(But our beginnings never know our ends!)
Email: lecturess[AT]gmail[DOT]comRecent Posts
Late Spring To-Do List
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Up, up, and away!
Off to the lovely Pacific Northwest tomorrow for two and a half weeks. I won't specify the city I'm going to, although I don't much care about keeping it a secret--for some reason, no one out here ever seems to remember where I'm originally from. Maybe it's because it's so far away and relatively few people here have any strong personal associations with it, but I get a lot of, "oh, you don't seem like the [NW City] type." Whatever that means.
Today I got up late and then lolled around, painting my toenails, packing off and on, and organizing my files. I also made up a "to-do" list for the next four months--diss stuff, job market stuff, conference work--which I barely managed to keep to a single page. Even after I turn in this damn dissertation it's going to be a rough semester. I'm just glad I've been busy enough not to have started worrying about teaching yet. But of course, it will come!
After mass tonight I went over to my friend Victoria's (she's my HS friend now starting her third year of an English Ph.D. program). She'd just moved to a new place, so we sat among her boxes and drank a bottle of champagne and caught up. It's funny, but I don't have many friends who are academics--most of my college and post-college friends are in very different lines of work, and although I like my grad school colleagues I never formed many close friendships with them. My entering class was small (10 people), and we almost immediately started losing members (I think only 6 of us have received or are on track to receive our degrees); the rest all seemed to have long-distance relationships or pregnant spouses or otherwise not to be around much. I was really jealous of the classes above and below me, which were larger and more cohesive and always seemed to be hanging out and throwing parties. Anyway, that all makes it especially nice to be able to talk about academic stuff with Victoria and (in some small way) share my wisdom. Because really, all this suffering and drama has to benefit someone.
So. Goodbye for now, but you can all expect thrilling work updates while I'm in the NW. Maybe even a vacation picture or two. At any rate--don't change that dial.
Just sent my revised first chapter to my advisor. I still have to track down some citations, and I think there are definitely some weak patches--and let's not talk about the fact that my conclusion is basically, "and here's an interesting area for future study," rather than actually providing that study--but what the hell. It's done. For now.
Tomorrow I think will be devoted to packing and printing out copies of Chs 2 & 3 to mark up on the plane; they're basically in final form, but I need to do some minor work here and there. Next week I'll see what kinds of revisions I can make to Ch. 4.
But for now, to bed. Just drank a rather large martini after eating, today, exactly this: 2 pieces of toast, about 1/5 of a carton of mint chocolate chip ice-cream (hey, gotta clear out the fridge before I leave), and the better part of a box of Wheat Thins. Just didn't feel like cooking, but now. . . whee!
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Last day at Schmancy yesterday, and I'm very glad to be done--but on balance it was a worthwhile fellowship (beyond, that is, the $$). A nice side perk is that I've been asked to write a short article on my research on Neglected Author, and the importance of the item Schmancy holds, for the Schmancy Library Journal. It's not referreed, of course, and it won't be very long, but since I can't publish anything major on Neglected Author until my dissertation becomes a book (having I think already cannibalized the diss about as far as I can without destroying its publishing viability), it's a good opportunity and another nice line on the C.V. Have I mentioned that I'm a whore for my C.V.? Yeah. I AM going on the job market again, after all.
After I got back to the city I met up for dinner with one of my college suitemates, who was in town for work. We'd lost touch a couple of years after college, but we wound up reconnecting after I came across an article in Glamour magazine that featured her. (Though she is in fact damn glamorous, the article was actually about her work on behalf of immigrant sweatshop workers; you see why I have a superstar complex!) We went out to my favorite local restaurant, which has just added sidewalk seating during the summer, and ate outside. This being still very much a "transitional" neighborhood, our view consisted of what seemed like the entire youth of HBN riding by, often two or three to a bike, popping wheelies and doing various other stunts I'm not hip enough to know the names of. Couples walked by, fighting, making out; sirens blared; and an SUV came and parked next to the restaurant, pumping out the P-Funk for a solid ten minutes--awesome, the whole thing.
Friday, July 29, 2005
I enjoyed this first-person essay in the Chronicle yesterday (and it's so rare that I do enjoy the essay!), although I don't share the author's philosophy about dressing for the classroom--and neither do I agree with his generalizations about what our clothing choices say about our teaching philosophies.
Basically, he divides academics into "sharp dressers" and "slobs" and speculates that the former run authoritarian classrooms while the latter are more open and student-focused.
Now, I'm all for wearing whatever makes the instructor feel best about the job she does and whatever she believes best conveys the message she wants conveyed. However, not all of us interpret the same wardrobe choices the same way, and neither will our students (viz. the student of Lang's who apparently didn't take him seriously as an instructor), and I really dislike the suggestion, made only in passing in Lang's article but repeated ad infinitum elsewhere, as in this annoying Inside Higher Ed essay about the tyranny of the necktie, that teachers who "dress up" are somehow uptight, false and rigid--while those who wear Birkenstocks and go unshaven to class are warm and open and automatically convey an atmosphere of comfort and intimacy.
First, this is assuming that students want comfort and intimacy from their professors. Some do, some don't. Second, it's assuming that professors who dress more formally don't value spontaneity or free-form discussion. Again: some do, some don't. And thirdly, of course, it's assuming that spontaneity is always a good thing.
But there are other issues in play that Lang doesn't consider, such as age and gender. I'm 30 years old, and I don't look much older. I also tend to be very informal in my discussion style, occasionally calling the author we're reading "this dude" or referring to one character "talking smack" about another one, or whatever--the same way I talk about my work on this blog. Sometimes I swear in class. What professional attire (skirt/slacks, blouse/sweater, heels) does is license me to be and do all those things without completely losing my authority in the classroom. It also tells the students that what we're doing is important, and that I am a professional--this isn't an encounter group session, and I'm not your sympathetic older sister, and I AM grading you on your work and not on how much I like you as a person.
However, I also happen to really like dressing up, and I fucking loovvve the suit. It's professional, yes, but it's also extremely versatile, and I go nuts when I'm at conferences: I wear a suit every day, adding in the knee boots, or the black fishnet stockings, or the crazy plastic jewelry I bought on eBay as appropriate. That persona--professional, but also sexy and a little eccentric--is absolutely my favorite of my many possible personae.
