Why are the Cambridge equivalent of rock stars coming out for the retirement party of a Harvard clerk – the guy who books rooms as a scheduling assistant for Harvard’s Center for Government and International Studies?
Because it’s George Scialabba, who in addition to clerking at Harvard, is a contributing editor of Cambridge-based journal The Baffler, as well as a book critic and essayist (with collections including “What Are Intellectuals Good For?”) credited with “nearly 400 essays, reviews, and commentaries concerning literature, science, politics, and morality” whose latest feat in the realm was to reveal his psychiatrists’ notes from 45 years of treatment for major depression, at McLean Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard University, then talk on the topic at a Baffler release party.
That kind of literary and intellectual daring draws fans, and as a result his Sept. 10 retirement party will be star-studded, according to pal and Baffler editor in chief John Summers. Attendees for as little as $35 will rub shoulders and hear from with Noam Chomsky, the heralded MIT linguist, philosopher and social justice advocate, Barbara Ehrenreich (author of the nonfiction “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America”), Thomas Frank (of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” and “Pity the Billionaire” fame), Rick Perlstein (writer for The Nation, the Village Voice and the New Republic and Rolling Stone, and author of “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan” and other books) and Nikil Saval (author of “Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace” and an editor for the journal n+1).
“George knows just about everything,” Ehrenreich has said of Scialabba.
There will be a tribute film with even more literary stars – including New York critic and journalist Vivian Gornick, who says Scialabba is “lucid, ardent [and] immensely thoughtful” – and music from the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band.
“Who knows, you may wind up boogying down Brattle Street with Noam Chomsky and Barbara Ehrenreich,” Summers said. (Spend $1,500 on a ticket that benefits The Baffler and you get an invitation to a dinner after the event with the panelists and journal editors.)
There will also be a reading of the Cambridge City Council resolution submitted by Summers designating a George Scialabba Day, which is a delicious read even when not done aloud by a pro:
WHEREAS: George Scialabba is retiring on August 31, 2015, from his job stationed in the basement of Harvard’s Center for Government and International Studies, having diligently fulfilled the room scheduling needs of overpaid professors for 35 years; and
WHEREAS: Scialabba has published over the same period nearly 400 essays, reviews, and commentaries concerning literature, science, politics, and morality from the perspectives of the bemused, the nonprivileged, and the unsmug; and
WHEREAS: To that end, Scialabba has spent thousands of hours pacing his apartment on Washington Avenue, gnashing his teeth over the sorry spectacle of American politics and the fearful mayhem of American capitalism, while himself hanging on by his fingertips,
NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge hereby proclaims September 10, 2015, “George Scialabba Day” to honor Scialabba for staring unflinchingly into the abyss and reporting what he has found there in sensitive, true, and graceful prose; and further
RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge encourages those of its residents who still practice the habit of reading to place their collective tongues in their collective cheeks and to celebrate the achievements of George Scialabba on September 10, 2015; and finally
RESOLVED: That the City Clerk is hereby requested to forward a suitably embossed copy of this resolution to the “Committee to Preserve George Scialabba and Others Like Him (If Any).”