mark shields loves pat donovan *

by Charles Bowen
May 1, 1959, Scholastic #21

Spring, to be prosaic, has come to Notre Dame, bringing with it such perennial delights as flowers, Bock beer, high-school tours of the campus, leaves, grass, sunshine, and the seasonal increase in suspensions and probations. But there is one sure sign of the times that always tells me more surely than anything else, even the surging throb of the dance of life (indicated in Sorin by a renewed proliferation of the vermin) that the vernal equinox has been passed, and that summer is not far off. This is the appearance on the University bulletin boards of the annual Spring Regulations.

The sight of this little dittoed sheet every year is enough to send me rooting fondly in my locker for my Haspel Sir-Perior and my Madras cummerbund. Nothing, unless possibly the distribution of free gin-and-tonics at the Huddle, could have a more salutary effect on my morale than reading once again those inspiriting words, "Never are the roofs of residence halls to be used for purposes of sun bathing." Ah, the ecstasies into which I am whirled as I read that I am not to take university-owned blankets out of the hall or appear on the basketball court without a shirt of some kind! It's springtime! The only pretty ring-time! Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

I must add, however, that the title "Spring Regulations" strikes one as a bit unfortunate. One gets the feeling that spring itself is being regulated, and it is difficult to suppress visions of such items as "Flowers are to bloom no later than 1400 hours on 1 May," or "Birds residing within 100 yds. of any residence hall or other university dormitory building are not to sing after the hour of 7 in the evening or before 6 in the morning. Singing is allowed at other times, provided it is carried on in a restrained and dignified manner." This, I am sure all will agree, is an unfortunate association to be attached to a document which ought to bring unalloyed joy to the bosoms of all who look upon it.

* * *

I have received word from a well-informed source that the next item in the University's bag of academic tricks is a bold stroke of educational pathfinding. The Dalai Lama is to appear at Notre Dame in September as a Distinguished Professor. A small lamasery is already being constructed on the shore of St. Mary's Lake for his accommodation. (The D. L. will be attended by a small retinue, but his yaks will be lodged at St. Mary's, where it is felt they will be more at home.) Initial speculation that he was to teach a new course in comparative religion has subsided in the face of reliable though unofficial word that he will instead be attached to the Department of Biology, where he will contribute to the dispersal of universal knowledge by instructing all enrollees in the care and feeding of the yak.

It is felt that his acceptance of Notre Dame's offer solved a rather ticklish problem for several liberal universities who have no official religious philosophy. The Dalai Lama, as you know, claims to be the Supreme Being, and it was felt that in a place where no religious attitude may be discounted, some embarrassing points of etiquette might arise. At Notre Dame, however, the prevailing opinion on such matters is quite clear, and the Lama, having been informed that we are all hopelessly benighted heathen, appears perfectly willing to accept the consequences of this regrettable state of affairs. We of the Notre Dame family all join in saluting His Omnipotence and wishing him a long and mutually advantageous stay.

* * *

After due consideration of all the criticism, criticism of criticism, and criticism of criticism of criticism that has appeared in the recent pages of this magazine, I have come to the conclusion that I was right in the first place: If there's anything duller than criticism, it's con-structive criticism. In accordance with this radical, socialistic belief, I have decided, along with a few who feel as I do, to form a Campus Defamation League. This organization is to have no other purpose than the sheer irresponsible denigration of whatever fails to please its members. In this way we hope to preserve from extinction in a welter of goodwill and sincerity the fine old arts of scurrility and invective. The society will meet at least once every couple of weeks and after the preliminary burning of a book or two, the members will read their manuscripts of abuse towards some chosen object. The best papers will be selected for an anthology to be mimeographed on rice paper and carried about by the members, or eaten whenever it becomes expedient.

* * *

The first crop of senior essays is rolling in to instructors, and on the upper floors of O'Shaughnessy Hall the initial burst of unbelieving laughter has already quieted down to a steady chorus of gagging. The History Department has announced, as usual, that the combined footnotes of all its papers would, if laid end to end, reach from Fr. McAvoy's office to Frankie's Rathskeller. Although it is too early for any announcements of the winners of the various prizes, all the departments are buzzing with rumors and a few predictions may be ventured by the well-informed prognosticator, if we can find him this weekend. In the meantime, scuttlebutt places the following as strong contenders:

Most thorough coverage of subject: Honoré Plip of the Communication Arts Department, who submits a fifty page treatise on "The Immy and its Function in Marbleshooting."

Most intense concentration of effort: George Plasma of the English Depart-ment - 200 pages on "The Table of Contents in the Modern Library Edition of Vanity Fair."

Most ambitious undertaking: Peter S. Hyphen of the General Program, with "A Thomistic Criticism of the Universe." 23 pages.

Most puzzling essay: Myron Mellish, who astounded the Modern Language Department with 45 pages of "Some Observations on the Interpolation of the Omega Function, with applications in Ring and Lattice Theory."

Finest work of fiction: John Bellairs, who submitted to the English Department his collected letters to the Marshall, Michigan Draft Board.

* She's typing his thesis.


Commentary

Bowen: "The title, and the concluding footnote, were the result of my letting myself be influenced by suggestions from my fellow Sorinites. It was a shameless courting of popular favor on my part. Mark Shields is someone you might have seen on television, where he often represents the Democratic point of view -- before he became a pundit, he had a long career as a political consultant. He lived in Sorin, and came from Weymouth, Massachusetts (unlike me, he never lost his local accent). Mark and I were friends if not close buddies; John Donovan, whose sister Pat was a student at St. Mary's, is someone I didn't know particularly well. But everyone thought it would be a great joke on Mark if I did this, and since the column was a miscellany, any title would do, so I yielded. (This was the one column everybody in Sorin told me was really funny -- which didn't give me much satisfaction, as I knew it was the practical joke rather than my clever literary efforts that amused them.)

The "Spring Regulations" and the samples in the second paragraph were real. You may be puzzled by the reference to "my Haspel Sir-Perior." This was a brand of drip-dry nylon or polyester suit that was being sold at the campus men's store -- I and just about everybody I knew had one. (It was being advertised in the same issue where this column appeared -- the price was $39.95.) The "only pretty ring-time" line is from a song of Shakespeare's, and "Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo" is an accurate quotation from a spring song by the Elizabethan poet Thomas Nashe. It purports to represent birdsong (and who am I to say it doesn't)?

The Dalai Lama piece makes me shudder today at my ignorance. The idea had been suggested to me by an Irish priest named Fr. Quinlan (whom John in his letter to me spoke of seeing at the University of Chicago). This was when the D.L. had just escaped from Tibet, and Fr. Quinlan suggested to me that it would be amusing to announce that he was coming to Notre Dame. The rest of it was mine, and you can see just how much I knew about Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, and Tibet from what I wrote. All I can say in my defense is that most Americans knew very little about them in those days.

Nothing needs explanation in the next piece. I remember the phrase "irresponsible denigration" coming up in a conversation with Phil Gibson -- I forget whether he coined it, or just seized on it from some other source. The Scholastic had been full of Serious Essays about campus politics, rules, policies, and such.

All seniors in liberal arts wrote theses (called essays) at Notre Dame at that time. As I had been a student in both the General Program and the English Department, I suppose my description of George Plasma's and Peter S. Hyphen's contributions reflected my perception of the differences in approach between the close criticism I was taught to do in English and the "great ideas" I discussed in the General Program (which was, you may remember, a "Great Books of the Western World" program, deliberately nonspecialized in its approach).

The title of Myron Mellish's essay was gobbledegook, based on fragments of memory from the part-time job I had had a couple of years previously in the Science Library.