introducing readers to writers since 1995

February 11, 2005

And This Is What Helen DeWitt's Been Up To

by Ron Hogan

I had to look up something I'd written last spring, and poking around the blog entries near that item, I spotted the brief paragraph I'd written about the disappearance of novelist Helen DeWitt. I decided to Google her to see if there had been any other news recently, and found that the current issue of the Yale Review of Books includes her "Letter to an Undergraduate," about not letting your talent go to waste by failing to appreciate how you can do your best learning outside the classroom:

"Because disciplines are so highly specialized, they change rapidly. Keeping up and contributing already take more time than is left from teaching, grant applications, and administration. Borrowing from other fields is confined to the state of play when a specialist was an undergraduate. Segregation is not strict--there are reviews in the NYRB, there is contact with other disciplines through bridge or poker or tennis, through synagogue, church, or mosque, through friends or family or significant other. (Has structural anthropology really had its day?) But the undergraduate is the only one who systematically engages with a range of disciplines as they are understood right now."

It's good to see DeWitt writing again, and best wishes for her continued recovery.

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