Brain Train: Studying for Success

By Richard Palmer | Go to book overview
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Interview, n. A confessional where vulgar impudence bends an ear to the follies of vanity and ambition

Ambrose Bierce

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances

Oscar Wilde


To launch this chapter, here is an extract from Martin Amis's first novel, The Rachel Papers. Charles Heighway is preparing himself for an interview at an Oxford University College.

With featherlight fingertips I skimmed the pages of my Interview Folder. After three-quarters of an hour I had memorized Sonorous Generalizations, Portent but no Content, and the paragraph on 'Inarticulate sincerity'. I then turned to Appearance Change Midway. It ended:
17. Enter without glasses on: put them on a) if don over 50, b) if don wearing glasses.
18. Jacket unbuttoned; if old turd, do up middle one on way in.
19. Hair over ears: if old turd, smooth behind ears on entry?

A footnote referred me to Accents 7. There I read:

Adapt slowly. If wildly out (posh vs. regional) cough at beginning of second sentence and say 'Sorry, I'm a bit nervous' in voice identical to don's.

I chewed on my lip… Of course! Dons were all queer, weren't they? Perhaps I should take a chance-leave my clothes in a neat pile outside the door and go in naked…

I hope that amused you as much as it does me. But my main point in quoting it was to stress-as indeed Amis's subsequent narrative does *-how fatuous, unnecessary and wildly wrong-headed it all is. Success

*Amis, M. (1973) The Rachel Papers. Cape, London. The extract I quoted is on pp. 195-6 of the 1976 Panther edition, and if you're interested in what happens at the interview itself, consult pp. 209-11.


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Brain Train: Studying for Success


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