History Table, Week Two.

At the Old Library Luncheon I was challenged though indirectly by David Slavitt to attend Leverett’s History Table. Not being one to turn down a double dog dare, this was good enough. And so, I’ve cleared my Friday schedule to accomodate History Table.

Now the name is something of a misnomer. We do sometimes discuss history, but only as a matter of course. You see, the regulars at History Table are, themselves, history. Last week Dan Aaron established only two degrees of separation between me and Presbytarian divine preacher Lyman Beecher. This week we learnt that Slavitt, once upon a time as a movie critic, was kissed by Marilyn Monroe. Jay Hooke asked, pointedly, “Where?”

For the most part, History Table is a secret meeting of a few distinguished, old, and mostly balding white men who like to talk about how disgusting their inferiors are and how terribly difficult it is to be so superior to them. I am told that subsequent meetings may include guest speakers, one of whom may have even had a woman’s name. Whether this is the case is not especially clear.

I may have exaggerated ever so slightly. Today’s conversation was monopolized and well rehearsed. At least I had heard it before, at the Old Library Luncheon, certainly. Everyone there is very quick. Jay got me out of a small, potentially embarrassing situation.

When I arrived, and late, I was greeted by a new face. I thought he said his name was Richard, but I can’t find him in the Senior Common Room directory under that. In any event, he asked me which history classes I was taking. But I haven’t taken any history classes at Harvard, I admitted. Funny thing, why else would I sneak into this secret club? Slavitt, he’s quick, immediately noted that all people my age think the world was created two weeks last Tuesday — a comment which eerily echoed something I had said the night before while ranting about intelligent design at dinner — and that nothing mattered before there was Starbucks and wi-fi. I couldn’t decide whether to tell him that I don’t drink coffee. Luckily Jay is a bit quicker than me. “Ah,” he said, “but you know a thing or two about the Big Bang.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I only know about very ancient history.”

Dan laughed; Slavitt smiled and I was in.

After lunch, I called John Boller at UChicago. He’s going to call me back. What with talking to Hubert Bray a few weeks back, I’m starting to feel connected with the larger math community. Perhaps I’ll even work up the courage to email Schoen later today. In the meanwhile, I’m cleaning the room so that I can sit for a very long time thinking about and writing my thesis. Only seven weeks to go.