Thursday, May 31, 2012


Frank Miller.  If that name means nothing to you, you’ll probably just want to pass on by…nothing to see here, folks.

I’ve recently finished both 300 and the complete Sin City series.  At his best, Miller is a genius.  Unfortunately, he isn’t always at his best.

300 is one part genius, one part gimmick and one part sloganeering.  The tale of the Spartan 300 is a perfect tale for Miller’s gifts.  The gimmick is the oversized book; it doesn’t actually fit on a bookshelf very easily.  The larger page format lends itself to some impressive pages—the art (done by Lynn Varley, Frank’s erstwhile wife) has has room to breathe and the book has a vastness to it.  The heroes are heroic, the villains are villainous.  It rings throughout with a clarion call for Freedom from Tyranny.  It’s a good book, on the verge of being Great, but not quite there.  Why not?  That’s what I can’t pin down.  What is here is done well, but in the end, it just feels…light.  An odd thing to say about an oversized book, but the tension of the stand at The Hot Gates is lost in a show of bravado; the treachery of the hunchback is lost in quick cartoonish scenes; the vastness of the Persian army is lost in the rush to show them being beat and so on.  Labored over a bit longer, this book had the potential to be not just an interesting bit of art and storytelling, but something which would have risen to the level of literature.  Instead, we have the visual representation of a campfire tale—nice enough for what it is, but it could have been more.

Sin City?  There are 7 volumes in the series.  The last three are pure mail-it-in efforts.  The Worst of Frank.  Seriously, there is no reason for volumes 5-7 to exist.  They milk the franchise in tired stories with tired artwork.  Sad, to be honest.

The first two volumes are stunning.  Volumes 3 and 4 are a bit derivative, but still good it their own way. 

What is this series?  Imagine Raymond Chandler come back to life as a comic book artists in the 90s and you would have exactly these books.  The heroes are detective-like, terribly flawed individuals, living is a very sordid city specializing in depravity.  In one of Chandler’s stories, Marlowe tumbles into a pornography ring.  In the 1940s, when Chandler wrote, the details of the crimes were left unstated.  In Miller’s Sin City, the details are graphically displayed.  (This is not a book for children, in other words.)  Miller’s fictional world is much like Chandler’s fictional world, so the difference here is simply the difference of the half-century in which the two authors wrote.  All in all, I prefer the restraint of Chandler’s world.  And, I feel very sad thinking of all the adolescent boys who are excited by the umpteenth portrayal of an unclad prostitute.

Setting aside the pornographic angle, however, the art here is interesting.  The books are all black and white (well, there is some yellow thrown in volume 4—the later volumes have more color, but the less said about them, the better).  I would have never thought one could do so much in black and white, but Miller (who  both wrote and drew the books) has a masterful way in both the black on white and white on black panels.  There is a range of emotion expressed here which is really quite fascinating to behold.

When the plots stick to the realistic, they are really quite good—again, worthy of Chandler.  As in 300, the heroes here are heroic—good men fighting their way through a very bad world.  Somehow, in the midst of all this evil and depravity, these heroes keep their souls intact, saving the damsels in distress. 

Can these books be recommended?  Herein lies the problem:  Not really.   Too much gratuitous nudity.  Too much depravity in the villains—I’ll spare you the description of their evil deeds (be glad).  These really aren’t the sort of books you want to be reading in public.  It’s too bad.  At his best in the first four volumes here, there is much to recommend these books, but you have to take the over-the-top with the good.  With a bit more restraint, these books could have been great.  So, why don’t the books have that restraint?  The problem is at the heart of the message of the book: these are not cases of vile books in the service of a greater moral lesson.  They are vile books in the service of anarchy.  There is a nihilism at the core of the books.  And if all you have is nihilism, why not just include yet one more sketch of a prostitute or a tortured corpse?  So much talent in the service of…nothing.  A waste.  Truly a waste.

By the way, I never got around to reading these earlier because a few years back I saw the movie based on the books.  To call that movie bad would be an understatement.  It has all the lurid detail of these books, with none of the literary or graphic art.  Suffice it to say, the books are vastly better than the movie.

Frank Miller is an intriguing guy, in the end.  Someday there will be an endless stem of doctoral dissertations on him.  I am not sure if that is a compliment or not. 

