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July 16, 2012
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He doesn't look like a gymnast. He's all button down shirts and frazzled grey hair framing wire spectacles, a picture perfect professorial archetype down to the very tips of his frayed shoelaces. But he was a gymnast once, or so he tells us, and I believe him because he smiles like he knows something while he's chatting before class.

It's strange to see that image superimposed over the current one – the distinguished professor in pressed khaki slacks and a jacket, worn brown loafers exuding a faintly courteous manner (you can always tell them by their shoes), and a ring on the fourth finger of his left hand – versus the athletic kid who went to college for a semester and grew nine inches too tall to keep doing what he loved so he took up a tennis racquet instead. Gymnasts don't wear suit jackets; no steel mill worker has such manicured nails. But the images are all there, flickering just under the surface and bubbling up again when he's recounting stories about his days in Pittsburgh and his lawyer father and the time he nearly died of overheating after locking his seven year old self in his father's car.

He has quick handwriting, scripted and elegant, but just obscure enough that you have to put a little effort into deciphering it. It's writing that matches his hands. And even though the well-kept fingernails were the first thing I noticed, I didn't miss the way he explains with his gestures, talks with his hands, turns pages like they're made of glass. Slides his glasses over his eyes without taking them off when he bends closer to read and pushes them back on the bridge of his nose whenever they slip again.

He's telling us about broken bones and trampolines, about balance and control, and maybe he's a little wistful when he's talking about his growth spurt and losing his sense of self, his equilibrium, at nineteen, but I could be imagining it. He says being a gymnast is all about throwing yourself out there and not caring what happens; another time he says leaving home and moving some eight hundred miles away was the best decision he ever made and I think some habits don't fade (or I'm drawing parallels where there are none to be found). Once he told us about the heat burning in the steel mills and for some reason that image never resonated as strongly; maybe because that was just a job and being a gymnast wasn't. He's teaching me about teaching and I'm learning about learning, and perhaps a thing or two about depth perception in the fourth dimension.

I've learned that I never really knew what "sharp-eyed" meant until a few weeks into class, that there is a difference between educating and teaching, and that personal effort is directly proportional to how much the other side of the equation cares. And that's probably a poor attitude to have, but it's just so hard to care some days when you're running on the last quarter tank of gas and a meal from two days ago. But it's easy to care when he gets the joke with the apple and thanks you for the cake.

And maybe it makes more sense than I realize and maybe it's all about the chalk on his hands, chalk boundary lines on the tennis courts, chalk writing on the blackboard; about hitting each corner of the spring floor and every quadrant of the classroom. Rounding off errors and rounding off to handsprings.

Or maybe I'm just getting used to that disorienting double vision, the same one I get every time I start thinking about the future, only now I'm looking back and peeling away layers that aren't mine to expose.

But I always did have a weakness for good stories.

He doesn't look like a gymnast. Then again, he doesn't look like anything but an English professor.
Non-fiction. Flash Fic Month, Day 17

For a fantastic professor that made college worthwhile again :D

#theWrittenRevolution Critique: [link]

Questions:

- Do the sections flow into each other, or are they segmented?

- Do you feel like you know this person after reading? Perhaps a better question would be "Does this character sketch feel like a real person?" or "Is this person exist-able?" The point is, I'm concerned with what impressions I left on my first real foray into writing non-fiction.

- There isn't a plot; do you care? Would you read stories about this person/ a character based on this person?

[EDIT]

Well. This was a surprise :B Huge thanks to *xlntwtch and ^thorns! You should all go tell them how awesome they are =P

I'm ridiculously happy that this piece was my second DD - it's one of the most personal things I've ever written, and I'm very proud of it. This is just the icing :heart:

I'm sad to say that after this coming semester, this professor won't be teaching much anymore; he's soon to be the new Associate Dean (and I'm kinda flattered that I was one of the first people to know :XD:). He's been absolutely wonderful to me this summer, helping me out with my writing projects and letting me sit in on his Drama class, and I'm thankful to have known him while he was a professor.

Read aloud here: [link]
Add a Comment:
 

Daily Deviation

Given 2012-08-12
Superimpose by =SilverInkblot The suggester writes, "A short nonfiction essay that not only delights with terrific detail, but grows to show glimpses of the thoughts and ways the writer sees life. This is a truly wonderful read." ( Suggested by xlntwtch and Featured by thorns )
:iconxlntwtch:
Critique on:
Superimpose

First, this is very fine character sketch and the imagery as delightful and interesting as a reader could hope. In some ways, it reminded me of reading a book like "Setting Free the Bears" by John Irving, which was full of equally dynamic and fascinating character description. I like Irving, so that should tell you something.

