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Peter Gallagher

Dear Brooks,

You are on the money, I think, about the group photograph and CVs! I attended many of these things in my own career. As I'm sure you've guessed, "x-Speak—for 'x', fill-in the blank—confabs are all too common in places where "aspiration" is plentiful, discrimination is scarce and accountability absent. Alas, they're often poor places, even if the conference venue are swank.

Because you are a devotee (?) of Somerset Maugham, may I recommend to you — on the day after the death of the intriguing Christine Keeler — Arthur Koestler's mordant masterpiece "The Call Girls" (https://www.amazon.com/Call-Girls-Arthur-Koestler/dp/0394484355)? It's an hilarious, timeless fable of 'savants' and 'diplomats' whose lives are an endless round of X-Speak conferences.

It's not a bad idea to read it "under the table" in any such meeting (I did). It's a sort of antidote or charm. But, you may want to keep a straight face, if you can.

Enjoyed the photos you shared; especially those on the lake.

Best wishes.

Stephen Kane

To add to Peter Gallagher's recommendation, check out the "Campus Trilogy" novels of UK writer David Lodge: "Changing Places," "Small World," and "Nice Work." Ribald in spots, and possibly insensitive on some fronts -- it's been a while since I read them -- but mostly entertaining looks at the academic whirl of conferences, intellectual "production," and departmental/institutional skullduggery.

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