their eyes. I toyed with the idea of orchestrating the language for each of the narrators but decided to imitate Bedouin story telling where each narrator tries to carry the same story, thus making it easier to translate and follow the story.
THE BORE-DINARY VERSUS THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLDS
III: THE BIPOLAR BATTLE BETWEEN QCD AND EWF
TANDEM COMPETITIVE: Stories can be in tandem without competing—sharing the same space or the same time or the same characters with some different factor. In my novel, similar characters appear in different space. It seems as if they are in the same time because they occupy the same novel, but one is in the active, impressionistic, dreamlike present and the other the past imperfect in a specific period in society and history. They compete when they rival each other for truth from the Reader's POV. There must be a reason why stories are told in tandem. In real life, two versions of the same story are constantly competing in our minds, a phenomenon which reaches its extreme state in bipolar illness where the same state of events can be interpreted as depressing or uplifting, depending on the mood, or actions are constructed to reap those same results, depending on the mood. In other words, something exists before the story because the story is simply how specific people engage in certain events in a specific time and place. Therefore, their objectives, moods, abilities and proclivities as well as social conditions are set before the story occurs. Hence different moods and objectives can actually create somewhat different stories. We sometimes see scenes on split screen or split stage or alternating chapters of narrators in a novel. This narrative style is particularly disturbing as we don't know what kind of truth to accept and our mood is constantly jarred by the constant switches. Yet this is exactly what happens in psychosis or the everyday ups and downs of mood changes, symbolized by EWF vesus QCD in my narrative--past imperfect versus dream-like present, empirical every day space versus homospatial world of dream and imaginary and outer space. In this narrative it is possible to have Resurrection and an Elixir, crises and climaxes but it lacks the causality of Aristotelian plot points. . There is less transformation for each world has strict laws that upstage the will of the protagonist. So how is it resolved—in a superconducting supercolliding accelerator or a nuclear war? Not a branching narrative.
Part Three is a competitive, tandem narrative, somewhat timeless, between two omniscient narrators, the Quantum Chromodynamic Force and the ElectroWeak force, which is also similar to the manic and depressive phases of bipolar illness, which brings all the characters in the first tome to their different destinies so that the romantic comedy ends in a fairy tale in EWF's story which is in outer space in the eternal present, and a tragedy in QCD's story. At the end Jalal orbits the moon, Jan the earth, the terrorists crash into Mars to warm it up for the scientists, and Ronald Rump's Orbiting Casino with members of the Republican party slide through a wormhole to Ancient Egypt. The style of this novel oscillates between the complex, compound sentences in the imperfect past tense by QCD, and the erratic, grandiose verbiage of EWF, which sometimes breaks into blank verse, rhymes, songs or jokes. The Bore-dinary and Extraordinary Worlds of the Quantum Chromodynamic and the Electroweak Forces symbolized by the wild trajectories of leptons around a nucleus of quarks are caught in the imperfect tense of repetitive time in New York, Paris, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, while EWF bubbles in the present dream world of outer space, where Ronald Rump's orbiting casino houses Jan's Orbiting University and researchers work to discover a youth elixir as well as a race of cloned transhumans. Because QCD doesn't believe in the arrogance and tyranny of dramatic throughlines, its goal is to make the characters useful or to get rid of them while EWF spoils its characters by fulfilling their dreams instantly.
In the last novel the Inciting Incident is Jalal's suicide at Gitmo which pulls him to the moon in the sci fi story. When Jan's university career is sabotaged again she tries to make money as a massage therapist and an arthritis swim instructor but after a cannibalization nightmare at the Christian Club, she does the hajj (to get over herself), courtesy of the CIA. But the motive of QCD narrator is to kill people who don't fit in, or to make martyrs of them. Midpoint occurs when Jan is flogged in Saudi Arabia. But then she travels all over the Middle East, making peace with Islam and researching the censored literature of Arab and Turkish writers. She returns to New York and develops her EcoMuslimYoga. PP2 occurs with the death of Jalal's mother and finding out that his clones are engineered for Mars, not the Moon in EWF: PP2 is also Jan's Alzheimer's or dementia after the wrestling benefit for the adjunct union. Jan gets her objectives of a full time academic offer after slight dementia gives her the simplicity to publish textbooks, but the climax turns her into a martyr in the library. In EWF's narrative, she is forced to choose again between the earth and the moon, forced to send Ronald Rump's casino into a wormhole instead of to blow up America, and the transhumans to Mars where they belong. At the end, she is frozen but her university is intact with Professor Evergreen in charge; Jalal is orbiting the moon; and the Great Capitalist University, changed briefly to the Great Socialist Union, finally becomes the Great Global University again, linked forever with Jan's Orbiting University and Professor Evergreen.
