Elliot's Essays

Just My Type

When I was a child I never spent one minute with my father in his workshop. There was no workshop. A complete inventory of the tools in the Engel household: one screwdriver, one hammer, one wrench, and one bottle-opener — all kept in the depths of the kitchen catch-all drawer. Yes, the Engels were so unmechanical that we considered a bottle-opener a tool.But I do vividly remember many times when I was dazzled by my father’s manual dexterity. His instrument was neither a lathe nor a drill; it was a typewriter.My father was an accomplished hunter-and-pecker who combined impressive speed,...

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My Dry Goods

Now that COVID has brought a temporary end to my local teaching and national lecturing profession of fifty years, I realize both how fortunate my choice of profession was and how odd this career would have seemed to me during my undergraduate days. For when I was a college senior in 1970 and selecting a future profession, professing as a professor was not an option I had seriously considered.Actually, during that year I had been accepted to law school at the University of Virginia and had assumed that I would become a lawyer. My father had won a scholarship to...

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Travel -- A World Of Good

To complement our CD sale, I wanted to write about how I saw the “world” from 1982 to 2012 when I led twenty-eight different learning travel excursions to England. A few of you reading these words went along with me so you know that any trip to England is a complete Wondrous World in itself. For those of you who didn’t travel with me, let me take you along now and show you how we behaved.All of us were always wearing our bright red tags with "Dickens Fellowship" emblazoned beneath our names. The badges originally had read "Dickens Disciples," but...

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Butch Engel, NFL Superstar

One of the joys in reading Dickens’ novels is discovering the wonderful names he creates for his characters. The most famous characters – Pip, Estella, David Copperfield, Sydney Carton, Scrooge — do not usually possess the most delightful names. It is often the minor characters whose names bring a moment of joy to Dickensian readers. Could anyone but Dickens have created the wretched school principal in Hard Times named Mr. McChoakumchild? Is it possible to come up with a name at once more ludicrous, pompous, and flabby-sounding than the ludicrous, pompous, flabby Uncle Pumblechook? And even bored high school students,...

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ABSENT Makes the MIND Go Wander

My parents probably knew from my earliest age that I was going to be a professor when I grew up. Their clue would not have come from any particular academic proclivity nor from an unusual love of learning, but rather from the one quality I possessed that the general public has always associated with professors: absent-mindedness.As a child I never met a mitten, jacket, or gym shoe that I liked enough to remember to take with me when I boarded the school bus at the end of the day. If it could be left behind, it was; if it could...

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