Professor at Play
AUTHOR: Wexelblatt, Robert
PUBLISHER: Rutgers University Press
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Robert Wexelblatt writes, in the preface to this book of his essays: "I write fiction when I am up to it, poetry when I can't help it, letters when I must, essays the rest of the time. The pieces collected in this book were composed because of a wish to share something, out of fullness of heart, for pleasure, for relief, sometimes for an audience. None was produced merely to hold on to my job as a professor. In a sense, Professors at Play has been written by a professor at play."
A writer and a professor, Wexelblatt reflects in these seventeen often playful but always provocative essays on teaching, writing, and thinking. He does all three with uncommon clarity and grace. As a teacher he has a knack for creating in the classroom a separate universe in which it is possible for him to impersonate Oscar Wilde (as he does in his essay, "Not Being Earnest") or develop the Platonic concept of chairness into a dizzying exposition of modernism ("Chairness"). As a writer he can turn the simple question, "What Do You Write On?" into an amusing meditation on the act of writing that nonetheless tells the nonwriter what it means to be a writer. As a thinker, Robert Wexelblatt is everywhere, patiently explaining to parents what it means for their children to be in college, exploring Kafka and marriage, musing on mad scientists and heroes, probing the nothing and faculty, making sense out of a subject as unpromising as complaining.
These essays are worth reading because they are always surprising and always gracefully written. The essay is among the more difficult forms: there is nothing to hide behind. Robert Wexelblatt has nothing to hide. It is a pleasure to watch him at play in this delightful collection.
PUBLICATION DATE: 10/1/1991
CATEGORY: Literary Collections