A String of C’s

Stack of white papersHere is a little something that I originally wrote a couple of years ago.

My greatest personal disappointment is that I do not have a degree. Admittedly, at my age, there is no longer any need for a degree as far as work opportunities are concerned. But it is a matter of personal pride, a feeling of failure on my part, and if I can ever catch up with the books I have under contract, waiting to be written, I may explore the possibilities of pursing a degree.

When I was on active duty at Ft. Eustis, I did have the opportunity to attend school at William and Mary. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go long enough to get a degree, so I didn’t bother to construct a curriculum that would lead to one. Instead, I began taking English classes, and took every undergraduate, and even some graduate classes in English. I made straight A’s in every class but one. In an English Lit class, I made a C.

The professor was a woman, and when we first started, I thought the class would not only be easy, but enjoyable. We were to read CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller, and THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer. I had met both Heller and Mailer, and had read their books more than once.

Our assignment was to read and interpolate the books. I wrote what I was certain was a good essay on THE NAKED AND THE DEAD. And why shouldn’t it have been good, the book was based upon Mailer’s personal experiences in combat. I had been in combat and I could relate. And, as I said, I had met Mailer and we had discussed both our war experiences, and writing. Confidently, I submitted my report, and, at the next class, received the following from the professor. “I am giving you a C because you have not been able to see through the superficial aspects of this book. You have perceived it as an adventure story, it is much more than that.”

All right, I’ll do better with CATCH-22. It is a book about flying, and the antics of men who must be just a little more insane than the war, in order to survive the war. I had written BRANDYWINE’S WAR which the New York Times called a “Very funny burlesque.” Surely I could capture this one.

I got another C, with this response. “Again, you have failed to grasp the real meaning of this book.”

Then, I got a break. We were told that if we wished, for extra credit, we could read a book of our own choosing. I chose LUST EMPIRE, which I had written under the pseudonym, Dave Vance. Confidently, perhaps even a bit arrogantly, I submitted a report on this book.

Another C.

“You don’t understand, do you, Mr. Vaughan. Perhaps you thought to shock me by choosing a book with such a risqué theme. However, even though this book would hardly qualify as literature, it is obvious that the author had an underlying theme when he wrote it. It is equally obvious that you have no idea what Dave Vance was trying to say. I am very disappointed in you.”

I was too ashamed to tell her that I was Dave Vance.

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