Reading the Canon – Hocus Pocus, chapters 17-23

Lots of notable quotes this time around. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations!

This section was quite personal. We got to know more of Eugene’s story, including the time after he returned from Vietnam. It’s depressing: he fails an MIT entrance exam and his family doesn’t seem to value him; they went ahead and made big plans to move to Baltimore without his input. Eugene again notes the difference in public perception between WWII – the good war, and all that – and Vietnam, the disgraceful defeat. As a solder in Vietnam, then, his presence serves as a reminder of that national shame (remember last installment in which he mentioned that his service in Vietnam was the real reason he was fired?).

After causing a ruckus at a restaurant (PTSD, perhaps? I’m not aware of how well-known this condition was at the time this book was published), he happens to meet Sam Wakefield, and so begins the process that would land him the teaching job at Tarkington. Wakefield is a tragic figure, as he commits suicide for unknown reasons, but so far he has been perhaps the biggest influence on Eugene.

We (anybody bothered by my using “we”? I do it because I want this to become a group activity of sorts, even if right now it’s just me ranting into the wind) also learn how Tarkington College became Tarkington Reformatory. I’ve been curious about that one. Turns out the college put all its money into Microsecond Arbitrage, a tech company that went under. Business excesses is a recurring theme in this book.

The reason Eugene is now under so much hot water is because when the convicts took the board hostage, Eugene was able to go see them. Upon seeing how he was “treated with deference by the Black man who was actually guarding [him],” the authorities assumed he was the ringleader. Racism is another recurring theme.

Eugene gets a court-appointed lawyer right out of school. Amusingly, he is attempting to get Eugene to agree to plead insanity, based on some of his eccentricities: love of housekeeping, rejection of profanity, and the fact that he has never masturbated.

And…that’s about it. Not much happened aside from some backstory and more details on some minor characters, which is interesting but not interesting enough to mention, and I don’t want to pad this out just for the sake of it. So see ya next time!

Notable quotes:

“If there really had been a Mercutio, and if there really were a Paradise, Mercutio might be hanging out with teenage Vietnam draftee casualties now, talking about what it felt like to die for other people’s vanity and foolishness.”

“It was a racist conclusion, based on the belief that Black people couldn’t mastermind anything. I will say so in court.”

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”– Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

Reading the Canon – Hocus Pocus, chapters 10-16

This book goes back and forth between the past and present, often in the same chapter. It was a bit disorienting at first as sometimes I start reading about his time as a teacher at Tarkington and then pivot to another time, then return. I’m used to it now, mostly, but I think it’ll help make things clearer to make a timeline of sorts, based on the information we’ve been given so far.

– Eugene was born in 1940
– His time in Vietnam ended in 1975
– He got the job at Tarkington College in 1975
– He was fired from Tarkington in 1991
– Sometime after this, he went to work at the New York State Maximum Security Adult Correctional Institute at Athena
– Tarkington College became Tarkington State Reformatory in 1999
– Eugene begins working for the Reformatory as a warden
– The prison break occurs sometime in 1999
– Eugene is writing this book in 2001

Okay, so that’s most of the big stuff.

Continue reading “Reading the Canon – Hocus Pocus, chapters 10-16″