Because here's the other thing: I believe very strongly in having different wardrobe "registers" for different occasions: when I'm hanging out with friends, duh, I'm in jeans and a tank top. When I'm going to a party, or to see a play, I probably put on a skirt or a funky top and add an interesting handbag. And when I'm going to the opera--even if it's for the nosebleed, student-discount seats--I may well pull out the secondhand fur stole and some rhinestones.
Not everyone feels this way, of course, and that's totally fine with me; in theory, I guess I understand the desire to be some imagined authentic self, all the time (although, really: why does that authentic self have to be wearing a polo shirt and cargo shorts?). But please spare me the lectures about how "restrictive" suits are, or the raised eyebrows and the, "I didn't know you OWNED sneakers!" when you run into me on the street. Dude, you didn't know I owned sneakers because for me they aren't officewear.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Today I took the train to Grad School City to meet with my advisor and do other assorted errands--I hadn't been back in town since I turned in my grades in mid-May, and of course I HAD to pick the hottest and grossest day of the entire damn summer on which to do all this errand-running: train station, advisor's office, registrar's office, coffee shop, library, English department, library, shopping area, different coffee shop, restaurant, train station.
Anyway, I have mixed feelings about our meeting. In many ways I think it's the most enjoyable and productive meeting we've ever had--but of course I have to focus on the negative first: she wants me to do a fair amount of work to Chapter Four. Her suggestions are really good, and we batted ideas around in a way that we never have before (in my first year or two as her advisee our meetings would be, seriously, five minutes long), but it comes down to the fact that I've got 6-7 weeks to totally totally finish my dissertation--during which time I'll ALSO be taking a week's vacation while GWB joins me out in the Northwest AND starting a new job teaching entirely new classes--and I'm just not sure I can do it.
I should add that she effectively said that she'd sign off on whatever I managed to do to Ch. 4 by the deadline, as she considers getting the thing submitted the higher priority--but at the same time she clearly thinks Ch. 4 needs work and could be really good WITH that work. And I have a slavish need to please her.
Now, let me say a few things about my advisor. The first thing to know is that she's published 16 books. And when I say "published," I mean single-author books. No co-authors, no edited collections--all her. Three or four of those books are editions, but the rest are monographs on an impressive range of subjects. On top of which she's published at least 50 articles or book chapters. (And no, she's not ancient, either.)
She is, in fact, a machine. And although she realizes that not everyone is a machine . . . I sometimes worry that she doesn't fully realize how very very long it takes someone like oh, say, me, to synthesize new ideas and express them coherently. I'm a very good and careful reader, but I build up ideas very slowly, by fretting over things that seem interesting or problematic, until finally enough of a pattern emerges. And I write well mainly because I write about 10 drafts of everything and because it's actually rather hard for me to follow complicated and involved ideas, so I have to write them extremely clearly and carefully. Once *I* understand what I'm talking about, pretty much anyone else can--but that first step takes a long time!
The other problem here isn't hers so much as it is mine: when it comes to her advisees, I'm the middle child.
Her advisee before me, whom we'll call Elder Sister, was brilliant. Very fun, very hip, and wicked smart. And a very good writer. Went on the job market early, with her dissertation pretty much only half done, and got two offers from Ivies. (I've read her work and heard her deliver talks, so I can confirm how interesting and cool her work is.) I considered ES more or less a friend, and very much admired her both personally and professionally--though at the same time I never felt quite cool enough for her and we haven't kept in touch since she left.
The advisee after me, whom we'll call Younger Sister, pretty much arrived at INRU as a hotshot. She came straight from undergrad, and although she was obviously crazy smart, she also seemed pushy and a bit of a show-off. I was actually always inclined to like her, and I'd now say that I do like her, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm also threatened by her. She's so smart, and so self-promoting--and she has a relationship with Advisor that is unlike anything I've ever seen. They butt heads regularly, but they're also Very Close. Advisor invites her over for social events that are basically faculty-only. No--she doesn't just invite her: they prepare the hors-d'oeuvres together.
It's not actually the kind of relationship I would want (I don't like the blurring of those boundaries, and I'm not as, er, extravagant a personality as either of them is), but I do feel a little jealous, and I'm rather anxious about the possibility of Younger Sister going on the job market this fall. She's two years behind me, doesn't have a complete dissertation, doesn't have much teaching experience, and I know Advisor is scrupulously fair (she's the kind of person who would say, possibly almost literally, "you know you ARE my favorite child, dear, but Lecturess is older and she gets first shot"), but it still sucks to feel stuck between two superstars.
Anyway, that was all rather longer and more tedious than I intended it to be, especially as I'm starting to feel that I finally have a satisfying and adult relationship with Advisor. Our meetings have grown from five minutes to a good 30, she seems generally quite interested in my ideas--asking questions that aren't merely rhetorical or yes/no, and she even gave me the first REAL compliment she's ever given me in private (she occasionally compliments me in public, and though I think these moments are entirely sincere, they also feel somewhat staged): as I was saying something worryingly about Ch. 4 or Ch. 1 perhaps not being as good as it should be, by submission time, she looked up and, transfixing me with her gaze, said, in a voice of total assurance, "it will be fine. Your work is all Very Good."
(That doesn't sound like much--or perhaps it sounds self-congratulatory--but those of you who know me in real life know how different this is from what she famously said two years ago. For those of the rest of you, I will not rehash.)
* * * *
Good to be back in Grad School City despite the sickening heat. I returned five library books (one of which I have apparently had since December 2002!) and only checked out one; bought a pound of coffee beans from my favorite independent roaster and coffee shop; and met up with Babe, my college roommate, for dinner (she works in a neighboring town). Good times--although surely not as good as the LUAU, complete with tiki bar and WHOLE SUCKLING PIG, that she and her husband are throwing for her 30th birthday next month. Vegetarians, hide your children.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
What do we want? A CONTRACT! When do we want it? NOW!
And lo, today arrives the contract from Big Urban University.
There are some slight changes in the terms of my employment from what I was told via e-mail a couple of months ago, and I'm annoyed about one of those changes--but the salary and courseload are as promised, and that's the main thing.
