Robert Aneyci

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What is the biggest difference between the east coast and the west coast? If you ask UCI English Literature doctoral student Robert Aneyci, he might say the convenience of the subway back east and the need for a car out here. He might also say the dazzling plenitude of avocados in southern California grocery stores.

Having spent close to two decades in New York City as a writing instructor, ESL teacher, carpenter, and journalist with many credits to his name, Robert decided to make a change and experience life on the west coast.  "America is the land of reinvention,"  he notes. "I was ready for a change."   He moved to Irvine in 2008 and received his M.A. in English Literature in 2009 from the UCI School of Humanities. He is the recipient of a Schaeffer Fellowship and is a 2012 Chancellor's Club Fellow.

A published author, playwright, and critic – Robert brings with him a range of passions that have been fueled at UCI. "Coming to UCI opened my eyes to opportunities that I didn't know existed. My fellowships showed me that drawing on resources and connections both inside and outside academia could develop ideas that would have withered if limited to a single sphere."

He cites as an example one of the central themes in his dissertation, and new book, that he drew from Essays Critical and Clinical by the influential French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. "There is an essay in the book about the Herman Melville story, Bartleby the Scrivener. It was Professor Ackbar Abbas who gave me insights that would never have resonated if I'd read the essay outside of his seminar." 

Robert is the author of The Last Bohemia: Scenes from Life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which will be published in August of this year by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It was recently reviewed by Publisher's Weekly, which describes the book as a "clear-eyed, heartfelt elegy" that "shows why a Williamsburg—free, fecund, gloriously threadbare—is so vital to the culture." His first book, The Gloves: A Boxing Chronicle (Northpoint Press/ Farrar, Strauss & Giroux 2002) was chosen for 'Best of the Year' lists by Sports Illustrated, Publisher's Weekly, and the Washington Post. It was also optioned for a film project by Leonardo DiCaprio's production company, Appian Way Production.

When asked if he has a favorite quote he is quick to reference German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche,
'Isn't life a thousand times too short to be bored?' is a favorite. "So many people with talent and opportunity make the most important decisions in their lives from laziness and fear," Robert notes. "They settle. It's like they're in a hurry to get life over with and be dead.  It doesn't matter that you're not sure what you want to do with your life: do something, try everything. But people just sit there and the hours slip away."

Not one to let anything slip away, Robert fills his free time with taking long rides out to Joshua Tree National Park or Tahquitz Peak. Describing himself as a creature of the city, Robert admits that acclimating to a more subdued life here in Irvine was an adjustment. "In the desert, I can think and be surrounded by some of the most amazing natural architecture in the world," he says. "I hadn't had a driver's license for a decade before I came out west and I'd never owned a car. The astonishing beauty of the landscape of the west makes up for what I left behind."

And where does he go from here? Currently he is a founding editor of Entasis, a new, online literary quarterly and he hopes to teach and continue work on the range of subjects that  interest him.

"My hope is that my writing brings a fresh perspective to subjects that have social value – At UCI I have had incredible opportunities to learn from scholars and writers like Barry Siegel and Brook Thomas – mentors whose work inside the university affects life outside of it. I hope to finish up my dissertation later this year and I am excited to continue my odyssey and see where life takes me."