by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
September 1, 2004
HELP! THAT MAGAZINE IS FOLLOWING ME!
SEATTLE. Wash. -- It's in my blood, I suppose. A number of my ancestors were academics of one kind or another. One of my most treasured books, Leusden's Greek and Latin Testament (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1858), belonged to Wm. D. McCorkle, who must have bequeathed to me the gene that caused me to major in Greek at Duke.
But ever since I enrolled in Miss Agatha Spellman's first grade in 1935, the classroom has been my natural environment.
Even my stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War as largely academic in nature. Having ignored the battery of foreign language tests that I took on being drafted, and having sent me to Ft. Jackson, S.C., for the full infantry basic training torture, the Army suddenly realized that I had talents beyond taking apart and reassembling the M-1 rifle and sent me for a year to learn Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Fort Ord in Monterey, Calif.
And when, according to one of my brothers, I was speaking Russian in my sleep, the Army sent me to Berlin to be a German translator. My BA in Greek comes from my undergraduate school, Duke University in Durham, N.C.
My MA in Linguistics was awarded by the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
And my Ph.D. in Slavic Languages results from a few more years of study at Harvard.
I am Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton, after 40 years of teaching there. All of this is by way of backing up to the real subject of this column, which is the magazines from all these places, magazines that have an uncanny ability to find my address, no matter where.
It would not surprise me to find in the mailbox a hectographed sheet from the North Fant Street Elementary School or a mimeographed brochure from the Anderson Boys' High School.
All of these publications, needless to say, have the aim to keep me informed about the fate of the old school and especially of my old classmates.
Duke, for instance, astonished me with the news that my old roomie from Senior year, whom I last saw after he had dropped out of the Harvard graduate school to become a scoutmaster, was now an MD and living in Bangkok, Thailand. Efforts to reach him via E-mail have proved fruitless.
Though I was never an alumnus of Princeton, the Princeton Alumni Weekly arrives with great regularity. Few things about Princeton astonished me more, when I arrived in 1959, than that the alumni should support a weekly publication. Most schools that publish anything similar do so four times a year, if that. It was not long before I understood that "weekly" in the title was a sentimental survivor of some past frequency.
Weekly or not, I regularly scan the PAW for its value as a guide to who was who on the faculty, and for information about former students, such as Jonathan Ames, by now a rather well-known writer and performer whose latest book is the novel "Wake Up, Sir!" I have it on good authority that the title does not echo what Jonathan heard so often in my classroom.
Of all of these publications, one is facile princeps ("easily best"): Harvard Magazine. This bi-monthly journal contains the usual class notes and obituaries, along with must-read personals ("Stunning dark eyes.
Slender, considered pretty with figure of a 25 year-old...), but it is also an unfailingly interesting compendium of original and well-written articles.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.