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I’m filming a series of lectures – something I’ve never done before – and the experience brings home to me the curious fact that I never shut up.

The knack of never shutting up is a nifty one to have if you’re a professor. Professors lecture constantly; and there’s the extra matter of directing discussion, responding extemporaneously to comments, holding forth during office hours. Mix in campus and professional meetings, and being a motormouth is all to the good.

I talk fast too. I’ve had to slow myself down for these lectures, which are going out to the world. I think I enunciate pretty well, even talking fast, but I have to slow down for the lectures.

Even when I’ve got bronchitis I’m jabbering. I might stop singing when my lungs get so bad I can’t make a good tone; but I never stop talking.

UD grew up with lots of animals – dogs (her mother bred them), guinea pigs (her father experimented on them), etc. And she always talked to them when there weren’t human beings to talk to – long monologues incorporating their many nicknames, their odd and winsome ways, memories of how they behaved when they were babies… At the moment, Les UDs have no dog, and UD still talks her strange dog talk. To the air.

Also, when there aren’t human beings to talk to, UD sings. She used to be uncomfortable, singing to herself on metro platforms and all, but now people with wires coming out of their ears talk out loud everywhere, so she’s comfortable.

UD gathers she’s pretty silent while sleeping, but her dream self blabs like mad.

Of course I knew I never shut up before I started the lecture series – my husband, a rather quiet person, has pointed this out to me. He has said You never shut up, especially during conversations in which I leap into his sentences, helpfully finishing them for him. Like some professors (the non-mouthy ones), he’s a careful, deliberative speaker, and you have to be willing to wait, sometimes, for him to formulate a thought. I can’t wait. I want to talk.

I can go on and on and on, class after class, about characters like Melville’s Bartleby the scrivener, who never says anything, or Kafka’s man of few words, the hunger artist, or Beckett’s Krapp with his sputtering tape. As the twentieth century wears on, twentieth century literary characters say less and less, and UD says more and more. She can yammer about the eloquence of silence til the cows come home. She’s like a preacher who gasses on every Sunday for decades about the ineffability of God.

She wants her students to be like that – verbally fluent, in on the bull session, piping up. “Joy is the overflowing consciousness of reality,” writes Simone Weil. Joy is the overblowing of one’s bag of wind.

Margaret Soltan, March 27, 2012 10:32AM
Posted in: snapshots from home

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4 Responses to “Speaking”

  1. francofou Says:


  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    francofou: Won. derful.

  3. david foster Says:

    One should always talk to dogs…courtesy requires it, since it hurts their feelings when you don’t.

  4. Tobe Says:

    If you ever decide to stop being a professor, become a senator. They make professors look like we are speech reticent. My favorite is VP Joe Biden. Formerly D-Gasbag.

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