Monday, February 13, 2012

Part Eighteen, Chapter One - Unfashionable Nonconformity

I like this chapter.  It's short.

With his plans to learn how to smash atoms together cruelly thwarted (for now), Heller wanders around for a bit, which Gris interprets as meaning he's deep in thought, as if Gris could see Heller's furrowed brow and slight frown, rather than only what Heller's looking at.  Eventually Heller spots a bulletin board listing, among other things, instructions to see the Assistant Dean of Students if you want to hire graduate students.

So Heller unerringly finds his way to the office of Mr. Twaddle, the Assistant Dean in question.  He announces his intent to hire a graduate, specifically one knowledgeable in stocks and bonds (and old enough to, say, open an account at a stockbroker's).  But Twaddle informs him that all the Doctors of Business Association have already been "snapped up."  Heller presses him to look for "leftovers."

There is one such table scrap, who Heller spots on an upside-down list of many scratched-out names.  But Twaddle laughs and assures him that he wouldn't want this one.  Israel Epstein... I've got a bad feeling about this... well, he never graduated after trying to turn in a thesis titled "Is Government Necessary?"

"He has been flunked out on his doctorate for three consecutive years.  Wister, this young man is an activist!  A deviant.  A revolutionary of the most disturbing sort.   He simply will not conform.  He even boycotted the Young Communist League!  He's a roaring, ranting tiger!  A wild-eyed, howling anarchist!  Quit out of fashion."

Plus, he did other students' tax returns and cost the IRS a fortune.  Heller asks for the guy's address, which Twaddle provides, but warns that in an amazing coincidence, ten IRS agents were just by looking for him, so he won't be there for long.  So Heller rushes off, presumably about to do battle with the evil "revenooers." 

Did Hubbard ever actually go to college?  Wikipedia says he dropped out after two years at George Washington University (where he earned an F in the one nuclear physics course he took, which explains most of Battlefield Earth).  But apparently he never caught on to colleges' tendency to welcome radicals and free-thinkers, especially if they had beefs with the government.

On the other hand, he did attend during the early '30s.  Things have probably changed since then.  Which makes Hubbard's presentation of the world even more warped.  I mean, the guy spent the last decades of his life in hiding, wrapped in a cult of personality and churning out spiritual treatises blaming physical and mental maladies on malevolent alien spirits.  How the hell do you satirize contemporary society from such a viewpoint?  How do you poke fun at campus life if you're operating off of sixty-year-old memories of your four semesters of civil engineering?

I guess if Battlefield Earth was Hubbard getting nuclear physics wrong, Mission Earth is Hubbard getting everything else wrong.  

Back to Part Seventeen, Chapter Seven

No comments:

Post a Comment