I suppose I am obliged to link to Frank singing about a guy from Sin City.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Are We Not Men?

Not to go on all-Fours; that is the Law.  Are we not Men?
Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law.  Are we not Men?
Not to eat Flesh or Fish; that is the Law.  Are we not Men?
Not to claw Bark of Trees; that is the law.  Are we not Men?
Not to chase other Men; that is the Law.  Are we not Men?

Hmm.  I’d like to say that 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.  And yet, I know I stand condemned of violating the Law.  Does this make me less than human?
H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau has this recitation of the Law.  The Beast Folk use it to remind themselves what it is to be Human.  The echoes of Leviticus run strong.  And this is where Wells runs into a serious difficulty in his book—well, more properly, this is one of the places Wells runs into difficulty in his book.

(The plot for those who don’t know:  Dr. Moreau vivisects animals, turning them into men.  The experiments are not terribly complete, and the animals still retain some remnant of the beast.  So the Law is put in to make them know how to behave.  The beast learn to think of Moreau as God, punishing violations of the Law.  Things do not go well on the island.)

Wells clearly wants us to think that the law is silly, that Moreau is capricious and cruel (His is the house of Pain).  We are meant to be struck with horror at Moreau.  Yet, is the Law really all that bad?  Imagine you were a beast, with a beast’s nature.  Would not your life be better if you could overcome your nature and live a higher life?  Why should we celebrate the nature of the beast?  Well, actually that isn’t a thought experiment at all; just think about your own life.  Who can honestly say that he has committed no sin?  And right now you object that the question is wrong-headed because it presumes someone who gets to decide what is a sin.  But, set that aside for now—use your own definition of sin—think of all the thing you have done that you think are wrong. Not to do those things; that is the Law.  Are you not a man?  And then you realize that, well, maybe you are a bit of a beast after all, not even living up to your own standard of righteousness.

Now Wells seems to be suggesting that the whole idea of the Law is the problem; that it is absurd to turn beasts into men.  But is it?  Is it absurd to turn bad men into better men?  Should we all just revel in our own depravity?  Why shouldn’t we be grateful for a standard of behavior that shows us how Men should behave?

But, this isn’t the sort of question Wells wants us to ask when reading his book. 

In my tutorial we spent a lot of time talking about Moreau’s whole experiment.  Is it wrong to turn animals into men?  If I could create dog-man, would that be good?  Should Mount Holyoke embrace diversity by admitting dog-woman and cat-woman and cow-woman?  Would we all be happier meting these new beings?  There was instinctive revulsion when the question was raised—which is pretty interesting when you think about it.  What would be so wrong with meeting a being which was born a pig and has been modified so that it can walk and talk like a human?  Would you marry pig-man?  Or ape-man?  Is there something fundamentally morally wrong with the idea of creating such a being?  Are there limits, ethical limits, to such things?

All in all, for a schlocky sensationalistic trashy novel, there are quite a few things worth discussing in it.  Did Wells then write Great Books?  I have a hard time thinking he did.  Yet, here we are 118 years after this book was published reading and talking about it.  That may well be the most troubling thing about this whole book. 

The obvious music video.  Amazon had the Best of Devo (don’t laugh) as a cheap download some time ago.  I bought it, partly for nostalgia and partly, truth be told, because I knew it would really annoy the kids.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Selling England by the Pound

Before June hits, I figured it would be good to finish off the book reviews from my Economics courses last semester.  Three books, in declining order of how interesting they would be to a general reader.

1. Ahamed, Lords of Finance
A Pulitzer Prize winning book…about monetary policy.  Be still my beating heart.  The tabloid-worthy subtitle (“The Bankers Who Broke the World”) is suitably alarming.  First published in 2009, it undoubtedly earned sales, and perhaps even the Pulitzer, for coming out at the right time.  A book about how problems in the financial world caused a massive world-wide Depression…one can see why people in 2009 rushed out to buy a book about the 1930s.  The book itself is quite good.  Well-written, many good anecdotes, and a nice little morality tale.  The big lesson—stay away from the gold standard.  But, the lesson isn’t the reason to read this book.  This is a book for people who like history books; it is one of those books which shines a light on a relatively obscure set of people who are much less well-known that they should be.  When you hear the tales of the Great Depression in the popular press, you don’t often hear about Benjamin Strong; but you should.  And Montagu Norman?  Hjalmar Schacht? Emile Moreau?  These four men may have had a bigger impact on the events of 1930-1932 than any other four men, and yet try to find someone who can identify even one of those four.  The best recommendation for this book—it’s over 500 pages long, and I had several students tell me that they not only enjoyed it, but they read it over Spring Break.  When a book about monetary policy competes with the allures of the beaches of Puerto Rico…well, it must be good.

