Serving Kafka


To some women, writers are like rock stars.  To my Chinese students, the equivalent would be Korean pop idols.  I always fell for writers.  My first love was a writer.  When I was young, I wanted to be married to Franz Kafka.  No, he wasn’t that first love, but I imagined bringing Kafka trays of food to his den whenever he’d forget to take his meals.   When I asked myself if I wanted to be any writer, I wish I could be Italo Calvino.

At 45 with two children, it’s simply too old and encumbered to have feelings akin to teenage crush but yesterday I found myself falling for one writer on my kindle.  Out of 170 authors, the funny, tickly infatuation hits me smack in the belly.  I wanted to meet him, email him, stalk him if I could.  Will he email back?  In his book, Walden on Wheels, he wrote how awkward he is with the opposite sex but I projected that after being published, tons of women must be throwing themselves at him.  That’s me imagining other women have the same weakness for men who write extraordinarily well.   We don’t fall for every exceptional writer but there are some writers that we’d like to go to bed with more than others, a biological, Darwinian selection of species.

I went to his website and found he’s fighting for the right to roam, the right to walk and ramble on private property.  Ah, a man after my own heart!  He writes for the New York Times.  Weak Jello knees!   He wrote Walden on Wheels and the title of my PhD Dissertation is Walden Meets Ken and Gray: Journey as a Search for Knowledge in Nature, Creativity and Play.  Surely the stars might be conspiring!   Although the Ken in that title refers to Sir Robinson, the advocate of creativity in education and speaker of viral TED Talk videos.

At a voracious, nay irresponsible rate, I’ve been filling my electronic book with materials about alternative education, memoirs of people travelling around the world, homeschooling and unschooling.  Some of those documents are so blah, I couldn’t get past the first few pages but Ken Ilgunas’ shone like a beacon slash starlight.

When I was a young girl with strings of crushes, I concluded after much contemplation that some of those may not even be because I liked the guy at all but because I wanted to be like that guy.  Like those feelings of admiration in my youthful past, perhaps this sudden fondness for Ilgunas is but a reflection of how desperately I want to improve my writing.  I want to write as well as he does.  My prose feels clunky and clumsy, inelegant and immature beside his which reminds me of that ugly duckling feeling beside the impossibly gorgeously cute guy one foolishly pines for.  Of course, he’s not going to like you back, you idiot!  Dream on!

Ah the dangers of so-called research.  Can I just bring a tray of food to Kafka?

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