The Education of Oronte Churm

The Education of Oronte Churm

Oronte Churm is the pen name of John Griswold, who teaches in the MFA program at McNeese State University, proudly nestled in Cajun country on the Louisiana Gulf.

October 17, 2007 - 12:49am
My friend Chip wants to be my life coach. He said those words. When I asked what he meant, he said he has the objectivity to help me make important decisions—mostly writing- and career-related—that will “get you where you want to be.” I rarely put good advice to use, let alone that of a guy who orders three entrees when he goes to IHOP so he can be sure he’s not missing out on something.
October 15, 2007 - 4:00am
Last Thursday I was already worn out by early afternoon, and when I had let my last class go, I listened to Mrs. Churm’s message in disbelief. If I remembered, she said, we had theater tickets, and not in town, but at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. I hadn’t remembered.
October 13, 2007 - 12:36am
One of my own professors said that when he retired he was going to put on his jammies and spend the rest of his life watching Bergman on DVD. That doesn’t sound crazy to me, though I might throw in a really good library and an endless supply of crisp refrigerated pickles.
October 10, 2007 - 9:50am
A big perk of writing for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency has been meeting people like today’s guest, Roy Kesey. Roy and I became pen pals through our dispatches for the Tendency, if pen pal is still a valid name for what happens instantaneously and online.
October 9, 2007 - 8:39am
You probably know people who expect instant loyalty to their causes. Any hesitation suggests to them the work they’ll need to do to sell you or else to wheel their flanks and attack.
October 4, 2007 - 11:56am
One of the two best college teachers I ever knew—an older Ph.D. candidate who became an adjunct himself here for a while—once told me we’d never know how we’d affected students’ lives; the students themselves wouldn’t know for 20 years. Coming from anyone else, it might have sounded like a defense against student criticisms or justification not to teach, but with him it was grace under pressure. I’m starting to understand what he meant.
October 1, 2007 - 1:24pm
One of the drawbacks of writing with a pen name is the restriction it places on topics. I can’t tell you about interesting lectures or readings I attended, or offer my take on a newsworthy event here, or even praise the best things about Hinterland University, because they’d be sure tip-offs to both place and identity.
September 28, 2007 - 12:35pm
September 26, 2007 - 4:51pm
Until our departments hire mystics, we may never know why some classes fall flat. We sit afterwards in quietude, trying to understand, but often it’s as futile as trying to piece together a shattered flowerpot. Better just to use one of the bigger shards to promote drainage in a new pot, and move on.
September 24, 2007 - 12:33pm
EXT. BENCH NEAR STUDENT CENTER - DAY A PROF eats his lunch from a Styrofoam bowl. Enter his acquaintance, who also works for the university but is a NON-PROF.

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