2. Eichengreen, Exorbitant Privilege
By way of contrast, I don’t think I had a single student tell me she liked this book.  I did hear from many who hated it.  It really doesn’t deserve opprobrium, but undergrads can be cruel.  The book is, as the subtitle puts it, about “The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System.”  The subtitle is a bit wrong though—it should be “Possible Fall;” reports of the death of the dollar are greatly exaggerated.  This, like a previous Eichengreen book I once assigned to general disdain from the students (Globalizing Capital) (Lesson: don’t assign Eichengreen’s books to undergrads), suffers from the problem of trying to be an encyclopedia masquerading as a novel.  There isn’t a bit of trivia which Eichengreen doesn’t try to fit into the book, but the structure of the book is one long narrative story.  As a result, the book is dense, very dense.  In a way, it is admirable how much Eichengreen can compress a wealth of detail.  But, that doesn’t make the book the most excellent type of book to read on a beach.

3. Mehrling, The New Lombard Street
A book for those who want the nitty-gritty of monetary policy.  It’s good for what it does, but it presents a rather novel take on recent Fed activities in a sort of off-hand, this-is-obviously-true, manner.  Arguing that the Fed has moved from being the lender of last resort to an insurer of last resort is a clever little rhetorical ploy, and makes for a nice little thought experiment, but on the bigger question, ”Is it true?,” the jury is still out. I find it hard to have Mehrling's certainty that the actions of a clearly panicked Fed in 2008 are a harbinger of things to come.  That being said, not a bad book, just not one destined to show up in many people’s bedside reading stack.

And thus completes the reviews for my economics courses in the Spring.  (I still have one more book from my tutorial to go.)  This, incidentally is leaving me with a bit of an odd feeling.  I recently took an administrative job in the college for next year, so I won’t be assigning any economics books next year.  It’s been so long since I wasn’t teaching an economics course, I wonder how many economics books I will read in the next year.  I really have no idea.  This is seriously uncharted waters.

The last time I wasn’t teaching economics was shortly after the end of the era this song is imitating.  Lily introduced me to Gyote last night.  The song linked above sounds exactly like Sting singing on one of the early albums by Genesis (before Phil Collins took the band in the all-pop, all-the-time direction).  (Curiously, there is another song on the same album which sounds like Genesis after Phil Collins destroyed the band (think: Invisible Touch).  I won't link to that song for Humanitarian reasons.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dancin' and Fishin'

A former student (Marjorie) convinced me that I really should read Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.  Every now and again, I’d heard a stray word or two in praise of this series, but since the series is 12 books long, it always struck me as one of those things that you really don’t want to start because then you feel compelled to read the whole thing, and a 12 volume commitment is a bit much.  Marjorie told me it was good, really good.  I trust Marjorie’s judgment on books (and paper—Marjorie is the only paper connoisseur I have ever known).  But, even still...12 volumes.  Then she wrote a review of the series in one of those webzines  (why “one of those webzines” and not just “a webzine” or even better just “a review,” location unspecified?  I have no idea—I just noticed the oddity of the praising in proofreading—surely there is Freudian interpretation of the choice of words there), and sent me a link to the review.  Reading her review, I had to finally face up to the task—these books were too good to skip.  So, I bought them.

I read Volume 1:  A Question of Upbringing.  Marjorie was right—I’m going to enjoy this series.

The series as a whole is one of those broad sweeps of time, in this case the 20th century, in which we watch characters stumble through history.  I can’t be more specific than that because, well, I’ve only read volume 1.