1) The "sections" are seamless. I don't see why you'd even wonder about sections, since I didn't get a sense there were any. It's a description about a teacher, students, YOU and life.

2) I know this person only as much as you did, only as much as you described -- initially. But when I think about this story (and story it is) I find myself remembering professors who taught me, what they said about themselves, how they acted and mostly how they affected my life. This man, described so minutely, "doesn't look like a gmynast" but he's definitely a teacher. Why did you examine him so closely? Because of stories he told that perhaps had little to do with the course you took/take, but everything to do with the "fourth dimension" adroitly mentioned here. He's a Teacher. He exists for me because he did for you.

3) You think there's no plot, but I disagree. There's a setting, rising action, conflict, falling action, denouement. A beginning "He doesn't look like a gymnast," a middle "He's teaching me about teaching and I'm learning about learning and perhaps a thing or two about depth perception in the fourth dimension" and an end "He doesn't look like a gymnast." Loads of good thought-material all over, which makes this have a plot. See?

Generalities:
Done. Thank you for a very enjoyable read.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
21 out of 21 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconshandsy:
Critique questions:

  1. Both. Each paragraph does sort of stand on its own in terms of not having a direct "transition" from the last (though some of them do), but that's not a bad thing at all. I think the fragmentation complements the narrator's voice in his/her description of the professor-- he's bits and pieces of things forgotten and what-ifs turned no-longers, so it makes sense to have a "choppier" description sprinkled with faintly romantic run-ons. I love the way you structured this :nod:

  2. Oh my, I completely missed the line in your description when you said this was based on a professor of yours! Yes, I definitely feel that the existence of this man as you describe him is feasible. Your careful description of seemingly trivial features like his well-manicured fingernails and the way he wears his glasses fostered an instant but strong connection with the subject.

  3. I don't care about the lack of plot at all, actually. I love writing based on description rather than story, and I think you did a lovely job. But yes, I would be interested in reading more about this professor or someone based off of him.





Specific praise:

  • "But he was a gymnast once, or so he tells us, and I believe him because he smiles like he knows something while he's chatting before class."
  • :arrowr: This is just one example of many beautiful sentences that could be classified as 'run-ons.' While the term 'run-on' is generally used in criticism, I think that your use of them from a stylistic standpoint is wonderfully effective. The voice of the narrator is so clear in this particular sentence. She believes him because 'he smiles like he knows something while he's chatting before class.' The soft and intimate observation of a smile is enough to make her believe his stories. It tells the reader volumes about both the character of the professor and the character of the narrator.

  • "But the images are all there, flickering just under the surface and bubbling up again when he's recounting stories about his days in Pittsburg and his lawyer father and the time he nearly died of overheating after locking his seven year old self in his father's car." :pointr: The image of these pictures 'flickering just under the surface and bubbling up again' is strong and effective. The specific details of his lawyer father and accidentally locking himself in the car are great examples of the little, seemingly inconsequential details that make this man so beloved to the reader.


  • "...and that personal effort is directly proportional to how much the other side of the equation cares." :pointr: I like the image of a balanced equation. It connects well back to the theme of scholastic education vs. life learning.





Specific criticism:

  • "...and a ring on the fourth finger of his left hand." :pointr: Just for the sake of parallelism, I would eliminate the 'and' to make this flow better.


  • "...no steel mill worker has such manicured nails." :pointr: 'Manicured' isn't the most effective adjective you could use here, mainly because 'manicured' doesn't really say anything about the quality of his nails. Everyone's nails can be described as 'manicured'-- are his nails badly manicured or well manicured?


  • "...but just obscure enough that you have to put a little effort into deciphering it." :pointr: I suppose the word 'obscure' isn't technically wrong in this context, but I can't help but think that a better word could be used.


  • "...(or I'm drawing parallels where there are none to be found)." :pointr: I just feel as if this editorial comment takes too much away from the image you were building. The narrator's voice is loaded with many emotions, but doubt is not one of them. This doesn't seem to fit very well with the rest of the piece-- I would suggest eliminating it completely.


  • "He doesn't look like a gymnast. Then again, he doesn't look like anything but an English professor." :pointr: The line itself is fantastic; I think it's an excellent way to end your story. My issue with it is less with the line itself and more with the image your rhetoric has implied throughout the story up to this point. Based on your juxtaposition of life education vs. classroom teaching, I had the impression throughout the story that this man was a Physics professor. Words like 'equilibrium' and 'equation' and phrases such as 'depth perception in the fourth dimension' are what give me that impression. I'm not saying that you should change the subject that this man teaches (obviously you can't, seeing as this is based off of a real person and that person apparently was a professor of English), but perhaps lightly implying here-and-there what exactly he's teaching in the classroom would be a good idea.





