A Paperchase Dream is a term that would probably not make sense to a lot of people, except for maybe law students. It is the term I use when wanting time away to write or study. In first year law school we studied Legal Theory with Professor William MacNeil, where he prescribed a number of films and books for us to watch and read, including the 1973 film The Paperchase.
In the film first year Harvard law student James Hart experiences the great Professor Charles Kingsfield – who is his demanding contract instructor and who uses the Socratic method to scare the bejesus out of his students. Hart is obsessed with impressing Professor Kingsfield, as such forms a study group with five other students. The group, like all good group work in university descends into chaos, one student attempting suicide and one megalomaniac who won’t share his type written notes (really more of slow day for law school). All of us watching don’t realise this is the law school’s idea of disclosure as to the law school experience (with only minimal dramatic effect of course).
Hart and one other student decide to separate from the group and hole themselves up in a Hotel for three days to study for their exams. They don’t shower, sit in their underwear, allow no room service to enter, remove the television and cover the room in their notes. This results in the Hotel trying to kick them out, but they succeed in staying by alleging that the Hotel is dealing drugs. Since watching this movie, I have always referred to this as doing a ‘Paperchase,’ not the allegation of drug dealing, but going away to write.
To lock yourself in a hotel and work without interruption is the dream. For the past weekend that is what I tried to recreate, in a house built in the late 1500s (to remain anonymous for reasons that will become apparent), in a flat decorated with Victorian furniture, which was so reminiscent of an episode of Jonathan Creek I slept with the hallway light on. The property had its own private garden and there was an old church and graveyard at the end of the garden. Tolkien even stayed in the property during World War I. A location like this can inspire the romance of writing, especially when one is paying for the pleasure. There really is not much that can ruin a weekend like this, except, when there are bedbugs. Excuse me while I continue burning everything that I own now.
While Professor Kingsfield may have been a son of a bitch, Professor MacNeil was and is one of the most inspiring university educators I have ever had contact with. Though I do not feel the same about him after he did a dramatic reading of Twilight. There are some things Professor, you can’t unhear.