Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

I've never read a character analysis like yours. Many, yes, have been good; some have had moments of eloquence or panache. 
But yours is exceptional from the first to the last word.  
Not only do you expose Howard's character, but you do so in a clever, astute, and stylish way that rivals the novel's own distinctive flair and intelligence. 
I hope—I really hope—that you work as a creative writer, Alyssa, because you sure have a gift. 
A remarkable pleasure—really fine work.

The assignment was to analyze a character from one of the novels we read in Contemporary British Lit in question-and-answer format. I chose Zadie Smith's On Beauty and its protagonist, Howard Belsey. Because I'm lazy and I think rules are for suckers, I wrote a story at the last minute.

I teared up reading this response in class. I almost got hit by a car in the parking lot, trying to read this and walk to my car at the same time.

I took another class from this professor, and not just because his response to my paper was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

We were assigned another character analysis in this class, Modern British Lit, and again I chose to write a story instead of write the paper as assigned (boring). This time, I chose Richard from Mrs. Dalloway.

Here is the response:

I would've liked to have seen a preamble and analysis, but that wish amounts to mere carping in the face of this extraordinary, compelling work of imagination and critical thinking.  
You've got sure talent, Alyssa.

I have no idea if he was just being nice, my professor. I have no idea how much merit he really saw in my writing.

I worry that he really thought that most of it was crap, but saw that I was a bit shy and reserved and decided to save me from self-destruction by praising me, incessantly.

But for a few moments at least, while I read those responses from a professor I greatly respect and admire, I feel amazing. I feel like a talent that the world should know about.

I feel so much like a writer.

So thank you, nameless professor. Thank you for making me recognize something within myself that I should have seen all along. The need to tell stories, the need to say something, say anything, the need to be read.

The need to write.

I will never get over it.



  1. I love Zadie Smith and I think I love your professor a little too. What a power teachers possess---so happy that he used his powers for good. Glad you listened and decided to believe him, Erin

  2. Thanks for stopping by Erin! I appreciate it :)