Mark Dorset’s narrative begins . . .
I BECAME INVOLVED in the Persistence Project—it might be better to say that I was recruited for the Persistence Project or that I was lured into the Persistence Project—when I responded to an urgent text message from Madeline Kraft. “Mark,” it read, “I have a project for you, something complex and intriguing that will require most of your time for the next few years. Please come at once. Bring M&M and some device for taking notes.” By “M&M” she meant, of course, not the little candies that melt in your mouth, not in your hands, but Margot and Martha, the Glynn twins, my serial wives.
This message plunged me into—what shall I say? Emotional turmoil? Yes, I think that will do. Here was the prospect of a project, another project. Was I willing to undertake another project, however complex and intriguing it might be? I was sixty-two. I had been making a living as a hack for thirty-one years, half my life. During that time, I had been a man being drawn and quartered, slowly, painfully. Pulling in one direction were those damned hackwork projects, one after another, doing annoying work for annoying clients; pulling in a second direction was my professional work as an unaffiliated academic, a student of human motivation, work that had produced several books and many articles and papers (e.g., How Come You Do the Things You Do?; “The Dorset Diagram and How to Use It”; I See by Your Outfit that You Are a Cowboy: How We Look the Part; Hats in Fiction; “What Do You Want to Be If You Grow Up?” (reprinted in Children at Risk); and “Fuck You, Asshole: The Death of Civility in Everyday Discourse”), work that had brought me some recognition and a certain degree of respect within a small circle of scholars, but had never produced any income to speak of; pulling in a third direction was my topical autobiography, which I will explain shortly; and pulling in a fourth direction were the pleasures of living, loving, thinking, and feeling. Now I was being offered something different and, it seemed to me, worse: another project, one that might actually be interesting, “complex and intriguing,” but one that wasn’t likely to pay me anything. Pay had been the entire reason for my undertaking those projects, putting myself through the misery of doing someone else’s work, by which I mean work that someone else had defined. What to do?
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