And then there was Harvard.
Harvard wasn't really a school known for any of the above subjects. But it was Harvard. This global beacon of prestigious higher education a mere thirty-odd minutes from my house. Just getting accepted was a badge of honor. Getting accepted into Harvard though; that was the problem. If you could somehow surmount that hurdle then you had to face the tuition costs. Besides, someone from my class had already been accepted to Harvard; beaten the odds, so to speak, so why bother? Getting into Harvard was like winning some kind of cultural lottery (that was supposed to insure the sweet life for the rest of your life). Getting into Harvard was like finding a gold brick on the sidewalk or acquiring a lifetime pass to Disneyland. Even for Bostonians (let alone suburbanites)--or even Cantabridgians--the University itself pulsated with power. It was in its own bubble. Even if you just strolled the campus; no matter how smart or wealthy you were--if you weren't enrolled, you somehow didn't belong. People who've matriculated there talk about The "H" Bomb: the moment they mention to other lesser humans that they went to Harvard. It changes them in other's eyes. The bomb is dropped with supposed humility (and I suspect simultaneous crocodile hems and haws). To wit: I did not go to Harvard.
Fast forward thirty-odd years. I wrote my first novel and self-published it. Crickets. And why wouldn't there be crickets? There was no publicity machine at CreateSpace to get me on Oprah or even into the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble. Fast forward a few years. The book languished in limbo as I finished a sequel; determined to find an agent and publish "the right way." I re-upped the first book and as I'm trying to figure out where it might be out there in the ethersphere (I have never been able to decipher Amazon's business charts); I came across a site that listed where the book was for sale and what libraries might have it. I clicked the "libraries" button. Harvard Library. I was shocked. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Why did Harvard have an independently published and, to say the least, obscure novel about gay teens on its shelf? The actual book itself. It had to be a mistake. I queried Harvard through their library website. I was contacted within minutes by a kindly librarian who assured me they did indeed have the book. She even sent me the catalog number.
So it was true. But what did it mean? Was it some kind of authentication or endorsement or reassurance that what I had written was legit? It was already "legit" as far as I was concerned. Does the fact that my first novel is in the Harvard Library make any kind of difference? I suppose it does. Does this now give me the power to drop The "H" Bomb when my book comes up? I suppose it does.
Yes, my book (and by proxy, perhaps myself) got into Harvard. He's gonna be a doctah!
So that's how I got into Harvard without really trying; but this sentence is misleading. Writing that book took a lot of work. Psychological and spiritual as well as literal. I wasn't trying to get into Harvard. But I was trying to write a good book and I tried very hard. Maybe Harvard recognized something good. I hope so. And despite my mixed feelings about the snobbery and exclusivity of luxe, high-end, higher education: I'm honored Harvard.