A Question of Upbringing traces our narrator’s time in prep school and college.  We meet three…not really friends, and not really acquaintances…something in between.  One suspects these three are going to weave in and out of our narrator’s life throughout the work as a whole.—which makes the general conclusion of this particular book a bit odd.

Taken on its own, this book is the story of youthful attachments and their demise as one ages.  We get this right near the end:
With regret, I accepted the inevitability of circumstance.  Human relationships flourish and decay, quickly and silently, so that those concerned scarcely know how brittle, or how inflexible, the ties that bind them have become.
On its own, a well-worn idea—graduation, for example, is full of people wondering if they will ever talk to their friends again.  (Last weekend, I met a pair of students who had come back for their 10 year reunion.  These two were very good friends as undergrads.  They conspired to get one’s father to marry the other’s mother.  Talking with them about these machinations provided me a great deal of amusement when they were undergrads—honestly, I was surprised when it worked.  Now they are step-sisters.  So, they still see each other regularly.  A rather innovative solution to a general fear of losing contact with one’s friend, I must say.)

But, while the idea that human relationships are fragile is well-worn, is it true?  This book itself is an odd answer—this particular volume is arguing that it is true, but since it is obvious these characters all come back into the narrator’s life, we know it really isn’t true.  Just how fragile are the ties that bind?

An example.  A student of mine who graduated in 2008 was back on campus yesterday.  She was invited by the Alumnae Association here to participate in a big Story Corps project to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Mount Holyoke.  Story Corps is a national organization that goes around recording interviews with people.  But, the interviewers are not professional interviewers; it’s regular people interviewing other people.  So, the Alumnae Association picked 10 alums to come back and each one had to pick someone to be the interviewer.  My former student asked me to do it.  It was fun.  There we were sitting in a makeshift recording studio and I got to ask her all sorts of questions and she answered them and it was just like Old Times.  I interrupted her when her answers got formulaic and told her she was just rambling.  I pressed her when she got vague.  I made her admit she was pretty good at what she does.  I asked her if she liked Upper or Lower Lake better and scoffed when she said she hated being outside in nature…city girls…ugh.

Now I have talked with her a few times in the four years since she graduated, but not all that often—an e-mail here or there.  Yet, there we were, talking as if it was the Spring of 2008 and she hadn’t yet graduated.  We talked about her boyfriend and her job and her future.  While I talk with her far less than I did when she was at Mount Holyoke, we are still friends.  Good friends. 

So, why do we think of human relationships as brittle things?  Clearly some relationships are brittle, but why?  And which ones? 

But, I digress.  (Though come to think of it, Marjorie would also appreciate this digression. But, I digress again.)  The Powell book is quite good as an exploration of the demise of childhood friendships.   I suspect one’s high school friendships are more fragile than most, not because of the nature of friendship, but because as one moves from the age of 14 to the age of 21, one changes.  It is not the death of friendship, but the death of youth we notice in this book.  Our narrator thinks of himself as the constant and everyone else around him changes.  What was charming in a 15 year old acquaintance is merely annoying in a 20 year old acquaintance.  And so, youthful attachments decay.  But, then we know they come back in future volumes.  It’s hard to know what to make of a book like this in the end—do we treat it as a stand-alone novel or simply chapter one in a 12 chapter book?  I have no idea.

12 volumes; 12 months—one book a month.  That’s my project...well, one of my projects, for the next year.    

And so, take this opportunity to e-mail a friend today and emulate the end of this song.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

O, how I faint when I of you do write

Mount Holyoke’s graduation was this last weekend.  Bittersweet, as always.  One of the students who went through the graduation ceremony was a student of mine who actually finished in December.  She gave me a book when she finished, and this seems like a Time Most Opportune to review it.

The book:  William Shakespeare, Sonnets
But, that’s actually the title on the back of the book.  The title on the front of the book is in letters which do not appear on my keyboard.  I suppose I could download some new fonts or something, but that seems hardly worthwhile for a blog post.

The book is a Bulgarian translation of the Sonnets.  And it was a funny experience reading it.  It has the poems in the original language on the left hand page and the Bulgarian translations on the right hand page.  So I have now read Shakespeare in the original (English, not Klingon) in a book with a Bulgarian translation.  Alas, I can offer no evaluation of the quality of the translation.  I can say with certainty that the translator did get the right number of lines, but beyond that...well, I can’t even tell if it rhymes.

