I know you blamed yourself when Cambridge rejected me. I’d spent the months prior to my interviews falling in love with 20th century European literature because of your bookshelves, your recommendations. When it came down to it, I discovered that while I knew a hell of a lot about the works of Hermann Hesse, I knew very little about Shakespeare, Chaucer, Donne, Wordsworth or Tennyson (knowledge which was obviously pretty fucking essential when applying to read for a degree in English at Christ’s College).
You felt so guilty, even though my rejection was in no way your fault. You thought you should’ve guided me around the “traditional literature” our little island, from Beowulf to Woolf, instead of shipping me off to the continent, where I fell prey to “new-fangled ideas” of existentialism and aburdism and all the other gorgeous, dangerous -isms. You thought that perhaps if you’d never gotten ill and you’d still been working, you’d have had the money to take me to the Globe and I would’ve fallen for Will, instead of developing a penchant for miserable, mysterious chain-smoking Frenchmen. You felt that you’d let me down. Nothing has ever been further from the truth.
Father, I went to a shit school. I didn’t learn anything there that was of any academic value. Sure, I learned how to pierce my belly-button with a fork, and that you can have 3 abortions before the nurse is allowed to start judging your choices, and that if you smear a thin layer of lip balm on your face before a fight, the other girl won’t be able to scratch you up, but Shakespeare? Never. I learned more bunking off school, meeting you at the pub and discussing literature, art, philosophy, politics, sociology, than I ever did in any class at school. You taught me all of the most important lessons. And you gave me Kafka for free – Cambridge didn’t even offer him to me.
And what the fuck has Milton ever done for me, anyway? Camus saved my life!
I’d tell you this in person (again, as I have done in the past) or send you this in a text message but since you’re dead, I’m posting it online instead.
I love you and I miss you terribly.