Sunday, 22 June 2008
Hodder & Stoughton
‘LAST lectures’ are talks in which noted professors consider their demise and ruminate on what matters most to them.
But when Carnegie Mellon lecturer Randy Pausch, a virtual reality guru who was the inspiration to the people who made Star Wars and the Disneyland sets, gave his, he was dying of pancreatic cancer.
Students and admirers packed the hall, among them Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, whose column and video on wsj.com spread from website to website across the world.
Zaslow and Pausch then wrote the book of the lecture together, and it’s now a worldwide bestseller.
Pausch sounds like fun. On his first day of term, teaching ‘user interface’ classes, he used to bring in a VCR, put it on the table, then smash it up with a sledgehammer.
“When we make something hard to make, people get upset,” he’d point out. “They become so angry that they want to destroy it. We don’t want to create things that people want to destroy.”
Pausch shares the wisdom he’s earned in a life where he “won the parent lottery”, a sunlit life with an adored wife and three darling children.
As he doles out granddad-ish advice – be honest, it’s simpler; take risks if you want to win; send handwritten thank-you notes – the reader knows that the tips come with a whiff of afterlife wisdom.
There are funny sections, like the one where he teaches his students how to apologise: 1) What I did was wrong; 2) I feel badly that I hurt you; 3) How do I make this better? “I’m sorry that you feel hurt by what I’ve done” isn’t an apology, he points out with a sharp little nip; wanting an apology back isn’t either!
It’s an incredibly brave book, sad and wise and even useful.
Posted by Pageturners at 12:24