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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
20 out of 20 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
29 out of 29 deviants thought this was fair.

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:iconvertigoart:
VertigoArt 5 days ago  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 5 days ago  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 5 days ago  Professional Writer
Of course. Let me know if you rerecord it. I would love to hear it.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot 5 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
I don't have the software right now, but I'll let you know if I ever do :D
Reply
:iconvertigoart:
VertigoArt 5 days ago  Professional Writer
I've recorded a few pieces. Both audio and video. I love it.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot 5 days ago  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.
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:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
:love: This is just fantastic all around.
Reply
:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :heart:
Reply
:iconmhi2x:
mhi2x Jan 23, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
just love this./.....
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:iconsilverinkblot:
SilverInkblot Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :heart:
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