Ask the Bolshevik

Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting academic publishing, writing, education, and LOVE. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.

bolshevikDear Bolshevik,
Well, here we are again. Another Valentine’s Day. I cannot go into a store that sells candies, cards, flowers, or gifts of any kind, lest I be reminded that love is an illusion, that my life is a daisy chain of regret and bitterness, and that romance and human connection are jokes played on us by Darwinian forces in order to perpetuate our species. Yet even I long for love, like everyone else. I’d ask you how to find it but you’re a communist, what do you and your heartless creed know about these matters? Instead, maybe you can tell me how to give up and get on with a life that, while soul-crushingly lonely, isn’t planted with land mines of disappointment and betrayal. Yours, Cupid’s Stupid

Dear Cupid: Actually, Marx had rather romantic views on affairs of the heart. Let’s go to the soaring rhetoric: “The cloak of love is only a shadow. The naked empirical ego, self-love, the oldest love, remains at the core.” Yow!

But that was Marx in his student years. What about the towering Marx of The Communist Manifesto: “The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.”

Testify, Karl, testify.

You are right, Cupid’s Stupid. The Bolshevik has very little to offer in the way of hope or encouragement. But I will say love is a mystery to me not because of my political beliefs but because I am merely human. With the possible exception of Casanova, and maybe Shakespeare or Oprah on a good day, human beings can only muddle along in these matters. At best we are able to quote popular song lyrics, or hope that flowers and candy and that unexpected but sincere little compliment makes our significant others shine amidst the darkness of our worldly existence.

Or, we can drink vodka and watch my favorite Valentine’s Day film:

Dear Bolshevik,
My hubby just gave me circus peanuts for Valentine’s Day and I’m wondering if I need to take that as a sign the thrill is gone. Yours, That’s Inedible

Dear Inedible: Probably. Lest we be hasty, though, let me ask: are they gourmet circus peanuts? Not just that familiar confection that when eaten calls to mind chewing on a toe, but perhaps a softer circus peanut, one that provides a burst of pomegranate or cayenne-infused chocolate when you bite into it? Did they come in a box wrapped in silk? Maybe the candies are carved into fourteen naughty shapes? If so, give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s the day of love. If they’re regular circus peanuts, though, respond with your own trenchant symbolism. I suggest wearing a cardboard negligee.