Friday, June 03, 2005

A Kick In The Balzac

Blessed, I am. Smart, good in bed, modest - who wouldn't want to be me? I wouldn't not want to want that. Would you? Best of all, I've always been good at exams. Where others freeze up and stare at the wall for two hours before shoving a pencil up each nostril and slamming their face onto the desk, a rich ink of blood and brain inscribing a tale of fear and woe across the virgin answer sheet, I am relaxed, working my way through the paper with a poise that others find admirable, if not actually erotic. Yes, I've always been a bit of a one for exams. Always, that is, until today.

Today I fucked up. Big time.

19th century French realism. Three hour exam. Read all the materials, done all the work, got some decent marks - no problem. Once the exam begins, however, my brain dies. Whatever I know about Balzac and the gang has seeped out through my skull while I slept. I fumble at the pages of Old Goriot (it is an open-book exam), searching for a hand-hold, something - anything - that I can grab onto and get the essay rolling.

Twenty minutes later, I am conversant with the spidery biro lines on my desk and the cracks on the wall in front of me, but in no better position exam-wise.

Finally I manage to hack through some, but not all, of the layers of fortified stupidity that are encasing my brain and actually get some words on the page. They are not, unfortunately, particularly good words. In the past few months I've read Old Goriot twice from cover to cover, plus several supplementary readings of key sections, yet I'm writing about it as though I'd never even heard of it before I started the exam.

Two hours in, I've exhausted my surprisingly meagre knowledge of the book, and I am just gagging to get out of there and shoot myself. I quickly read through the paper, but I am loathe to actually revise anything for fear of making it worse. I get up and hand the thing in. As I walk out into the entirely inappropriate sunshine (birds singing, cats licking themselves - bastards!), there is a feeling in my gut akin to the after-effects of being kicked by an elephant.

Ok, it might not be as bad as I think - there's a strong possibility that it is actually worse than that. I don't even know if I made the pass criteria. Worse than that, however, is the odd sensation of failing myself, of having frozen at a crucial moment, and in a situation where I normally feel at ease. What, as they say, is with that?

(Please excuse the introspection. The usual wackiness will resume shortly.)


MrLefty said...

Thank you for evoking a time in my life I've done my bloody best to forget.

Christ. Exams. Three hour open-book law exams. I'd have exhausted all I felt like saying in fifteen minutes and would spend the next two and a half hours doodling on the page, eating my way through the block of chocolate I'd have brought, occasionally writing a little bit more, gazing out the window, desperately willing the thing to be over.

Christ I hated those exams. In fact, this is exactly what I should remember next time my brain starts pining for those long-lost weeks of four contact hours (honours year in Arts was pretty good, admittedly) and the occasional essay. Wouldn't do it again. Fuck that for a joke.

Sympathy. You 19th Century French Wankery-studying smartarse!

LadyCracker said...

Come on Tim it can't be that bad - you try wrestling with the demon that is turing a sow's ear in to silk purse. PR sweetie PR.

And it doesn't help much when you can't spell, don't care for grammer etc etc.

I'm sure you did fine - let us know how you go.

LadyCracker said...

see? turing is suppose to be turning

Tim said...

Thanks guys. It may not be as bad as I made it out to be. (Although I suspect it is.)

MrLefty said...


Oh, alright, there was a little bit of sympathy in my comment, but mainly I was just seizing the opportunity to talk about me. ME! ME!

No need to thank me for that.

Anyway, back to the topic of me. ME!

Tim said...

Well, it was more a general thanks for actually commenting at all. It's a new phenomenon on this blog, and I'm always a little surprised when it happens.

PARIS said...

ahhh..the untimely blackout. happened to me years ago for a shakespeare paper. I couldn't remember any of the tedious soliloquys of hamlet. but it turned out better than i imagined it to be. so..there is still hope?

don't worry.

Jno said...

Tsk, Timothy. Why for did you not cheat? It's what all the cool kids do.

Seriously, you can get at least 20% on most exams merely by spelling your name correctly on the cover page. I know this, failed said task several times. I would not worry.

Jon said...

I know this, HAVING failed said task several times.

Is there nothing I'm not not good at?

mscynic said...

Given that you've already gone through it, and that Lefty has had HIS fun, and that I'm about to go through it, may I just say ......


I don't know what good French Wankery is going to be for you if you haven't recognised these simple facts of life.

Seriously now folks (ah hah hah) ... remember the old adage* when you think you've done poorly is usually the time you've outdone yourself. I'm sure you'll do fine.

*Not necessarily able to prove that this is an old adage. Perhaps more something I just made up.