Q. Why was I forced to study Of Mice and Men and other books by American writers for my English Literature GCSE? Lennie still haunts me – all I wanted was Dickens. Physics, 1st year, Christ Church
A. The very fact that you are a physicist should answer that question. Obviously, a person such as yourself who decided to send in such an inordinately mundane question means that you are rather annoying – so, by giving you American books, knowing you would question the concept, your teacher wished to twist your mind and launch you into a spiral of self-doubt. Nonetheless, the government probably argues that such novels have made a worthwhile contribution to literature, even if they do call a ‘rubber’ (hee-hee) an ‘eraser’. However, the real reason is because we British like to think that we still have some claim to America. It is really an imperialist urge on our behalf to pretend that the enlightened side of American culture comes from their British roots. But maybe stick to the government’s answer if you don’t want a punch (or fries with that).
Q. Why does St John’s have so much damned wine? 3rd year, Law, Lincoln
A. There are the obvious answers: a) all the professors are alcoholics, b) all the students are alcoholics, and c) both undergraduates and dons alike have too much money to spend. But the fact is… they don’t actually have any wine. It’s all a rather simple mind-trick. They buy a few bottles from Tesco for the wine-tasting sessions, and whack them out for the High Table every now and again – those bottles on the wine racks are full of Ribena. I’ve tasted them myself. What is more powerful than suggestion? We all assume St John’s might comes from its wealth. Have we seen that wealth? On rare occasions – mostly it just gets talked about. The college is all fur coat and no knickers.
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