Hooray! I'm employed! Too bad I won't ACTUALLY GET PAID for another two months.
Monday, July 25, 2005
It's 9.30, and I want to be in bed by 11 p.m. I COULD sit down with this nice new print-out of my first chapter and start what I hope will be my next-to-last round of edits.
Or I could instead make myself a martini and read trashy magazines until I fall asleep (not like I wasn't already falling asleep on the train home from Schmancy, even with five people around me speaking extremely loud, Hebrew-accented French).
Which one do you think is going to win out?
Home again, exhausted again
Finally back home, after a weekend in Quaint Smallish City, whence I went directly to Schmancy this morning on about five hours of sleep.
Had a nice weekend with GWBoyfriend, though we didn't do much--rented Chris Rock's Bring the Pain on Friday and went out to see Wedding Crashers on Saturday, both of which provided much-needed levity in between what was otherwise a work weekend. He was finishing up an article and I was trying to finish up my revisions to Ch. 1, the latter of which got pretty ugly as I realized, AGAIN, that the introduction wasn't doing what I needed it to do and GWB had to talk me down from the ledge. I think it's okay now, or at least okay enough, but it still feels rather stitched together. Hoping to have it in the bin by the end of the week.
Today I gave my brown-bag lunch talk on my research at Schmancy for an audience made up of a bunch of the library staff and some of the other fellows, and I think it went pretty well--had to give a lot of background on Neglected Author and this particular work's complicated textual history before I could get into the importance of this one document that Schmancy holds, but I think I mostly kept it lively and accessible. It was nice to meet the rare books curator, who seemed delighted to learn more about this odd item they hold--as well as to find out that the kids today are still learning old-fashioned textual editing. Hey, gotta represent.
(Oh, and the damn photographer was also on hand again--the library, seriously, must now have two dozen shots of me doing various serious researchy things. What's the deal??)
Sunday, July 24, 2005
No, not me (though that's probably true enough); I'm talking about a student of mine from last semester.
She emailed me a week ago to ask about the possibility of my writing her a rec letter for internships next summer. It was a nice email, showing obvious foresight, offering to meet with me at my convenience to discuss her applications and goals, and outlining reasons why she thought I'd be a good recommender: our class was tiny, and as it had four papers, each of which went through two complete drafts, I know her work pretty well.
The thing is, I was also pretty sure she'd written one of my two worst evaluations. I don't know that, of course (and since INRU does on-line evals, I couldn't sneakily compare the handwriting against my final exams), and it seemed unlikely that she'd ask for a rec if that were the case . . . but I'd had mixed feelings about her all term. She was talkative and outgoing, definitely an asset in discussions, and she was undeniably hardworking (wound up with a B+ that was pretty close to an A-), but she just never seemed to get what made a literature paper different from, say, a history or Poli Sci paper, seemed disastisfied that I wouldn't give her hard-and-fast rules to follow, and vocally disliked most of the novels we read for reasons that I felt were kind of bogus (ex: the villain in one novel winds up rich and successful--and she went on and on about how unfair this was).
After discussing this with GWBoyfriend, and reviewing my evals, I decided that she probably hadn't written the really nasty one, and I further decided that I could write her an honestly positive rec letter. Not one of my glowing, "best student in a class full of outstanding students" letters, but one that would serve to highlight her obvious strengths.
So I wrote her back, said that I'd be happy to write her a letter, would indeed like to meet with her, but since I'd be teaching elsewhere we'd have to figure out something for some day when I was in town.
And . . . I haven't heard back from her. Not so much as an uncapitalized one-line "thanks so much!" Which really pisses me off and reminds me of another beef I have against her--the fact that I'm 90% sure she's responsible for taking a GREEN HIGHLIGHTER PEN to a brand-new library book and sloppily marking pages and pages and pages of an essay she cited in a research paper.
Manners, people! Who raises children these days?
I really want to rescind my offer now, but that's just petty. Maybe I could do something passive-aggressive like sending her an email "just to make sure" she got my previous message?
Friday, July 22, 2005
Jury Duty: Postscript
Forgot to mention the best thing about jury duty: getting a copy of--I kid you not--a publication entitled, "Jury Pool News." Apparently it's a monthly newsletter. For whom? Those poor people sequestered on months-long trials? Believe me, I'd be wanting something new to read long before then.
I suspect that the first seven pages of "journalism" ("State Court Celebrates Diversity"!) are actually just an excuse for the crossword puzzle that takes up the entire back page. A nice guesture, the puzzle, but the clues are so easy ("___ King Cole") that I don't think it would really help anyone kill much time.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Off to Schmancy tomorrow, lugging suitcase, for after the library~~I'm taking off for a weekend in Quaint Smallish City!
Haven't decided yet whether I'm returning Sunday night or taking an early train on Monday, directly from QSC to Schmancy (the latter is more or less on the way to MEC, though it requires some annoying switching of trains). Leaning toward a Mon. departure, but it depends on how much excitement the Rare Books staff manifest at the prospect of looking after my suitcase for a second day.
Tasks for the weekend:
(Which, of course, I'll be able to enjoy--because by then I'll have finished the revisions to Chs. 1-3. Right?)
Jury Duty: Day Two
Short version: Released early!
We didn't have to get in until 10 a.m. this morning, whereupon, after roll call, I promptly signed out for a 20-minute break to get an iced coffee. Came back, read some of the other articles in this issue of Smaller Respectable Journal, found inspiration in one of them for an important transitional paragraph in my revised Ch. 1--and at 12.15 they announced that they had too many jurors and not enough cases, so those of us who were on our second day were freed.
So I went out and wandered up through Chinatown and bought myself a pair of shoes--the beaded Indian-style ones that I believe are called khussa slippers. I've been wanting a pair ever since seeing them in L.A.'s Chinatown last October when I was out there for DeeDee's wedding (I did buy a fancier pair of beaded mules, but just couldn't justify spending money on TWO pairs of shoes). Then they hit the streets of Major Eastern City this spring, and now they're a little too ubiquitous for my taste--but for $14, what the hell. I'm like a bird: I'm drawn to everything shiny.
