Wrap-up of AHA Day 1: The Radical Hasn’t Been To A Session Yet

January 3, 2009, 12:05 pm

And doesn’t really expect to. I’ll be lucky to make the book exhibit. Much as I would like to see some scholars perform their scholarship in groups, this year I am fated to see them do it one at a time in hotel rooms. Which is interesting, but not exactly the community experience one expects of a scholarly meeting. However, since Zenith seems to be one of the few schools that did not cancel its searches, it makes us minor celebrities. Thanks, (Not So) New President.

Yesterday’s highlights outside of the hotel room where my search committee was meeting included brisk walks up and down the Avenue of the Americas (quickest cutover to the Doubletree, where our interviews are being held, is on 47th street – that way you exchange the clots of tourists on Broadway who stop and take pictures of each other in front of the ESPN studios for the not much lighter, but moving crowds on Sixth Avenue.) For reasons I am unclear about, since I lived in New York for years, my 24 hours at the Hilton has caused me to think back to my post-college days as a writer for an advertising agency, lodged on the 40th floor of a skyscraper two blocks north of this singularly unattractive hotel. I spent my days writing about what we did at the agency — writing press releases for our clients, and articles for the company newsletter (entirely written and published by me) that kept everyone up to date on the latest AT&T campaign. Then one day this job, which I had imagined from the movies would be glamorous, came to resemble the Hanoi Hilton rather than the New York one down the street, and I went to graduate school. The rest, dear readers, is History.

Highlights of this meeting so far include a chance meeting in the registration center with Tom Sugrue, whose new book, Sweet Land of Liberty: the Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North I hope to receive free in the mail this spring as part of this year’s Beveridge Prize reading. The day was concluded not, as you might imagine, by going to what looked to be an outstanding plenary sessions, but by cabbing it to Chelsea, where my Conn College neighbors James Downs and Jennifer Manion hosted a gay party. Topics of conversation included: the beautiful view from Jim’s balcony, the economy, how long Jen should cook the pigs in blankets, canceled searches, how unbelievably beautiful Jim’s apartment is, flatlined salaries, and how nice it was that Jim and Jen had had this party in the first place.

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