At the risk of being politically incorrect, I will now discuss the gender of EWF and QCD. First let me put in a disclaimer: humans of the twenty first century can have any combination of masculine and feminine energies in their personalities. Therefore, when I say something is masculine, I do not mean that it cannot be part of women. After all, M.I.T. has an illustrious female president, Dr. Hockfield, cognitive scientist, mother of a young teenager, and implacable force in university politics. So my defnitions of masculine and feminine energies are more like yin and yang, or the Hindu Gods, or other archetypes in mythology. The strong nuclear force is 100 times stronger than the electric force. Therefore, quarks, and particularly gluons, embody the female energy. Gluons are the exchange particles for the color force between quarks. Within their range of about a fermi, gluons can interact with each other, and can produce virtual quark-antiquark pairs. Glueballs could be their objective, but my protagonist, Jan doesn't communicate, transform through interacting with others. She is a loner, almost like a lost electron except that she is grounded on earth. I imagined other characters as up, down, bottom, top, strange and charm quarks, all interacting closely in the nucleus. If traditional drama is symbolized as climbing a mountain, conquering enemies within and without, QCD's world is more of a swamp of quicksand or a beehive, where communal necessity supersedes individual needs. Instead of rooting for the selfish desires of the individual protagonist, omnipotent QCD only lets this protagonist succeed at those actions that are useful for the community. In this world people don't like to confront each other too much for fear of causing fireworks. Instead, everything is done to promote homeostasis. In QCD's narrative tthe ties are societal and familial-- obligation, responsibility and conformity. This kind of world is more like a quagmire than a mountain, where humans are trapped in the kind of repetitious activities familiar to all of us in our mundane worlds. QCD's characters can be motherly in a constructive way or just plain suffocating. QCD binds entities together like duct tape, so that it takes a nuclear explosion or death or suicide to be free.QCD pushes and pulls its entities with a strong nuclear force while EWF just transforms them.
EWF embodies the masculine energy, ranging from light, playful, curious, wild to violent and apocalyptic when put under pressure. The world of EWF has a contrasting dramatic structure where anyone can have whatever they want so that there is no mountain to climb, no dramatic throughline that fuels the upward journey. The characters are already in outer space, the dream world or another dimension where conflicts are resolved right away, where pain dissolves into space, and there is no time to waste wishing for things you can have immediately.EWF is part electrodynamics. You can feel a force even though you don't interact. The force between the two electrons is mediated by the photon, similar to a medicine ball passed back and forth. The photon is massless. EWF's narrative is governed by a lighter force with strong attraction between particles through love, immediate gratification, a buoyant happiness. While the energy is electric, the matter is lepton-lite. Time seems to bubble in the present disappearing before it is captured or remembered, satisfying needs and desires so that the future isn't such a huge force. This makes dramatic throughlines, so dependent on the future and therefore on hope, impossible. The space appears infinite-- you can jump from orbit to planet, superimposing things on top of each other. There is no cause and effect chain so it seems as if occurrences may be the result of luck. They are not-- it is simply the EWF force.
EWF deals with leptons like the electron, muon, or neutrino, and QCD with hadrons like the proton, neutron or pion. In the EWF narrative, characters interact like a ping pong match or passing the ball back and forth. In the QCD narrative, they are squished, caught, overcome by gluons-- there isn't enough give and take.
If drama is force, matter, energy, time and space, then this novel creates two new kinds of dramatic structure. In QCD's narrative, the force is very strong as the characters are pushed and pulled the way society wants them to go; as matter, they are heavy and depressed and can only exit through death or suicide; their energy is also compromised by the repetitive nature of the work that creates homeostasis. As such the time is past imperfect, connoting habit and ritual. The space, even when Jan travels around the world or around Manhattan, seems enclosed like the nucleus of an atom. EWF's energy is electric, its force light, its time eternal present, its space outer space, dreamworld, other dimensions. The matter, i.e. the characters, appear in both worlds, but react differently in each narrative.