Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Oh, tell your Aunt Louise, tell anything you please ..." ?!?!?

I don't care what anybody's told you. Writing a dissertation is no fun. In fact, it's not all that unlike belly-busting into a concrete swimming pool that hasn't yet been filled for the summer. Or coming home after a week away to find that you left raw chicken sitting out on the countertop. Or waking up to eyes that are swollen shut, because you cried yourself to sleep after watching Switched at Birth ... again. In other words, it's a painful, smelly, ugly experience.

One of the upsides of my writing time, however, has been the many occasions I've had to revisit the hallowed halls of Furman University, where I attended as an undergraduate and where, I was recently surprised to learn, there is a library. Right. On. Campus. Lis, did you know about this? Camille? Maybe if there'd been a library on campus when we were there, we wouldn't have spent so much time eating pancakes at Stax, huh?

At any rate, earlier this week, I visited Furman's new-fangled library to work on some re-writes. I was sidetracked as soon as I entered by a new lobby display featuring "One Hit Wonders." "Oooh. This'll be fun," I thought. Instantly, I found myself humming the refrain of Bertie Higgins "Key Largo" as I perused the photocopied "album covers" on F.U.'s Wall of Musical Mediocrity.

Then, as quickly as it had started, the humming came to a full-stop. Somewhere between Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" and "What Mattered Most" by Ty Herndon, I saw this:


Does anybody else spot the heresy here? Well, in the unlikely event that any present Paladins are reading this entry, I'll give you a hint: there are two of them, and they just about broke my achy, breaky heart. First of all, Billy Ray Cyrus was HARDLY a "one hit wonder." I know this because, in 2007, my cousins and I attended his Homecoming show at Ashland, KY's Paramount Arts Center, and I'll have you know that the singing along did not stop. "Achy Breaky Heart" was followed by a string of hits that would make Vanilla Ice melt. Among others, there were "Could've Been Me" (#2), "She's Not Cryin' Anymore" (#6), "Words by Heart" (#12), "Busy Man" (#3), and, my favorite, "Where'm I Gonna Live?" an autobiographical ditty that peaked at #23.

Secondly, 1982??!!?? Sorry, Brainiac, but you missed it by a decade. To the Furman student who did the research for this little window display, "I'm not even gonna think about what they're not teaching you in school."
The experience did, however, get me thinking about what they taught ME in school. How much of it did I just accept? "Well, the billboard on the way into the library says so, so it must be true!" Not necessarily.

This, in fact, has been a major source of frustration for me, as I've researched. Yep, I'm goin' through the Big D (and don't mean Dallas!), and in so doing, I've read a thousand and six different opinions on what makes a musical and how Dorothy Fields accomplished all that she did. It's hard to know which idea is the one to hang my hat on. I'm constantly trying to get my students to explore information and synthesize it in the way that works for them, but I'm the first to admit that this is hard for even me.

Indeed, this process of academic discovery is an ongoing one. There are new, existential questions with which I wrestle every day. Most of them at present are centered on ideas such as "Why, oh why, must I read so much feminism?" and "Does it REALLY have to be 200 pages long?" At this point, however, I'm sure of exactly three things: 1) unlike discussions about the validity of Dorothy Fields's work, the truth of God's Word is not up for debate, 2) Billy Ray Cyrus was neither a one-hit wonder, nor was he recording in 1982 (honestly, people. Somebody's diploma should be revoked), and 3) even if they had had a library when we were at Furman, Camille and I were probably better off skipping our 9s to spend time at Stax.


  1. I will not let you slide by without mentioning "Some Gave All." I wore that song out on my cassette tape until I sadly left it in the sunny back dash of the family car. I still mourn for that tape. Let's pause for a moment while I sing a chorus:

    "All gave some and some gave all.
    And some stood through for the red, white and blue,
    And some had to fall.
    And if you ever think of me, think of all your liberties and recall
    Some gave all."

    You can't sing that song and not get chills. Not possible.

    Oh, and though the song barely made the radar, I heard it a handful of times and never forgot the message as it resonated with me so clearly. Let's sing a little "Back to Tennessee"...

    "I'm on the road now, I know just what I need,
    To find my way back to Tennessee.
    I'm coming home now to southern, it's so sweet,
    And find my way back to you and me.
    Find my way back to Tennessee."

    Billy Ray introduced me to line dancing and he will always be remembered fondly.
    Sigh. Good times.

  2. I LOVELOVELOVE Billy Ray's Achy Breaky days & his "Some Gave All" album is still in my collection. :) (I just wish he had stuck with Tennessee instead of going Hollywood & using his daughter to stay famous. Sigh.)

  3. I had a similar experience when I visited the campus at Ohio U and discovered an old library right in the middle of campus. Don't know how I missed it so many years ago. Wonder if there are any books inside?

  4. Camille, I was as surprised as you are ...