Overall, I thought this was beautiful. I rarely enjoy a short story as much as I enjoyed this one. Beautiful job :nod:
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
30 out of 30 deviants thought this was fair.

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

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:iconanothereal:
anothereal Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014
lovely work. :heart:
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :heart:
Reply
:iconopenskyline:
openskyline Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Has this man read this poem? I hope so. He would, I am sure, be very proud.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
He's read a lot of my stuff, including this :)
Reply
:iconvertigoart:
VertigoArt Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Professional Writer
I love hearing something read aloud. It gives so much of a better sense of what you are trying to get across. The character is easy to relate to and the flow of the piece is wonderful (no halting phrases or stumbling blocks). I love the diction in your voice. This piece is easy to read and easy to listen to. I will definitely be coming back for more.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'd actually like to re-read this one some time - I think I could do much better. I took a radio internship one semester and know a lot more about working with recordings. Thank you for the kind words :heart:
Reply
:iconvertigoart:
VertigoArt Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Professional Writer
Of course. Let me know if you rerecord it. I would love to hear it.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I don't have the software right now, but I'll let you know if I ever do :D
Reply
:iconvertigoart:
VertigoArt Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Professional Writer
I've recorded a few pieces. Both audio and video. I love it.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
There's a group for the concept over at Elocutionists, but it never quite took off. There was just too much posting back and forth to really get it off the ground.
Reply
:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
:love: This is just fantastic all around.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :heart:
Reply
:iconmhi2x:
mhi2x Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
just love this./.....
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :heart:
Reply
:iconmhi2x:
mhi2x Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
i love reading a lot ...
and this one makes me think ...
so i guess that makes me love this


hope to read more from you...
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I hope it reminded you of your best teachers :heart:
Reply
:iconmhi2x:
mhi2x Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
yeah...the best and my favorite teacher he is rather a financial management teacher and i always love the way he inspire me to do more than i could...i mean he peel off every skin that covers my potentials until there was nothing left unexposed...

just sad i`ll graduate this march and i think i would really miss listening to him...my favorite teacher
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Everybody should have at least one of those teachers :) I'm just sad that I didn't have one earlier in life.
Reply
:iconmhi2x:
mhi2x Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
really....??????? at least one???? that`s sad....
Reply
:iconblacksand459:
Blacksand459 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very nice piece. :)

As for the questions, the sections flow together nicely, in my opinion. And yes, the main character seems completely real. The observations about his loafers, glasses, fingernails, frazzled hair...while someone could just as soon improvise those details in a fiction piece, they seem quite real and help paint the picture...it's literary "body language."

I care not if there is no plot. It was well-written; that's always the point. And yeah, I'd read stories about this person.

As an aside, I worked for a superconductivity laboratory recently. The owner is a Stanford professor in his mid-forties, with a doctorate in chemistry, and I was reminded of him as I read this. Living in SoCal most of his life and being an avid surfer, his usual attire consisted of Dockers, a Polo shirt and a pair of Vans. He is an incredibly interesting person with a frightening level of intelligence and perception. He was always eager to share his knowledge and answer questions; it didn't take long to realize exactly how much I don't know about academia in general, and chemistry in particular. ;)

Hopefully my comments made sense. I found this story from your comment on the Lit. Experiment. Well done!
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I think it's interesting that so many commenters have been reminded of someone from their own lives :D Even from that short paragraph, I get the feeling I know the person you're describing, or at least know the type of person. I think our professors would get along well :)
Reply
:iconblacksand459:
Blacksand459 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Obviously your writing is very relatable for all of us to have responded in like manner. :D

I agree; they would likely hit it off just fine. :) One of the most striking personality traits of my former boss, is his humble nature. Even though he has impressive credentials and dozens of U.S. patents to his name, he didn't come off as a know-it-all to people.

I had an Art professor who had a similar attitude. She told me she could be super-critical and whatnot, but why? There is no benefit to being a jerk. And that is chiefly why I admire the professors I've worked with.
Yours sounds like a real down-to-earth guy also. For some reason, it's making me think of Mr. Holland's Opus. That's the type of person I think of when I read your piece.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
He's a really nice guy :D It seems like he's always cheerful and always willing to help out his students. I just love being in his classes.

I've never seen the movie, so I'll have to make use of Netflix sometime in the future.
Reply
:iconblacksand459:
Blacksand459 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
That's cool!

