Having received a communication that I was being considered for an appointment as a
professor of the humanities at C---- University, I took the proffered airfare and arrived at the
address given. There it was explained to me that C---- University’s policies were quite
distinctive. According to C---- University’s traditions, it was a terrible idea to inform people that
they had been accepted into a prestigious university. The inevitable impact of such notifications
was to distract such unfortunate freshmen with the idea that they were now members of a group
of some significance. They would then be obsessed throughout the remainder of their pitiful
lives, performing rituals associated with being members of that group, thinking more of
themselves for being members of that group, and lording it over anyone not a member of that
group. C---- University made it a rule never to offer an application program of any kind. On the
contrary, it was the university’s business to find out which people would benefit most from the
university’s tutelage, and to provide those people with that tutelage, without the students in
question ever finding out that they were students at C---- University, and that they were being
The procedures employed to stimulate the students selected by the university, without
their knowledge, varied from one department of the university to another. As a humanities
professor, it would be my job to convey, as a muse might do, the necessary inspirations to a
series of citizens of various countries pointed out to me by the university. The university had
become interested in me because, given my loud voice, I was easily and frequently overheard in
restaurants, art galleries, and during intermissions at the opera. I was an especially strong
candidate, based on the fact that I could express myself in a grating (and therefore memorable)
manner in a variety of languages. But my assignments would also involve more subtle contacts.
For example, it would be my role to select forgotten works of an inspiring nature, such as old
films with surprisingly workable plots, and see to it that such forgotten works were cited, for
example, by talk show hosts interviewing film personalities of a certain age on those occasions
when C---- University students would be watching.
I objected that there was more to university life than mere inspiration. There was also the
essential element of comradeship. My host noted that it was not unknown, during these faculty
interviews, to relax the usual rule that a student of C---- University should never find out that he
or she was a student of C---- University. He asked me if I had ever found myself, at around
three-thirty in the morning, singing surprisingly good four-part harmony at a drunken party with
people I didn’t recognize. I replied that it had been known to happen. He explained that, in
addition to the literary faculty, C---- University also had an outstanding musical faculty.
I accepted the appointment on the spot.