Does reading Shakespeare in a book with Bulgarian translations improve the sonnets?  (This is the sort of question about which I know many Readers have been pondering for years.)  I don’t know.  (Just think—you have been waiting your whole life to know, and that is the answer you get…)  This particular volume was really fun to read; it is a very attractive little book.  Reading only the left-hand pages was also a bit of an interesting experience.  But what of the sonnets themselves? 

Confession time:  I have a really hard time reading books of sonnets.  I enjoy reading poetry, but there is something in the back of my brain that demands some variety when reading books of poetry.  When I read a series of sonnets in a row, my mind just goes numb.  Something about the repetitive cadence of the sonnet—over and over and over and over and over and over and (I was going to write it 14 times, but even typing it made my brain go numb).  Any given Shakespearian sonnet is really interesting—even the not-so-great ones are relatively amazing.  But reading 10 sonnets in a row…by the fifth one, my mind is completely elsewhere.  It’s like listening to a metronome.

So, is this a critical failing?  I like Shakespeare's sonnets.  Some of them are among the best poems ever written.  In an anthology of poetry in which the sonnets are mixed in with other types of poetry, I love reading the sonnets.  But, in a volume of just the sonnets—well, every time I have read Shakespeare’s sonnets as a whole, I have the same experience of feeling like I am driving through Nevada, just hoping to get to Wells so at least there will be some buildings to break the monotony.  (And if you have ever seen Wells, Nevada, you’ll know that this a serious sign of desperation.)

I have this nagging feeling that an inability to read 154 sonnets in a row with pleasure is a sign of cultural degeneracy.   That makes me sad.

So, from an album to which I was listening earlier today, here is a sad love song to capture the moment. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Someone Shot Nostalgia in the Back

Shortly after I first became a professor, I read Nabokov’s novel, Pnin.  (No, sorry, I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce that name.)  I had fond memories, very fond memories, of the book.  In a fit of nostalgia at the end of the semester, I decided to reread the book.  A stunning experience.  Either I have changed a lot since I first read the book or the book has changed a lot.  (The latter possibility is tempting to embrace—imagine a world in which books really do change between readings.  You could then go back and reread your favorite books and each time they would not just seem different, they actually would be different.  Never mind—that’s a really dumb thought experiment.)  Now it isn’t really all that surprising that after 18 years of teaching, I am a bit different—I’ve read a few books since then, for example—but even still, this novel was nothing like I remembered it.  It still had (obviously) the same episodes I remembered so vividly, but then when I thought about it I realized there were only two episodes I remembered vividly.  (Pnin on a bench in the wrong city realizing he could never get to the talk he was supposed to give; Pnin utterly dismayed—indeed more dismayed than any other character in any other book ever—when he hears glass breaking in the kitchen sink.)  The entire story surrounding those two events was extraordinarily different than the story which existed in my imagination.   

When I thought about it, it really wasn’t hard to see why my memory of the book was so different than the book as it exists.  I remembered the book as being all about a befuddled professor wandering around an idyllic campus in the Northeast.  It was an amusing tale, capturing life at a New England college perfectly.  Why did the book seem that way?  Well imagine being a newly minted Assistant Professor, coming from a 1960s style-concrete-slab-buildings-everywhere campus in California, and arriving at one of the most gorgeous liberal arts colleges in the world, red brick buildings with ivy covered walls set amongst rolling green lawns and sparkling lakes.  Imagine wandering to a library which is gorgeous enough to be a chapel and a chapel which is magnificent enough to be a library reading room.  Imagine an office with 12 foot ceilings and wood trimmed windows.  And then imagine reading a book about an old professor pottering around such a campus, slightly bewildered by the world.  How could that novel not seem like an idyllic vision of a future life?  How could it not be utterly poignant when our professor hero had moments of doubt and pain.  How could said assistant professor not henceforth recommend that novel to I don’t know how many people as the best picture of life at a Northeastern liberal arts college ever written?

I was talking with someone not too long ago about this very problem of a book which once read at a particular moment in life was forever stamped not with the book but with the memory of a book which isn’t exactly the book which is there.  He mentioned the idea of going back to write the novel he remembered.  An intriguing idea, that.

