I have very fond memories of that period of my life, and I tried to explain in the essay all the subtle things I got from that part of my education. But I also wanted to document the bizarre effect it had on my prose style. As it happens, I continue to have almost every single paper I wrote in college still sitting around on my hard drive in MS Word format, and so I was able to go back and retrieve some of those terrifying artifacts for the essay. I ultimately decided on this gem:
The predicament of any tropological analysis of narrative always lies in its own effaced and circuitous recourse to a metaphoric mode of apprehending its object; the rigidity and insistence of its taxonomies and the facility with which it relegates each vagabond utterance to a strict regimen of possible enunciative formations testifies to a constitutive faith that its own interpretive meta-language will approximate or comply with the linguistic form it examines.
Got that? That was me, at 19. I sure hope I didn't talk like that at parties.
When I was reading through the piece in the print paper this Sunday, I had the thought that it would be fun to time-travel back to 1988, and tell the 19-year-old version of myself that the very sentence I was writing will be excerpted in the New York Times Book Review twenty-three years from now. The only catch: the quote will be mocked. By me.
A little while back, my old friend Alex Ross and I were trading war stories about our college prose styles, and we dreamed up a competition that we were calling Worst College Essays 1989, where we'd encourage everyone to submit their own most egregious offenses from their college years, and at the end we'd declare a winner/loser. Alex has posted his own juvenilia over at the New Yorker site. (To be honest, I think his quote still has a certain poetry to it that mine lacks, but you can be the judge.) If anyone else has an equally mortifying quote from their college years that they'd like to get off their chest, the comment threads await you below.