a nonpractitioner of feng shui for over a quarter
century, to the despair of my mother, my elementary-school teacher
colleagues, and the parents of my young students, I would stand
gratefully in your debt if you could send me an extra copy (or
two?) of the June/01 issue. I would like to mount and laminate
the article "Kings of Chaos" on poster-size board to
display in my fourth-grade classroom. It would lend credence to
my oft-repeated claims that, in fact, I am more organized than
my colleagues with clean desks. I remain mystified by the difficulty
they experience holding on to the belief I know where everything
is when I am always the one they come to when they need a copy
of something: it's always right there under the memo on purple
paper about report card due dates beneath the geometry tests under
the math homework with the Fahnestock clips and hookup wire for
the science experiment on top.
Robert Fogel, I have two desks (well, actually, four: two at home,
two at work). I maintained for years that what looks like chaos
to others is the only system that works for me because I am so
visual: if I don't see it, it doesn't exist. Clearly MacArthur
and Nobel winners are on to the loftier analysis, the "system"
Chevy Chase, Maryland
was magnetically attracted
to the "Kings of Chaos" article. Except for their
genius, I identify with all of those characters and their messy
offices. I sometimes refer to my own office as organized chaos,
but the "organized" part is often doubtful.
Professor Turner hits the idea right on the head when he says
that we want to avoid thinking linearly. The apparently chaotic
papers, books, and stuff not only prevent navigating a straight
path through the office, but they also breed serendipity as I
look from pile to pile and through a pile.
E. Thompson, AB'42, MBA'46
article "Kings of Chaos" neglected the czar of all chaos,
Richard Hellie, professor of Russian history. We invite you to
visit room 204A of the Social Sciences Research Building to witness
Czar Hellie's vast empire of Muscovite research, controlled by
the supreme ruler himself and understood only by an inner court
of loyal research assistants. In that small space exists a taiga
of paper, a Siberia of computer printouts, and enough spilt ink
to fill the Black Sea. You know life is **** when Prof. Hellie's
e-mail address begins Hell@harper.
Joanne Berens, MFA'93
Department of History
University of Chicago
photo essay was entertaining but curiously inaccurate.
Professors Sunstein, Berry, and Fogel's pigsties truly disgrace
the University, Professors Turner, Hopson, and Eaton were brutally
slandered. No matter how hard I squinted my eyes, I couldn't find
anything resembling a mess in John Eaton's office, and he was
moving when the photo was taken.
for the first three, if someone can't find their work, they probably
aren't doing any.
for your article of professors' messy offices. The messiest office
in the Department of Sociology during my graduate student days
there (from 1965 through 1971) belong to Leo A. Goodman, professor
of sociology and statistics and an elegant thinker, not to mention
a handsome man.
office resembled a scale model of a city. There were stacks of
books, monographs, and papers everywhere, looking like tall buildings.
Leo warned you that when you brought a chair into his office so
that you and he could sit to talk, you had to take it back out
when you left. Otherwise it would get covered with books and papers.
He'd obviously had experience with this problem, since there were
several chairs in his office, all with several feet of books on
desktop was inches deep in paper. His telephone was in the exact
center in the front, so it would not get covered by papers and
he could always find it. He wrote by resting a clipboard on the
pulled-out center drawer of the desk. Of course the floor was
covered just as the desk was, with the exception of paths from
the door to Leo's chair and from the chair to the window.
F. Barsky, AM'68, PhD'74
June story on chaotic messes in faculty members' offices led me
to reflect on the composition of the faculty when I was in graduate
school at the U of C in history in the early 1960s. The story
brought that back because I encountered no women on the faculty,
and the story featured no women. Are we to assume that all women
have neat offices? After all, we know that at last women are on
the faculty. Couldn't you find any as appropriate subjects for
this feature article?
M. Miller, AM'63
short answer is, No, we couldn't. The longer answer, which might
more profitably have been incorporated into the introduction to
the article, is that when the first group of nominees came in,
the editors noticed the lack of women and went back to our sources,
but no messy female professors came to anyone's mind. One possible
theory has to do with the old-boys nature of academe that Ms.
Miller suggests: perhaps women aiming for tenure have felt that
what might be forgiven as intellectual eccentricity in a male
colleague would, in their case, be seen as proof of scatter-brained