In sum, then, jury duty wasn't half-bad. I should note here for those of you sharing jury duty stories that this is, in fact, the THIRD time I've been called for JD in seven years. First MEC summoned me right after I'd moved to Grad School City, so I couldn't serve, and then two and a half years ago Grad School City summoned me, and I did serve--got put in a courtroom where they were selecting alternates for a re-opened, 20-year-old murder trial. But they were projecting a trial of at least 3-4 weeks and were being really nice about letting people go who had other commitments, as I did--so, no murder trial for LL.
And finally, in financial news: financial services claims that the money is actually still in my account, so I can request the complete amount. And Schmancy's Rare Books director emailed me to let me know that my cheque finally came in--so, hooray! I'm not going to Debtors Prison!
Or at least not until September.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Just give me my goddamn money!
Newest entry in the category of: We Know How to Spend Your Money Better Than You.
I just went to INRU's online student account system to request the refund, into my checking account, of the second half of my Stafford loan: $1,000. I knew it had been disbursed, since the financial services department had sent me an email to that effect a few days ago, but when I got to my account it showed a balance of . . . $140.
Why? Because the financial services department, in all its paternalistic wisdom, had AUTOMATICALLY, without asking me, deducted my fall registration fee of some $280 (not due until September) and my insurance/prescription drug coverage of some $580 (which I'm planning on waiving, since I'll have bennies from BUU--and the waiver for which is ALSO NOT DUE UNTIL SEPTEMBER).
I've emailed them a fierce message and I'll call them tomorrow--but who knows if it can be corrected.
Hate financial services. HATE.
Jury Duty: Day One
Short version: whole lotta nothing.
I'd forgotten that jury duty in Major Eastern City obliges you to two days rather than just one (I suppose you could get away with just one if you got put on a jury immediately and had an incredibly short trial, but that seems unlikely), so I have to go back tomorrow.
Today was painless, however: got in around 9 a.m., watched a video and got instructions from a couple of hilarious guys (jury-minders? no idea what they'd be called) . . . and then sat around. Not a single one of the 20 courtrooms in this particular building called for any jurors all morning, so they let us out early for lunch.
I called up a lawyer friend who works at the federal courthouse two blocks away and he & I met up for some Thai food and then grabbed some iced coffee. Still hot as hell today, but not particularly humid (although given that I consider humidity to be the work of the devil, I don't think hell would BE hell without humidity hovering around 90%), so sitting on a bench in the shade watching the civil servants go by was pleasant.
Afternoon was much of the same, and we were promised we'd be let go around 3.30--but then at 3 p.m. a courtroom called for jurors. They called out about 60 names, of which mine was one (damn!) and sent us down a floor . . . where we waited outside the courtroom for literally 30-40 minutes. Whereupon the lawyers came out and said, hey, sorry to make you wait; we settled the case. Go home and come back tomorrow.
But as one of our jury-minders assured us at one point, "I know it seems boring, but remember that this sitting around is actually a vital national service. You people here are the fine line between civilization . . . and total chaos."
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Interesting (& worrying) article by Anthony Grafton in this week's New Yorker about what Benedict XVI's theological interests and publications suggest about his attitude toward other religions, the direction of the church, and plain old intellectual inquiry.
Here are a couple of passages that jumped out at me:
[Ratzinger believes that] in Latin America, people confused the liberation offered by the Church with social and economic liberation.So, should we not work for social and economic justice, then? Is this just the way God ordains things--some people's lives really suck, but boy, they'll make out in the afterlife!--or what? I doubt that that's what Benedict or most believers of any stripe would actually say, but to me that's the dangerous endpoint of such an argument.
For Ratzinger, it seems, liberalism is another alien creed, like Judaism, but far less profound, and consists of "values" that can easily be identified, summed up, and extracted for Christian use. In a recent column in the Times, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna...argu[ed] that the neo-Darwin theory of evolution is "ideology, not science." To support this claim he cited no scientific data; rather, he cited "the real teaching of our beloved John Paul"--clear proof that he has no idea what science is, or, for that matter, ideology. His rhetoric was classic Ratzinger--asserting that those who had perceived a softening in the Church's teaching [based upon John Paul's actual statements on evolution] were mistaken.
"Words mean exactly what I say they do," indeed!
This is all the more troubling to me in light of the lovely readings at mass this week (which Bright Star discussed too!) and the great homily a visiting priest gave. The Gospel reading was Matthew 13.24-43, where Jesus delivers several parables to describe the kingdom of God, including the one about the guy who sows wheat, and then his enemy comes along at night and secretly sows weeds, and the two plants start to grow up together. When the man's servants see this, they ask him if they should go out and start to uproot the weeds; he tells them not to, because there's a risk of pulling up the good along with the bad--they should wait until harvest time and divide the good from the bad then, once they can be properly distinguished.
I love that prophetic part, and I think it speaks to this same issue: there are just so many things you can't ever know. I think it can also be seen as a statement about the academic life, and the importance of remaining humble in the fact of one's own ignorance and intellectual blindspots: few of us work in fields where we can ever achieve permanent, unchanging answers to the
Monday, July 18, 2005
I'm not a Harry Potter reader, and I have neither positive nor negative feelings toward the series, but I thought I'd pass along this item I saw last time I was in Quaint Smallish City:
An expensive, late-model car that appeared to have a Bush/Cheney '04 bumper sticker on it--not surprising, in a wealthy community with a significant military presence. When I looked at it again, though, I saw that while the lettering and flag placement and everything exactly matched the Bush/Cheney stickers, what this one actually said was: Cheney/Voldemort '04.
Good news x 2
Good news #1:
Heard back from my advisor today about Ch. 4, and her comments were generally positive. She made suggestions for things I ought to do, but I think what she said at the end of her message was that, basically, it was okay even without those changes (at least for dissertation purposes, if not for book manuscript ones). I'm not totally clear that's what she meant, as her mesage was quite brief, but I'll hopefully be able to meet with her next week to clarify. So, provisionally, hooray!
Good news #2:
Received my copy of Smaller Respectable Journal! And my offprints! And my article ran to more pages than I expected, and I haven't seen any errors yet, so hooray for that, too.
