Freshman Term Paper Discovers Something Totally New About Silas Marner

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Issue 3208

Civilization Collapses

EARTH—Several millennia of relative stability and order came to an end Tuesday as global civilization collapsed, plunging the planet into a chaotic gallimaufry of superstitious cults and roving tribal armies. "Our leader, Astar the King, derives his power from Go-Ard, the one true god who lives in the sun," said former KFC third-shift manager Ernest Billings, who now exists to serve Astar, overlord of much of what used to be the state of Washington. Phillip Trainer, formerly a political science professor at Duke University, predicted that his own city-clan of Babylramia will grow in power and influence until it encompasses the entire world, at which point an eternal golden age of harmony will begin.

Area Power Walker Looks Just Ridiculous

SAUSALITO, CA—A report released Friday by Sausalito city officials revealed that area fitness enthusiast and power walker Linda Williams looks absolutely ridiculous. "Oh, man," the report reads in part, "she looks so absurd. Look at the way she frantically thrusts her arms forward, like some sort of spastic, convulsing marionette. And what is with that bizarre lurching she does with her shoulders and neck?" The report also questioned whether Williams has any idea at all just how unbelievably stupid she looks.

Clinton: 'Fuck This President Shit'

WASHINGTON, DC—President Clinton publicly distanced himself from the office of president and all duties therein at a press conference Monday. "Fuck this president shit," Clinton said. "I ain't doin' this Chief Executive crap no more." Clinton then stormed out of the White House, heading to Mike's Place, a D.C.-area restaurant, where he ordered a plate of chili cheese fries and read the local want-ads. Clinton is the first U.S. President to resign from office in a profanity-laden rant.

New York Times Adds Color To Target Under-70 Demographic

NEW YORK—In an effort to reach the coveted under-70 demographic, The New York Times announced Monday it will add color to its traditional black-and-white format next month. "Having color photos on the front page should really add some razzle-dazzle and youthful energy to the paper," said Times editor-in-chief Leo Salzberger. "I expect the new look will be very popular among those born in the 20th century." Despite Salzberger's enthusiasm, many of the nation's under-seventysomethings are skeptical. "I may check out the Times when that happens," said longtime USA Today reader Millicent Scopes, 68. "But right now, it looks like something my granddad would read." Salzberger said if the introduction of color is successful, he may experiment with other innovations, including photo captions, page numbers and commas.

Time-Management Tips

In this era of faxing and multitasking, being able to effectively manage your time is essential. Here are some tips to help you maximize your work hours:

My Play

During my years as a hard-bitten newspaper-man, I rarely had time for culture. But after a court order forced my retirement, at last I was free to indulge in artistic pursuits and to pen gripping works of drama. With that in mind, I now present to you my latest play in two acts, The Happy Bed-Chamber.

Jim Anchower And Zoos Don't Mix

Hola, amigos. How's it hangin'? I know it's been a long time since I last rapped at ya, but I've been busier than a cop in a donut shop. First off, I had to drop some serious coin on my car once again, this time for the brakes. Now, they weren't out or nothing, but they were worn pretty near smooth. When I cruise, I like to be prepared for any eventuality, and stopping happens to be one of those eventualities.

Greenpeace In Decline

Its contributions and membership dwindling, Greenpeace recently laid off a number of its full-time workers. Why is the prominent environmental organization slumping?

Doctors Say Reagan's Dementia Increasingly Hilarious

YORBA LINDA, CA—Doctors in charge of providing ongoing medical care for Ronald Reagan announced Monday that the former president—whose mental and physical health have deteriorated since he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in April 1993—has entered a critical state of rapid decline, causing his condition to be "even more hilarious" than before.

Who Will Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot?

O, who will shoe your pretty little foot, when I am gone away? Who will spread their cloak over mud puddles deep, so that you may safely tread? And who will wipe your tears from your fair maiden face, when I am many a league away?

U.S. Fat Reserves Full

WASHINGTON, DC—Unable to keep pace with the fat-storage needs of an increasingly prosperous, inactive and consumptive American populace, the nation's 140,000 federal fat-reserve tanks are in danger of bursting their seams and discharging several billion gallons of clotted human fat into sensitive ecosystems across the U.S., Department of the Interior officials said Monday.

