Friday, March 5, 2010

March 20

I am writing this on a Saturday afternoon, for a change. Spring break is almost over, though it has not been much of a break for me, but a lot of work instead. And not so much of it my own work either. Still, I’m not complaining. Let me explain.

A week ago today, I got an early morning phone call from Briggs. He said he was flying off in the evening to London for a conference, but that there was still a lot of work to be done on his copy-edited manuscript which was due back to the publisher on Friday. “Angie’s been doing a great job with it, but there’s a little too much left for her to finish by herself. She told me that you two had spoken and that you had offered to help with it. I was wondering if I could take you up on that.”

I was incredibly flattered, as anyone would be, that Briggs had finally asked me to help him out with this book. I accepted immediately, but he seemed to think I still needed convincing. “Angie’s not as knowledgeable about the field as you are. It would really help me to have you look it over.”

I accepted again. He asked me to come out to his place for lunch. He would go over what had to be done with Angie and me. We could then go in his car to the airport later in the afternoon and Angie could drop me back at Charles.

When I finally got to Briggs’s house (which took quite awhile on public transport since it was a Saturday), Angie opened the door. She was unabashedly relieved to see me. “Thanks so much for helping out, Jonathan! I’d never be able to get all this work done by myself!” she told me.

Briggs was upstairs finishing his packing. He came down and we all ate the black bean soup and BLT sandwiches that Angie had prepared for us. Angie was in high spirits, chiding “Barry” good-naturedly for not taking her to London with him but leaving her here to work on his book. He responded in kind, saying that he’d be sure to take her to his next conference—unless he had another manuscript which he needed her to take care of for him.

After lunch, we got down to business. Briggs and Angie had already reviewed the changes made by the copy-editor. Briggs, though, had apparently thought of a lot more changes he wanted to make. There had been some to-ing and fro-ing between him and his editor over this, with the latter calling for him not to make too many changes or to exceed his “word budget” any further. Angie had also marked up all these changes—as well as “changes to the changes,” as she put it, that Briggs had made. It was doing this, plus answering most of the copy editor’s questions, that had taken up all their spare time last week.

What remained to be done was to verify the accuracy of all quoted material and bibliographic references, as well as to find the necessary information for any of the latter which were not yet complete—of which there were a surprising number, I thought (I would never say so to Briggs, though). “You know how it is, Jonathan,” he said. “I’m sure I read something somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it since.” This, of course, was a problem I had encountered many times myself. It was gratifying to see that someone such as Briggs was not immune to it either. “You may have to be a little creative in hunting down some of these.”

We agreed that the best place for Angie and I to have our base of operations was Briggs’s office on campus. A lot of the books and journals he cited were right there, as were photocopies of things he had accumulated while writing the book. Most anything that we couldn’t find in his office, he told us, could probably be found downstairs in the political science library (like Harvard and M.I.T., Charles University maintained a large number of small, specialized libraries). But there might be a few things, he warned, that we wouldn’t be able to find either in his office or in the political science library. For these, he advised, we either search the internet or try to find them over at Harvard. Since I had taken the class with Saltz last semester over there, I had become reasonably familiar with the Harvard library system. Angie, of course, didn’t even know her way around the political science library at Charles, much less anything at Harvard.

The time came for Briggs to get going over to Logan airport. Angie drove, Briggs sat beside her up front, and I was in the back. On the way, I learned that Michael would be presenting a paper at the conference in London that Briggs was also presenting at. “I would have asked him to help you two with this,” Briggs said apologetically, “but he’s going to be with me over there.”

I was just as glad that he wouldn’t be with us, but was too polite to say so. Angie, though, was not: “He’s a creep!” she declared. This led to a minor dispute between them in which they each appealed to me for support. I knew Angie was right, but I said I agreed with Briggs. Briggs said that Michael would take the T to Logan, and that they would meet up there. When Angie said she felt sorry for Barry having to sit next to him all those hours on the flight over and probably on the way back, Briggs responded that her concern was misplaced: Michael had an economy class ticket while Briggs had traded some frequent flier miles for an upgrade to business class. Nor would they be staying in the same hotel since Briggs was being put up somewhere nice while Michael would be at a hostel. In fact, he said, they probably wouldn’t see much of each other outside the conference. “Lucky you!” exclaimed Angie. Briggs chided her for saying so, but I suddenly realized that he wasn’t particularly fond of Michael either. He respected Michael’s intellect, I knew that, but I could see that Michael wasn’t Briggs’s idea of good company.