And finally, some promising news:
I heard from Big Urban University today, for the first time in months, in a manner which suggests I may finally receive my contract soon (for various more-or-less legitimate reasons it's been delayed, and although I do have an email from the Dean, and I do have class assignments and books on order, I've been a little on edge about not having the official hiring package).
You must make love to the camera, dahling
Okay, so the photo-shoot wasn't half bad today, and I would venture to say even fun. First the photographer came into the reading room to get a bunch of "action" shots of us earnestly scrutinizing our books or manuscript materials and typing, and then he took us into a separate room for a rapid succession of headshots. Hope they turned out okay, though I think I was cracking up in many of them because one of the other fellows, standing off to the side, kept saying, with fierce, fashion-world intensity, "work it, work it! LOVE the camera!"
I just met him today, while we were waiting around for the photographer to show up (we fellows had started at different times and so had never been introduced), and it turned out that we went to college together. So we traded all the usual names--and since I'm back at INRU for grad school he was interested in how things had changed--and though we're in different fields it turned out, further, that I knew a wacky guy his department had just hired. Generally fun. And the brown-bag lunch presentations of the fellows' projects start tomorrow, which should also be fun.
And best of all . . . I've already written three brand-new pages today! Maybe I should always get up at 5.30 a.m.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Argh! Still up!
Why am I still up when it's nearly 11.30 and I have to get up at 5.30 tomorrow?
Actually, the better question is why I have to be up at the ungodly hour of 5.30: because, dear reader, I have an 8.45 a.m. photo shoot at Schmancy. You know how I said that they want to put the fellows' pictures up on their web page? Yeah. Nothing makes one look fresher and more glamorous than getting up at 5.30 a.m. on a Monday and then spending two hours in transit. And who said I even wanted my photo up? What I REALLY want is my goddamn stipend, people.
I'm still up in part because, well, I never go to bed before midnight (before 1 a.m. is hard enough), but also because I was on the phone first with my folks and then with my friend Victoria, who is interviewing tomorrow for the publishing job I just left. She's one of my oldest and dearest friends, dating back to our time together on the high school quiz bowl team (yeah, spare me the jokes), who's now in grad school out here in Major Eastern City. And I thought, who better to take over this sweet part-time gig? And to alleviate some of my guilt about leaving? So I had to give her the run-down on the people and the situation, and gossip about our respective friends and family members, and . . . the next thing you know, I'm looking at 6 hours of sleep at best.
God. Maybe I just won't go in on Tuesday. But wait: I'm already missing on Wednesday because I have jury duty. JURY DUTY. Kill me now.
Went out tonight to a game at a local ballpark with my friend Lorraine, who has the singular good fortune of having free passes to any game at any ballpark in the country (she works in the biz--and yes, gentlemen, she's single, she's straight, and she's hot; line forms to the right).
It was a lovely night and a good crowd, and when you're not paying for tickets the $11 on concessions really doesn't seem so bad. Home team lost, however, but I don't really follow them (my team is in my ORIGINAL hometown), so I found the many fans from the opposing team pretty funny when they started randomly cheering for other teams in the conference, especially this team's Big Rival. Also pretty funny was the lady behind me who kept calling someone on her cellphone to say, "I'm at the bawlgame. Can you hear it? I thought you'd wanna hear the noise. Okay, sorry."
Earlier, on my way to public transpo, I walked past a genuine block party--just the folks who lived there, a few streets down from me, who'd put up a police barricade at each end and a volleyball or badminton net strung across the middle of the block. Everyone out grilling or playing games or making balloon animal hats, with a boom box pumping out what I believe to be "Buffalo Stance"--I was late so couldn't linger, but damn.
Gotta love summer sometimes. Now if I can just find someone to open up a fire hydrant-in-lieu-of-sprinkler, I think I can die happy.
New line on the CV
So I just got invited to submit a paper I gave earlier this year for publication, along with the other papers on my panel/roundtable thingy. Pretty much as-is; the idea, I guess, is basically just to preserve the ideas we assembled for the future use of other people working on the subject.
All of which of course is good, but a little strange--this was a plenary panel on a relatively understudied work, and it was meant to be mainly informative and fun: here's one aspect of this work; here's another; here're ways it might be taught or studied. I was worried that it had the potential to be rather dry, so I worked hard to spice up my paper. . . and if I do say so myself, it kicked serious ass: very funny, very lively, and very after-dinner-toast-y. I stood up, I used props; the works. Even my famously love-withholding advisor told me it was fantastic.
But the thing is, I'm not sure it's as good when not a performance piece, and I'm not sure there's really that much content there. Amusing bits, yes. Useful information, yes. But a thorough history-of-this-work's-reception? Barely.
But it's a line on the CV, right? I should just be happy with that, right?
Or should I be worried that someday, somewhere, people are going to do an MLA search on me and think, "what the hell is THAT piece of nonsense?"
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Smothered by books
Loved this piece in the Times real estate section--though it reminds me of how very unlikely I am to have any $400K floating around when I'm in my 60s or 70s.
I always think I have a lot of books, and I tend to buy everything I ever think I might want to read or refer to again (or at least I do when I have the money), but I'm unsure whether I'd ever get to the 15,000 this guy and his wife seem to have amassed before paring it down to 10,000; right now I'd say I'm pushing but most likely have not reached 1,000. GWBoyfriend probably does have 1,000 or slightly more. Even in a combined household, though, I have a hard time imagining ever having more than 5,000 books.
What I have a harder time imagining, though, is being a literature scholar who doesn't have books, or at least doesn't really care or feel strongly about having them. One of mine and GWB's friends in grad school just virtually did not buy books. You'd go over to his apartment, and the shelves were full--and I mean full!-- of library books (at one point he racked up $900 in fines, though he managed to get them forgiven before he took his degree). And I don't think it was really because he was frugal; I think that books as objects just didn't mean much to him.
I've met a few others, including people who just don't "get" used bookstores or why someone might like spending a day browsing in them (as opposed to looking for, say, five specific books and then leaving), and I always wonder . . . how did you get into this field, again?
I think I've finally achieved breakthrough with those first two pages--they aren't perfect, but at least they're mostly doing what I need them to do.
