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December 28, 2006 - 4:02pm


Thanks to loyal readers who suggested things to do in Philadelphia while I’m here at the Modern Language Association Conference; you’ve taken me at my word that this blog is meant to be the education of Oronte Churm. I got one, when my friend Frenchy and I walked over to your most-suggested place, the Mutter Museum.

Now, some bloggers, faced in this way with their own mortality, might retreat to their luxury hotel in Center City and shiver under the covers, order room service, and read the latest novel by Michael Bérubé. But Frenchy and I, hungry for life, walked to Chinatown, ordered the pig intestines and congealed blood, then went out to help the economy of the city further by spending $40 for a couple of beers and two cigars in some bar.

Conferences are fraught with sacrifice. Forget the sea of aviation fuel that it took to get all these academics here; forget the herds of animals we’ll gobble, the Delaware River of water used to wash our linens. Think instead of the long-suffering partners left behind to clean up the holiday mess, the spouses caring for bored children trapped in the madness of school-break. Know, all ye left behind, that we at the conference appreciate what you’re doing to make this possible, and that we won’t be home a second sooner than we have to be.


The book fair
here justifies
it all,


There are



and booths where people only want to provide you, free of charge, the finest in academic news and blogging (Scott Jaschik, left, and Doug Lederman, co-editors of Inside Higher Ed).


It’s safe to say that most of us became academics by way of our love of books, both for the possibilities of their content and for their comforting, exciting, physical presence. We cannot get them close enough, it seems; I knew an Irish poet who absentmindedly used to leave books in his refrigerator. This tendency intensifies, until we become book perverts, saying we can think of worse fates than being crushed by our toppling stacks.

Thankfully, I’m no fetishist, since I can’t spend what I did when single (when most of my income, disposable or otherwise, went for books), though I have to admit that on a trip to Ireland I once wet my finger, touched the pulpit where Dean Swift used to stand, and tasted the ancient dirt from his shoes.


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