So, what is this novel?  Curiously, it feels like I am about to desecrate the novel by describing it accurately.  That’s not a joke—I am having this terribly sick feeling right now in even thinking about writing down a review of Pnin, the book; I feel like I am about to kill Pnin, the memory. 

Pnin, the novel, starts off as the story of a befuddled Russian refugee who is living a tenuous life as a professor at a college in New England.  The first six chapters are tales designed to mock the professor, but in every case there is a twinge of pathos mixed in with the mockery.  We find out why in the seventh, and last, chapter.  The narrator, someone eerily similar to Nabokov himself, tells us the back story of his own past and his interactions with Pnin.  And somewhere in the midst of that last chapter we realize we have an unreliable narrator on our hands.  Pnin stole the love of the narrator’s life and this book is a sort of revenge fantasy, but revenge on a man who the narrator knows is fundamentally good and decent.  Indeed, that Pnin, this pathetic figure should have stolen the beautiful woman from our dashing hero seems incredible.  The narrator pretends in that final chapter than it was he who rejected the woman who went on to marry Pnin because our narrator would not have her, but there is something not quite right about that story.  Every moment in which we saw Pnin’s inner self throughout the book was necessarily pure fabrication.  Events which would have just been amusing stories are turned into lampoon by relating the inner thoughts of Pnin.  In the first six chapters, one imagines that the narrator knows all these things because he knows Pnin well.  Then we discover the narrator has never spoken to Pnin at any point after the events in the book take place.  Pure fabrication. 

The book is clever—but you knew that—it is Nabokov after all.  As a portrait of life in a New England college, it’s not exactly right—a bit too much caricature designed to make Pnin look like a fish out of water.  As a portrait of a professor, again it’s not quite right.  As a means of thinking about how we do in fact create narratives of others, it’s pretty good.  How many people exist in our mind’s eye exactly the way we really wish they were?

R.I.P. Pnin, the memory.  Cue dirge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The school year winds down and nostalgia creeps in.  There is a sameness to the rhythm of college.  And while the individual change, the nature of the average student doesn’t change much.  Indeed, it hasn’t changed much since at least 1920.  That was the year Fitzgerald published This Side of Paradise.  We read it in my tutorial this year.  It is one of those inter-war expression of the hopelessness of the modern age.  And after a century of unbelievable change, I was shocked at how much Amory Blaine would fit right in at MHC (well, if he were a she, of course).  Nearly a century after the book was published, college students are still chasing after the same things with the same hopes and fears and the same ennui nagging at the fringes of consciousness. 

Amory ends the novel with the declaration: “I know myself, but that is all.”  In that phrase is captured all of the angst and problems of the 21st century undergraduate college.  Amory, of course, does not understand himself at all.  He just thinks he does.  But he does know that he knows nothing beyond himself, nothing greater than himself.  His whole life is reduced to the Self:
“I am selfish,” he thought.
“This is not a quality that will change when I ‘see human suffering’ or ‘lose my parents’ or ‘help others.’
“This selfishness is not only part of me. It is the most living part.
“It is by somehow transcending rather than by avoiding that selfishness that I can bring poise and balance into my life.
“There is no virtue of unselfishness that I cannot use. I can make sacrifices, be charitable, give to a friend, endure for a friend, lay down my life for a friend — all because these things may be the best possible expression of myself; yet I have not one drop of the milk of human kindness.”
That is, of course exactly what the modern college teaches students.  Live for the Greater Good because then you will fully express yourself.  Study hard because then you will be able to do great things and feel self-fulfillment.

What about all those classes and things?  Knowledge is dead.  As Eliot put it in 1934:
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
So, what does the modern college student learn?  We talk about teaching critical thinking and life skills, but never wisdom.

So, what is the modern college?  It’s just like the frenzy of social activity described by Fitzgerald in a subchapter entitled “Carnival.” It’s also just like the Carnival (Karn Evil) Emerson, Lake and Palmer described in 1973.  It doesn’t have to be like that, of course.  But, the fact that the college Fitzgerald describes and the college my students attend are more alike than it is comfortable to admit, must give one reason to pause in hoping for a dramatic change in the culture of higher education.