New Rap Song Samples 'Billie Jean' In Its Entirety, Adds Nothing

NEW YORK—Noted rapper/producer Sean "Puffy" Combs released his hotly anticipated new single Tuesday, "Tha Kidd (Is Not My Son)," which samples Michael Jackson's 1983 smash "Billie Jean" in its entirety and adds nothing. "When I was in the studio mixing and recording, I decided 'Tha Kidd' would work best if I kept all the music and vocals from the original version and then didn't rap over it," Combs said. "So what I did is put in a tape with 'Billie Jean' on it, and then I hit record. The thing turned out great." Combs' current number-one hit, "Eye Of The Tiger," is dedicated to slain rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Housewife Charged In Sex-For-Security Scam

AKRON, OH—Area resident Helen Crandall, 44, was arrested by Akron police Sunday, charged with conducting an elaborate "sex-for-security" scam in which she allegedly defrauded husband Russell Crandall out of nearly $230,000 in cash, food, clothing and housing over the past 19 years using periodic offers of sexual intercourse.
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Special Coverage



Freshman Term Paper Discovers Something Totally New About Silas Marner

STORRS, CT—A major contribution to the study of 19th-century literature was made Monday with the handing-in of "Silas Marner: Paper #1" by Lori Durst, a freshman at the University of Connecticut.

College freshman Lori Durst's recent English 140 paper about <I>Silas Marner</I> has electrified the academic world.

According to leading experts on Silas Marner, George Eliot's 1861 fable of cruelty and redemption in the rural English countryside, Durst's three-page work contains a revolutionary insight into a key piece of symbolism in the novel which had previously escaped scholars.

"It's a staggering observation, one that's certain to alter the way we approach this text forever," said Harold Bloom, Yale professor and author of The Western Canon. "On page two, Durst makes a connection between the golden hair of the child left on Marner's doorstep and the misplaced heap of gold coins with which he is obsessed. While it may take decades for the full significance of this 'chromatic objective correlative' to ripple through academia, in my mind it has already opened the door to a rich, fertile, and heretofore virgin soil of Eliotian structural analysis."

"Yeah, the girl's hair is gold, and then [Silas Marner] is also looking for his missing gold," Durst said. "So in my paper I said how that was symbolic of something."

"Stunning," is how Jay Kushner, 23, a teacher's assistant in "English 140: 19th Century British Fiction," described his pupil's double-spaced manifesto. "As a section leader, I am lucky enough to read dozens of breathtakingly insightful two- to three-page papers from undergraduates each week. But even in the rarefied world of first-year papers, Lori's towers above the rest."

Durst, a native of Holmdel, NJ, who plans to major in psychology, said the idea for the essay came to her approximately three weeks ago, when her professor instructed the students to "start thinking about which book we'd want to write our first papers on." Durst said she chose to focus on Silas Marner "because it looked pretty short."

"My friend Lisa did hers on Middlemarch," Durst said, "and I was like, 'Are you crazy?' That thing is like 10 times longer."

Professor Thomas Perkins, who teaches English 140, was unavailable to comment on the paper. But another University of Connecticut English professor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Perkins and his colleagues were "stunned and somewhat embarrassed" by Durst's 12-point, Chicago-fonted magnum opus.

"You have to understand, many of us have read Silas Marner 10, 20 times," the professor said. "Maybe we had a vague sense that this adorable, golden-tressed waif who comes along to redeem Silas' soul could have something to do with the gold coins that, prior to her arrival, had been the focus of Silas' life. But we, and apparently every reader before Ms. Durst, simply dropped the ball."

Word of Durst's groundbreaking observation has spread quickly through academic circles, sending Victorian scholars scrambling to their annotated Norton editions of the novel and prompting at least a dozen major academic conferences to extend invitations to her.

A key passage from Durst's "<I>Silas Marner</I>: Paper #1"

Widespread publication and dissemination of "Silas Marner Paper #1," however, will have to wait: Only one copy of the paper currently exists, and, despite the enormous demand, Durst has been unable to print more due to what she terms "some kind of total screw-up with my StyleWriter."

Though Durst's frequent absences from lecture and much-publicized May 1996 dismissal of Charles Dickens' Bleak House as "unbelievably boring" had previously earned her a reputation as a rebel in the field of literary criticism, her status as a rising star of academia now seems assured.

While Durst declined to reveal the exact direction she would take her scholarship in the near future, she did express a strong, long-term commitment to the study of English literature. "I still have to take three more English classes to fulfill my minimum distribution," Durst said, "so I guess I'll be stuck reading books for a while."

Indeed, Durst's far-reaching intellect may soon become a lodestar for an entirely different academic field. French linguists around the world breathlessly await the completion of her next project, "French 110: Essaie Mandatoire," due next Thursday.