From The Desk Of The Black Watch: On Being A Tennis Bum/Artist/Academic

John Andrew Fredrick has spent the last three decades as the sole constant in one of music’s most perfect and unheralded rock outfits, the black watch. Using the Beatles as a tracing template, Fredrick has applied a kitchen-sink approach to the album at hand since his 1988 debut, St. Valentine, the opening volley in a catalog that would ultimately encompass 15 albums and five EPs, all of which inspired varying levels of critical halleleujahs and a deafening chorus of crickets at the nation’s cash registers. Fredrick will be guest editing all week. Read our band new feature with him.

I get paid to talk about literature and life. It’s kind of a scam. Sometimes, in class, we’re laughing so hard we have to stop. Sometimes I stop the discussion in order to remark about how borderline miraculous it is that I get a salary (a not-big one) for nattering on about poems and stories and plays. I have ample (sometimes more than ample) time to write songs and novels and film criticism. I play—sometimes five times a week—a sport I love. A sport some of the very coolest (and worst!) people play. A very difficult sport, but one you might enjoy as long as you live (there’s always doubles, mixed doubles). A sport that gets more fun the better you get at it. A sport that can and will break your heart. A sport you have to see in person in order, from a spectator’s perspective, to appreciate. Everyone looks better in tennis togs. Get yourself some. Start today. Go for it. Think about it: some of the most pleasurable activities get “bum” affixed to them—ski bum, beach bum, tennis bum … Tennis, anyone?

I hate the politics of academia. One college I taught at for years gathered all of us English profs up and gave us a lecture how no one is colorblind. That’s when I knew I wasn’t long much longer for the profession. Fuck off, I screamed in my head. I have never ever seen a student’s color. I’m with Swift in hating all nations and factions and communities and in loving all individuals. The inference, in that infernal meeting, was this: Go easy on the students of color. They’ve all had it disadvantaged. Fuck that, I screamed in my head. What good will that do. That’s prejudice (I won’t say “reverse racism” on account of there is no such fucking thing!), goddamit. I hate the academy for what it’s become. It’s, as Laura Kipnis said in an interview, “a $67,000 babysitting job.” I blame the dread political correctness movement. Universities are meant not to provide students with safe spaces. But with challenging enviornments and stimulating ones, challenges not lollipops and softballs. I teach at a small university now. I love it there. It’s called California Lutheran University, and yeah, I am flamboyant and too-passionate sometimes, but I never ever see color—just kids who need to be taught how to interpret and appreciate (in both senses of the term) a text. For, as in tennis, the better you get at explication du texte, the more enjoyable reading is! Remember the text? The text? The story with characters and dialog? Not the meta-thing. We’ve gotta get back to the source, you know. To the writer—and what she wants to tell us about ourselves. Otherwise, curtains!

Read this article in the wonderful Los Angeles Review Of Books—if you dare.