Now I just need one tough, Big Argument paragraph to connect those first two pages with the following three pages, and then an elegant final paragraph, and I'll have an introduction. It's not yet time to start celebrating, but I should be able to do that this afternoon. Then I have to start revising the section on Less Important Text--about 10 pages, though I hope to expand it a bit.
I really didn't want to go to Schmancy yesterday, and in fact as I was hastily trying to dry my hair and put on lipstick in time to run out the door to catch the train I thought, "you know, I could just not go--and it's 8 a.m., and I'm already up and pulled together--and I could get SO MUCH DONE TODAY if I weren't spending four hours commuting." But the guilt got to me and so I went, planning to just make an appearance and sign in and leave early.
But in fact I had a very productive four hours or so--I looked up some citations and downloaded some articles; I revised most of my first page pretty successfully; and I continued looking at a really interesting work by my Ch. 3 author (otherwise known on this blog as Neglected Author). It's actually the work for which he was most famous in his lifetime, going through many revised editions in his lifetime and remaining popular long after his death, but it's virtually unread today. (If you go on ABE or Bookfinder you will NOT find any copies of the scholarly edition from the 1980s--which is of course what I was looking for--but you WILL find at least a dozen copies published during the author's lifetime. I found two first editions for under $1000--and bear in mind that this is a large, 2-volume work published hundreds and hundreds of years ago. When I start drawing a salary I may have to splurge; there's no other work of this magnitude available in a contemporary edition that I could ever come close to affording.)
And then I came home, hied myself out to the laundromat, washed a stack of dishes, took out the trash, and got a little more writing done.
As I was heading to the laundromat I looked around for a magazine to bring with me and realized . . . I didn't have any unread ones. And that's really been my only true leisure reading this summer--I haven't had enough down time to read any books for fun (on the train I take the NYT and a book or two relevant to my dissertation). And that made me so depressed, since summer is usually the time I catch up on my reading. I looked around my apartment--did I want to start Blood Meridian? Uh, too much of a commitment. That book on the social history of depression? Not really laundromat reading.
So I settled on Maria DiBattista's Fast-Talking Dames, which I've been wanting to read for years, and which I'd finally picked up a copy of about six months ago. I'm only some 30 pages in, so I can't comment more largely on the book's premises and argument, but it's on such a fantastic subject (the women in the movies of the 1930s and 1940s, especially screwball comedies), that I'd probably forgive quite a few sins. Here's the crucial jacket blurb:
The thesis of Maria DiBattista's Fast-Talking Dames is that the special invention of the '30s comedy is the verbal sass of its female characters. In other words, it's the wit, the speed, the freedom peculiar to the way these women talk that set them apart from the vamps and victims and hoydens of the silent period, that reflect the new economic and social realities of the era, and that--most important of all--lead to generous and happy unions within marriage. Good talk, in other words, leads to good sex--in fact, is a requisite for it.
Now tell me you don't want to run out and read it!
Friday, July 15, 2005
Good news/bad news
The good news:
I have five pages of introductory material for chapter one roughed out, and most won't require much revising.
The bad news:
I'm back fucking around with pages 1 & 2 again. The first part of the first paragraph I'm really happy with, but the rest of the set-up--that initial big overview statement of Why This Matters for Scholarship, that should come around the bottom of page one--is still causing me trouble. I don't know why; I mean, I have a very solid analysis of the most important text already written, and a rougher analysis of the secondary text, and I'm very clear on why I'm looking at these two particular works and how they relate--but somehow I'm having a hard time framing the issues for this author's entire oeuvre, and for the period as a whole.
I guess that's part of the problem: this is the first chapter, so I feel that in addition to setting up the material in this chapter, I also need to be thinking about how it leads into the other three (I do plan to write an approximately 10-page introduction to the diss as a whole, but there are bigger scholarly/disciplinary/theoretical fish to fry there).
And maybe another part of the problem is that the two works I'm looking at are a little odd--one of them is virtually unread, even by scholars who work on this dude, and the other one, though much beloved by those who have read it all the way through, is more frequently excerpted for a few pretty passages. Neither one is what this author is really known for writing; they're generically and structurally problematic; and the scholarship on both is relatively limited. So I guess I feel that I want to make a larger claim about how they relate to the rest of Author's works, and why they're sophisticated and fascinating texts in their own right--and I haven't really had to do this in my other chapters (where it's clearer why I'm looking at the particular works that I am), though they'll definitely benefit from this kind of Big Claim.
Anyway, it's tiring.
(It occurs to me that I haven't really described my dissertation's shape, and if you've read this far you may be curious. Basically, I'm tracing a particular literary and intellectual-historical phenomenon that I see happening in my period, & that has implications for certain other periods and genres, using a one chapter/one author format. All of four of my authors are pretty well-known, with one being a lynchpin of the canon and another being a survey-course staple; the other two are less familar to a nonspecialist--though one is strangely more popular on Amazon.com right now than he is in the college classroom.
HOWEVER, the specific works I'm dealing with, though they're all still in print, are not nearly as well-beloved as their authors. My diss examines eight or nine works at length, of which many scholars in my field may only have read two or three all the way through. So, I feel as though I'm really trying to reclaim these works and others of a similar nature, as literature, at the same time that I'm trying to make detailed and interesting arguments about them and their authors on an individual basis. And at the moment that just feels like a lot of plates to keep in the air.)
Other bad news
I really really really don't want to go back to Schmancy tomorrow.
It's hot and gross out.
I'm facing up to the fact that I'm going to have to start teaching--new courses, at an all-new place--in just over a month.
I'm not getting nearly enough sleep, and I'm cranky.
I don't know when I'm going to get around to doing my laundry. Possibly tomorrow, when I get back from Schmancy. At 7 p.m. In the heat. Ugh.
I need a vacation!
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Ostracized by Bloglines
Why isn't my Bloglines feed updating with my posts of yesterday?
UPDATED AT LUNCHTIME TO ADD:
Okay, I'm no longer being ostracized. But really, 20+ hours to update?
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Reliability is a virtue. Look into it.
Okay, so you may remember Smaller Respectable Journal--the publisher of my first article? Which contacted me more than a month ago for my mailing address and which then failed to send me my copies & offprints in a timely fashion?
