Graduate School

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I’m not sure I can give you the remotest idea of what graduate school is like. Nobody ever has. Millions of Americans now go to graduate school, but just say the phrase — “graduate school” — and what picture leaps into the brain? No picture, not even a blur. Half the people I knew in graduate school were going to write a novel about it. I thought about it myself. No one ever wrote such a book, as far as I know. Everyone used to sniff the air. How morbid! How poisonous! Nothing else like it in the world! But the subject always defeated them. It defied literary exploitation. Such a novel would be a study of frustration, but a form of frustration so exquisite, so ineffable, nobody could describe it. Try to imagine the worst part of the worst Antonioni movie you ever saw, or reading Mr. Sammler’s Planet at one sitting, or just reading it, or being locked inside a Seaboard Railroad roomette, sixteen miles from Gainesville, Florida, heading north on the Miami-to-New York run, with no water and the radiator turning red in an amok psychotic overboil, and George McGovern sitting beside you telling you his philosophy of government. That will give you the general atmosphere

— Tom Wolfe, “Introduction” The New Journalism

Originally, graduate school was my excuse to move to Japan. The stipend would pay more than my New York editorial job, and I would have ample free time to work on my music. But once I started studying for my entrance exams (in Japanese, no less), I actually began to enjoy the return to academia. Once in the Master’s program, I only found a minimal amount of stimulation in the classes and required reading — but I abused my new access to vast libraries and indulged my most far-fetched theoretical interests.

But unlike the young Tom Wolfe, stuck in New Haven for a half-decade, I was in Tokyo, where perceptions of cultural decline meshed nicely with my extra-curricular readings. And thanks to the power of the Internet, I was able to dash out my bottled-up ideas to a hundreds then thousands of eager readers and have them repond with long reams of comments calling me dirty names. The daily bashing helped me find the rickety legs of my pet theories and gave me the intellectual stimulus I sorely lacked in a formal business-based program.

Last Wednesday, I graduated with a M.A. and surrendered my student I.D. I no longer have access to my precious hardbound books, nor idle time to dream up Confucian explanations for the poor quality of recent Japanese indie music. Tomorrow, a company starts paying me to apply my knowledge and skills to their concerns, and as a consequence, I will no longer be able to maintain this blog as I have in the past.

To be honest, I have been a bit bored with Neomarxisme as of late. Mostly because a full year of daily writing required every crazy piece of trivia and half-explanation I’ve bottled up over my ten years of Japan study. Between the blog and my thesis, I am now burned out on pseudo-scholary writing. I look forward to finding new media and new contexts for writing, but I don’t know how much I can continue to write a daily blog about Japan. There are many fine “current events” type weblogs about Japanese culture and society, but I have never been interested in providing that type of service. I also find it difficult to find much stimulation from recent Japan. Perhaps, “decline” was a strong word, but I challenge any of my peers to prove that Japan is more interesting in 2006 than it was five to ten years ago.

Originally, I toyed with the idea of totally dismantling this site — leaving only the archives. But instead, I will reset my clock, write at a more sluggish pace, experiment with form and content. I may lose a majority of my readers, but I will hopefully regain my will to write online commentary.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

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