We finally got to the airport after an annoying delay in traffic (not unusual for Boston). When we stopped in front of Briggs’s departure terminal, I got out to help him with his luggage, and then got in the front seat for the trip back. Angie thanked me once again for being willing to help out. “I hope that nice girlfriend of yours won’t be too angry about me taking you away from her this week.”

I explained to her how we couldn’t see each other this semester to avoid any conflict of interest since I was her TA. She expressed complete disbelief that we would actually comply with such “silly rules.” When I told her that I was the one who had called for the separation and that Briggs had insisted upon it, she just laughed. “Barry would never have followed any such rule himself,” she insisted, “even if he said he would.” This I couldn’t believe, and told her so. “But just look at how him and me got started!” she responded. “I was married to Doug when we took up with each other!” I told her that that was different because she was not his student while Shivvy was mine. “That’s just splittin’ hairs!” she exclaimed. “Surely it’s worse to take up with a married woman than to take up with a single girl who happens to be your student.”

She was obviously wrong, but I didn’t want to argue with her. So I told her instead that the separation was just temporary, and that Shivvy and I would probably be getting back together when the semester ended in just a couple of months. “Well, all I can say,” she responded, “is that if you want her to come back to you then, you’d better be prepared to buy her lots of flowers, lots of dinners, and lots of jewelry. I’d try my hand at writing her some sentimental poetry too, if I were you.”

Interesting advice. I’ll keep it in mind.

Over the course of spring break, I got to know more about Angie than I had before. First and foremost, she is an incredibly hard worker. She and I quickly organized all the tasks that had to be accomplished, and we completed them all by the end of the week. (“It was probably easier,” she noted, “without Barry here interfering and changing everything around.) She was actually quicker at finding and checking references than me. She just lacked self-confidence.

I also learned that she is from a small town in southwest Virginia. Her parents were divorced long ago, and she hasn’t seen much of her father since. Her mother works as a hairdresser, and had long made it clear that she didn’t want Angie moving back in with her after graduating from college. “So when Doug and I split up,” she said, “I knew I wasn’t welcome back there.” Fortunately for her, Barry had been willing to take her in and make a “mostly honest woman” out of her, as she put it. She could not have stayed in the grad student apartment even if Doug had been willing to let her take up the lease since he had to give it back to the university once he withdrew and left for Gates. She couldn’t have afforded to rent a decent place (assuming she could have found one) on what she earned as a waitress, and she didn’t know anybody she was willing to room with.

Briggs let her stay for free at his house, she told me, in exchange for her doing the cooking as well as serving as his research assistant. She still did some waitressing, though, to earn a little pocket money.

“We haven’t really talked about it,” she said, “but I’m sure Barry and I will be getting married after my divorce comes through.” Nor did she expect any problems on that front: Doug was cooperating with her on this. He had found another girl out at Gates, Angie suspected, who was undoubtedly encouraging him to get the divorce. “We never should have gotten married in the first place,” she said. “I think we both know that now.”

One thing she told me really surprised me: Briggs, she says, is extremely nervous about how this new book is going to be received. Considering how he exudes self-confidence, I would never have guessed this. But she insists that it is true.

The new book, by the way, seems to be an extended discussion with the critics of his previous book. Interestingly enough, Briggs actually dealt with a lot of the critiques that I had made about his earlier book in my senior thesis and the paper I wrote for Saltz. I’m glad I didn’t show them to him after all since the points I made wouldn’t have seemed all that new to him. As everyone reading this will recall, Briggs’s great book written all those years ago was entitled, International Relations: A Neo-Radical Perspective. This new one is entitled, Neo-Radical Relations: An International Perspective. I like that.

Angie and I finished everything up yesterday afternoon. We didn’t send the manuscript back to the publisher since Briggs would want to look it over first. He should be able to do so on Monday or Tuesday. I think he’ll be pleased with what we did.

Oh, here’s one other example of how well Angie organizes things: although I had completely forgotten about it, Angie remembered that Brendan Cohen would be speaking here at Charles next week. After Briggs had told her about it, she had worked with the department office to schedule his talk for Tuesday at two o’clock in my discussion section (which is fine with me), make travel arrangements, and even put up fliers in Case Hall (which we did together yesterday).

It turns out that Brendan’s plane from California will come in at about the same time today as Briggs’s from Britain. Since Angie is going to drive to Logan to pick Briggs up, she called to say she would swing by and take me to Logan to meet Brendan so I can take him on the T to his hotel in Central Square. She thinks of everything!

I’m really glad she called. It was fun working with her and I felt sad when we were all done. It’ll be nice to have one more conversation with her on the way to the airport.

Next Entry: March 26

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