Which makes me happy, but which raises a couple of questions:
Bitch, bitch. I know this is a part-time gig for everyone involved, but how hard is it to return an email? Makes me actually feel fondly toward the officious and pedantic editor at that other journal.
On a short lunch break just now, so here are two quick links:
The first, from Inside Higher Ed., is about the latest developments between NYU and its newly-unrecognized grad student union. Money quote:
Sexton [NYU's prez] noted that there is an interim grievance procedure and a compact of rights and responsibilities. “The heart of the matter is…are they students or are they workers,” he said, to cries of “Both! Both!” from the audience. Later on, after one graduate student invited Sexton to a Sunday evening on his couch amid Chinese food containers and stacks of blue books, Sexton reflected on his own position as a professor in the law school. “After my exam, I have 150 blue books to grade. As a tenured member of the law school, do I consider myself a worker? No.” The crowd erupted in one of the loudest roars of the day.
Yeah. So . . . what exactly is it that you do, as a teacher? Charity?
Word on the street is that INRU's prez (otherwise known as "that punk-ass petty bureaucrat") was leaning very very hard on Sexton to unrecognize the union.
And now here's a follow-up article about the Vatican's apparent desire to distance itself from evolution. That papal silence speaks volumes, no?
UPDATED TO ADD:
While the Vatican may be silent on some issues, I'm glad to see that they're on top of the ones that really matter. Like the evils of Harry Potter (via Andrew Sullivan).
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Ch. 1: All systems are go
Not much to report here except a severe sleep deficit and two pages of the introduction to Chapter 1.
Two pages may not sound like much, but that opener is always so hard to write--it needs to be brisk and lively as well as setting up the relevant problems and background, but for me an equal problem is that I literally can't write page 2 until I've written page 1. (What this means is that sometimes I'll spend days writing the first two pages, so's I can move on, only to wind up completely scrapping those pages in a revision. Dumb, but I'm very much one of those let-me-try-saying-this-so-I-can-see-if-it's-actually-what-I-mean people.)
I think these pages are actually pretty decent--and I have high hopes of finishing a draft introduction before I go to bed tomorrow night--but right now I'm so sick of my own voice that it's hard to tell whether I'm just becoming a self-parody. Every time I catch myself in a typical phrasing, intonation, or sentence pattern, I'm irritated. I generally pride myself on what I think is a strong and distinctive writing voice (or to use my advisor's possibly less enthusiastic term, "eccentric"), but when it bugs, it bugs.
Oh, and speaking of my advisor? No word back from her about Ch. 4. Not even a "thanks for sending this along; I'll get to it soon."
Well, one of two things will happen: either she'll say it's good enough, with some clean-up and a conclusion, to submit, or she'll say it's not, and that will pretty much determine whether I wind up with a 2005 or a 2006 degree (INRU only approves dissertations twice a year, so if I can't get this thing in shape by mid-September, it's not going anywhere until March). And I guess either one is okay; I just want to know what I'm shooting for!
In other news: pleasant day today at Schmancy. And no further vermin to report.
And so to bed
Monday, July 11, 2005
Eww eww EWWWW.
I just killed a very large cockroach right near my desk. Where I was sitting and writing until the moment I heard a rustling noise and jumped out of my seat.
What really infuriates me is the fact that CLEARLY someone in my building is harboring these fuckers--this is the sixth one I've seen in the past two months. (So no, it's not an infestation . . . but in the entire first 22 months I lived here--nearly two years--I saw only five or six total.)
And yes, I have poison bait laid out, and yes, I spray, and yes, I keep absolutely all my foodstuffs in airtight containers and/or the refrigerator (along with my dissertation, nail polish, etc.).
I know there's really nothing else I can do, but it just grosses me out beyond belief. And the bastards messed with my writing flow, too! I was so on a roll!
Grody grody grody.
Okay, quick update on my weekend--less because I think you really want to know than because I want one last thing to keep me from turning to Ch. 1.
Saturday GWBoyfriend and I went to one of the city's smaller museums, the one devoted to the city itself, and saw a couple of interesting exhibits. I'd been meaning to get to this museum for ages, so it was a nice outing. We walked the 25 or so blocks there, and afterwards walked another 15 or 20 to the neighborhood where I lived immediately after college, dropping into some stores and my all-time favorite take-out place along the way.
Finally, after an hour or so in a coffee shop reading the Times, we went to see March of the Penguins--a good and very interesting documentary. I'm not exactly Wildlife Girl, but I'd heard the filmmaker on NPR a couple of weeks ago and had thought it sounded interesting (and, more crucially, I had two free movie passes I've been trying to use at the right chain for 8 months). Also, if you think there's anything in the world cuter than baby penguins, you'd be wrong.
Yesterday we went out to a remote part of the city to see my friend and hairdresser, who I'll call Tom. Tom deserves a post all to himself--actually, he deserves a novel, or possibly a movie--but suffice it to say that he's a very dear person whom I met through a college friend. 40-something, HIV-positive, Tom's lived all over the country and had a crazy number of jobs (many of which aren't exactly the kind of thing you'd list on a resume); he's a survivor, is Tom.
Since he moved to this more distant location about a year ago I've often gotten my hair cut at the storefront salon he works at, since it's much closer, but I prefer to go to Tom's apartment if I can--partly because that way all the money I'm paying goes directly to him, but mainly because it's so much fun: he's got two fantastic cats, a crazy, campy, multicolored apartment that every time I visit features new items he's salvaged from the street and painted gold or stuck feathers on. He has an old salon chair and all the tools of his trade there, so it's quite a professional set-up--but one which still allows me to hang out and catch up with him. Also, on a practical level: he's a damn fine stylist, and in a city where haircuts start around $60, the $20 he charges (and the $25 or 30 I usually pay) cannot be beat.
So, GWB and I both got our hair cut, with me winding up with a shorter and slightly different 'do than I've sported before--very sassy, I think. We hung out a bit with Tom, then headed back into the city proper for hummus at an Israeli joint we frequent that in fact sells only hummus--three different varieties, each a meal unto itself. Along the way we ducked into a vintage/collectibles store where I got a cute black patent handbag to replace one whose strap broke a couple of years back.
