The Ultimate Language Course For Geniuses

first week of term: no literary output but plenty of imaginary input. done: the usual flashes each night, penned with eyes closed. one in german, one in english, 200 skinny words each, written in my 3.5 x 5.5 inches moleskin, which i love so much that i swear the little thing finishes my stories at night when i sleep, or try to sleep because what i do is churn and burn like a kiln, a teaching, managing, coughing kiln, yes, i think i’ve become a place where stuff turns into other, more valuable stuff, but it happens without my doing anything consciously. i fall from one sentence into the next, i can barely keep my shoes on. i’m on a low-literature diet now. i still buy books but when i buy them i feel bad and on the way home i tell them “i got you not to read but to have, to own, to cuddle, i hope you don’t mind, i am sorry i am that way and i hope you can forgive me. sometimes, when a book’s too mad (one would think the little buggers are just plain grateful to have been bought in the first place! but no!) it won’t open when i want to look at it. as if you stand in front of a house and have mislaid the entrance. happened to me with thomas bernhard’s the loser only yesterday, would you believe it. my ideas get more insane, not less. today, in the car, while listening to a radio france broadcast on edition gallimard (the great and glorious), i conceived of an entire language course for geniuses, the ultimate one. it wasn’t hard because, you see, the course doesn’t have to have any content: these are geniuses, they learn by osmosis. you motivate them by withholding. instead of text and pictures and so on, all the course is and does is make the genius feel warm and welcome and less worrying about the place of geniuses in the world, which is, we imagine, not a sunny one. in the introduction to the course, i’d proselytize:

“the makers of this course know that you, the genius, are a lonely creature. we know that you can learn this language without effort. that’s the problem. what’s the point of learning if there’s no effort. you could just as well have been born dead. the makers of this course know this, you can trust us. open this course and relax into your own experience of learning by being.”

Yves montand & Edith Piaf “Etoile sans lumiere”, 1946

and so on. given the small numbers of geniuses on this planet, this idea is never going to produce a commercially viable product, hence i have no problem mentioning it here. if you, however, dear, highly esteemed reader, manage to monetize “The Ultimate Language Course For Geniuses“, do give me credit. you know where to find me: in my moleskin-covered twin peaks. now, i do feel better, thank you.

distractedly yours, marcus speh –
but you can call me unseasonally, surreally, ‘yves‘ this whole week long.


MS works as a lecturer, who has just survived the first week of teaching after a sabbatical of seemingly infinite length. he bears little to no resemblance to Yves Montand, who was a great French chansonnier and actor with fantastic hair. Except perhaps elements of his voice. Not when he sings. After MS’ last two outpourings you can look forward to an upcoming guest post by michael j solender next week…

10 thoughts on “The Ultimate Language Course For Geniuses

  1. Great little piece here. I’ll be sure to give you credit for ‘The Ultimate Language Course for Geniuses’. But most importantly I just wanted to say that I felt an immediate point of silent, understanding and respect upon reading that you are the proud owner of a moleskin notebook. I am too. And I know exactly what you mean when you say you swear it finishes your stories at night. You cannot beat a moleskin.

    • thank you, my lady. will the respect quadruple if i tell you that i don’t just own, but use, four (differently sized) moleskin notebooks in parallel? a writing man needs a good bag.

  2. back in the fray. sometimes the busy-ness of other things makes the writing more efficient — there certainly is a desperation in getting down the words in less time. and yes, a good notebook helps — my moleskine, the black hardcover variety — it penned good bones on two poems while i slept. peace…

    • i’m glad, linda, that you, too, admit to the quiet support lent to us by our tools. we are, after all, a tool-making species, and for my part, i am from the tool-adoring half of it. (though my wife is an even greater gadget hackwrench, actually, so perhaps that last thing’s not true.)

  3. Brilliant, Marcus: you’ve made me repent for not for visiting my twitter account all this insane first week of the semester: and you’ve reminded me of our Golden Rule: find the humor in it. Thanks! I especially love the “twin peaks” metaphor, being a fan of the series years ago, the meaning of which is neatly summarized in this completely fabulous interview with the brilliant actress: http://www.davidlynch.de/fenndetails90.html Enjoy! -b

  4. I love the piece, Marcus. I must shamefacedly confess that I do not own a moleskin notebook but I have been noticing recently that after falling asleep with pencil in hand, legal pad next to me, in the morning there are frequently fragments of stories on the paper. Perhaps if I were to graduate to a moleskin notebook, it would be complete stories?
    Our esteemed educational institution has announced the impending layoff of 56 instructors. Hysteria reigns. The term is not dragging.

    • andrew, thank you for liking my little ditties. i think you’re onto something with the legal pad. somehow i envy you: what my moleskin seems to produce magically is too polished to finished, i wish it would merely leave me with fragments.

      i am sorry to hear about the layoffs. i just came back from a large departmental meeting where a professor from another school called my school “an island of bliss” and he meant it. perhaps some of your guys should come here. seriously though, the pressure on lowering educational costs is ridiculous and it’s happening everywhere.

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