You really should; it's a great film. :D
Reply
:iconintricately-ordinary:
intricately-ordinary Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
"Or maybe I'm just getting used to that disorienting double vision, the same one I get every time I start thinking about the future, only now I'm looking back and peeling away layers that aren't mine to expose."

what a beautiful piece!
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :heart:
Reply
:icondevoneaton:
DevonEaton Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
As a once upon a time gymnast and a current bookish writer I find my own memories superimposed upon this piece and they line up so nicely. Extremely good writing here.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Glad to hear it resonates with someone with a similar history :)
Reply
:iconbukamuminkowa:
BukaMuminkowa Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012
For all that the comments of people who know little are worth :P :
This text leaves the very same taste in my mouth as sweet chili tea and Yeats´ When You Are Old (that is good). It is a text I do not tire of, even after reading it many a time. It flows perfectly. Context is not always necessary; what I really want to know is what color is his coffee mug and how he takes his tea.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I'll have to ask him that sometime, just for you :P
Reply
:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012
this does feel like a very real character to me. he feels like a teacher that would have made my college life better too. he's likable but deep. this feels more to me like a character description than a story, but maybe that was your intention. either way, this was a joy to read so thank you for sharing it with us.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
A character sketch was my intention, though I've been told "essay" is a better description. Either way, telling a story was never quite what it was supposed to be :XD: I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Reply
:iconanapests-and-ink:
anapests-and-ink Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Honestly, I didn't notice any 'sections.' So I guess that means that they flowed quite well. :)

I don't necessarily feel like I know this person, mostly because real people are so hard to know. He's too well-rounded to be anyone fictional. I really want to hear more of his story, grow slowly intimate with his character (though character isn't quite the right word; he is anything but a 'character'). I would really, truly love to read more about him.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I'll see what I can come up with then :D Thank you for the fave!
Reply
:iconquolia:
Quolia Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Congrats on the DD! :squee:
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! :iconexcitedplz:
Reply
:iconbrassteeth:
brassteeth Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012
Wonderful, wonderful and fully deserved!!!
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :heart:
Reply
:iconlit-twitter:
Lit-Twitter Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012
Chirp, congrats on the DD, it's been twittered. [link] :)
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Always a pleasure to see you :) Thank you!
Reply
:iconrosary0fsighs:
Rosary0fSighs Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012
This is so wonderful :)
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :D
Reply
:iconaemi:
Aemi Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
it feels segmented, yet follows a natural thought progression. a person's thoughts rarely flow nicely into eachother. more often they jump around the central point, much like this.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I've realized in retrospect that I was sort of going for that :XD: Thank you for the fave!
Reply
:iconita-chi-biismine:
Ita-Chi-Biismine Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012
thanks. @smiles@
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:)
Reply
:iconrogueofasgard:
RogueofAsgard Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Student Photographer
i just teared up because you made me remember the teacher that changed my life in middle school. i think we've all had that one professor/teacher/educator-of-some-sort that really just affects you in the most positive way. and it doesn't even have to relate to the curriculum. i'm glad you found yours and that he made such an impression. :D have you shown this to him? its a beautiful mini-biography.

...i am not an english professor, nor can i claim to be terribly good at judging writing in a specific context... but to me reading this was a treat. each little snippet of information that you supplied and the details surrounding it were kind of like the little snapshots that were bubbling to the surface. :D

at any rate, gorgeous essay that made me tear up and smile. you deserve that DD.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Everyone needs a good teacher :heart: And I have shown it to him - it's the reason I'm working with him now on a writing project and I've been encouraged to try writing more creative nonfiction and essays :D

Thank you! :love:
Reply
:iconhaikune007:
haikune007 Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
to answer your questions before i start gushing:
they flow wonderfully.
yes; i have a professor like that too, and i can absolutely even picture him, although it probably looks nothing like the real person you're talking about.
no i don't care, and yes i would read them all up right with my morning coffee :)
now gush
i love it, it's amazing and wonderful and i just mailed it to my friends and they told me they can absolutely relate to it,it's easy but fun to read, it's colorful in vocabulary, overall just wonderful, and it's even one of the few pieces where the title gives away the excellence of the text. many times i've read amazing things, but the titles put me off and i have to drag myself from my gmail tab to read them. i didn't even hear around me while reading. i love the whole setting too, i can imagine someone sitting in a classroom and scribbling this on the back of a notebook after class.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I try to consider my titles very carefully - a title can make a break a piece. This was one of those times where it kinda clicked when I thought it up :) I'm glad I pulled you away from your gmail tab for a few minutes :D Thank you!
Reply
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