“There’s no point in going into a field like English literature unless you’re going to have fun with it.”
Question: What advice dornyou have for an aspiring literary critic?rnrn
Louis Menand:I think the only way I can answer that is to say it, rnin myrnown case, because people do, students do say, “Well, how did you get to rnbe arnprofessor and also a magazine writer?” rnSo, my answer to that is that I didn’t plan it, A; B, that to be arnprofessor, you have to pay your professional dues, there’s no kind of rnshortcutrnto that. So you have to write arndissertation, you have to publish an academic monograph, you have to rnhave, yournknow, respective peers in your scholarly field and all of that stuff, rnyou can’trnkind of substitute book reviews for that.rnrn
At the same time, one of the good things about thernprofession of being a professor, is that you also have time to do whatrninterests you and what you care about or what you’re good at. In my case that was, it did turn out tornbe magazine writing, I don’t know that I would’ve predicted that, but rnthat’srnhow it turned out.rnrn
So the fortunate thing for me is that my writing isrn such,rnthe way I naturally write is such that it’s just commercial enough forrnmagazines to publish it and just academic enough for me to have a careerrn in thernacademy. So it’s worked out reallyrnwell. But I’m not one of thernpeople who has a kind of scholarly hat and writes in a certain way for rnanrnacademic audience and then puts on a public intellectual hat and writes arndifferent way for a different kind of readership. Irn generally write the way I write, no matter what and itrnseems to have worked for me.rnrn
So I think in general there’s no point in going rninto a fieldrnlike English literature if you’re not going to have fun with it. I mean, you’re not going to getrnanything else out of it, you’re not going to get rich, you’re not going rnto getrnfamous, and you’re not going to really have a big affect on, you know, rnforeignrnpolicy. But you are going to dornthings that if you’re interested in it, that nobody else can do with rntheirrncareers. And if you’re not goingrnto enjoy it and have fun with it and feel like this is what you care rnabout, Irndefinitely would not advise going down the very long road to get there.