A reader pushes back on my colleague Ian’s good-natured rant against what he calls “quitpieces”—personal essays from people quitting their jobs:
While the usefulness of Oliver Lee’s “quitpiece” may be questionable, you know what’s less useful? Ian Bogost’s whining about it.
As someone who just spent four years figuring out that academia wasn’t for me, bailing pre-dissertation and returning to the private sector, Lee’s piece would have been useful for me at a certain point. A piece that let me know that the vision I had of academia in my head didn’t match the reality (which, in my experience, Lee describes reasonably well) could have saved me a few years of feeling like I was quitter for deciding / realizing that finishing a dissertation for the sole purpose of getting people to call me “Doctor” wasn’t worth it. It could have gotten me out of academia back into a job where I felt like I was making a difference in the world while also not having to pinch pennies.
Sure, academia can be a pretty sweet gig with “some of the best features of any job.” But it isn't always. And in a world where there’s plenty of room for articles about “the real voice of siri,” breakdowns of which GOP candidates are attacking or being attacked by Trump, and how “Black Mirror is the perfect show for Netflix,” maybe an article that helps someone figure out what they want to do with their life isn’t that bad.
Update from a reader via firstname.lastname@example.org:
I imagine you’ve received your fair share of feedback on the note from Ian Bogost. But I wanted to email to say that I think it was unfair of you to characterize his note as a “good-natured rant” as part of your preface to a reader’s response.
I feel that this editorial decision immediately placed Bogost's piece on a moral high ground relative to the person who was critiquing it, even though Bogost’s piece could be considered trollish bait in its own right. I know that your mission is to “make trolls irrelevant,” but I would suggest that this takes more than condescension and a dismissive tone toward those who disagree with your colleague. Bogost’s piece fails to acknowledge how he, as a tenured academic, enjoys a direct material benefit from the very people he mocks for writing Quit Lit.
Should you be interested, I explore this subject at length in an essay titled, “When Tenured Professors and Administrators Are On the Same Side.”
The reader at the top of this note is actually a good friend of mind, and I’ve only met Ian once. Both are swell guys.