And now--and now, it's 3 p.m., GWB left around noon, and it's REALLY time to turn to that damn dissertation! Update later if I'm successful.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
After a day full of haircuts, handbags, and hummus (more on those and the weekend's other activities later), I decided to make a good-faith effort to do SOMETHING dissertation-related for at least an hour this evening.
So to review the various pieces I went to my refrigerator's crisper drawer, wherein I store hard copies of all my most important work (hey, you never know when your apartment is going to go up in smoke, and refrigerators don't burn). Usually I just toss stuff in there and I only go back through it when I really need to, so I was expecting to dig a bit in order to get to Ch. 1--but I was not expecting to wade through SEVEN different copies of Ch. 2. (Ch. 2 is also, in only slightly different form, Article No. 2, which goes a short way toward explaining why there are so many different versions floating around).
There were also two copies of Ch. 3, some random legal pads containing miscellaneous notes, and a manila file folder bursting with general-interest articles torn out of magazines and newspapers that I had apparently at some point intended to photocopy. Why was that there? Who knows?
Other things I have in my refrigerator that you may not have in yours:
In my previous apartment, the kitchen of which contained exactly one very narrow drawer, I also kept my silverware tray in my refrigerator--something I considered a very sensible use of space, but which never failed to elicit commentary from guests.
Anyway. I highly recommend the refrigerator as an alternate storage facility. But I also recommend cleaning it out with a little more regularity than I seem to.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Here's a good short response from Andrew Sullivan that expresses pretty much my own thoughts. More later, if I get around to it.
George Washington Boyfriend is in town this weekend, so light blogging ahead. I'm hoping also to get started on my revisions to Ch. 1 and get a haircut, but no promises on either of those things.
GWB got in last night, and so accompanied me out to Schmancy today to look at a few things of his own (partly on the principle that it's always worthwhile learning the ins and outs of a different research library, and perhaps also partly because I told him that there's a big ol' portrait of the actual George Washington looming over the room), and it was nice to have the company--we took a long lunch in town and visited a couple of used bookstores, winding up carting a total of at least ten books home. The second of the two bookstores, regrettably, was in the final stages of going out of business, but that meant that everything left on the shelves they were giving away free--in addition to two books in my actual field I picked up a nice copy of Quentin Bell's biography of Virginia Woolf and John Millington Synge's complete plays.
Thinking of playing hookey from Schmancy on Monday to get Ch. 1 under way, though today I started looking at a fantastic book that might actually make me willing to brave the commute. The work is written by a head of state, ostensibly on a matter of public concern, but it includes all kinds of nutty excesses and defensive asides that remind me for all the world of our own head of state (& to make the comparison even better, said long-dead state-head keeps invoking the specter of a particular national disaster as an excuse for his oppressive and paranoid measures as he urges the reader never ever ever to forget That Day).
Anyway, part of this work is relevant to part of my first chapter, but I'm discovering that there's way more that I'm going to want to talk about--maybe this could be my first post-dissertation article??
Well, one can dream.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Oh, and P.S.--
A listserv I'm on devoted to Major Author has this truly appalling exchange going on right now, where one member expresses sympathy for the victims in London, and another says, basically, who cares? It's totally insignificant compared to Anglo-American brutality abroad. And then they start quoting Major Author back and forth to support their respective positions and debating whether Author would have supported or opposed terrorism/liberation of oppressed persons by any means, and--
MY GOD. These people suck.
The age of anxiety
Seen today on the two forms of extremely crowded mass transit I took:
No visible weapons, though--there was a time, for probably up to two years after 9/11 when you'd pretty regularly see Nat'l Guards with gi-normous guns (rifles? machine guns? really big suckers, anyway) in the two main transit hubs. I was in one once when I saw two Nat'l Guards carrying huge guns break into a RUN, yelling to a third across the way, and it totally freaked me out. Nothing happened, though, that I could see.
Anyway, for obvious reasons I've been thinking about 9/11 again, though I'm not going to blog about my own experience in any detail (for one thing, too self-absorbed a thing to do on a day like today, and for another, it would be too complicated to try to do so in sufficiently general terms). So all I'm going to say is that although it completely pisses me off that 9/11 has become a catch-all excuse, a conversation stopper, and an occasion for enforced solemnity and fake piety every time it's invoked--at the same time, life changed tremendously after 9/11 for those of us who live in these major target cities.
We probably talk about it less than Mrs. Grundy in Dubuque (no offense to any readers in Dubuque! I hear it's lovely!), and we may even think about it less on a conscious level, but speaking for myself I know I'm much jumpier and more anxious than I used to be. I go through periods of really thinking about the possibility of an attack on the metropolitan subway system--which line would be the worst one to be on? At which hour? I've never altered my routine in the least, because really, you can't live your life like that--but I do think about it.
But I'm also more anxious about the possibility of (non-terrorist-related) plane crashes, car crashes, the person too close behind me on the street at night, and even the random guy in a suit who's the only other person in the elevator with me at 2 in the afternoon; things that don't have any connection to terrorism, and that aren't even objectively the cause for any kind of alarm, but that I'm completely convinced have to with 9/11 (and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the probable torture at Gitmo and just the darker view of human nature that all of this has caused me to take--and mind you, I wasn't Mary Sunshine before then).
I don't mean to imply that people elsewhere don't also suffer from this same sense of dislocated anxiety or the low-level PTSD that can be caused by overdosing on upsetting news coverage; I'm sure they do (else, how to explain the "national security" vote for Bush in November?). But I think there's something different, and really hard to describe, about the experience of being in a city with a big ol' target on it: constant anxiety, but also a kind of anger and stoicism and "fuck it, let's go have a drink" all rolled together.
I remember a conversation I had with a grad school colleague who I ran into on the street the day after 9/11. She had her orals coming up in about a week, and she was saying how she couldn't get any studying done because all she was doing was staring at the television--and really, how could she be expected to read Chaucer at a time like this? But in the same breath she went on and said that of course she couldn't stop studying! Because that's what the terrorists wanted! For her to fail her orals!
And she was laughing, but also in earnest, and I think that's how most people felt around these parts back then, and probably how they feel in London today as well. Hey terrorists: FUCK YOU.
(Yeah, sorry that this went and got so self-indulgent after all. I hope everyone's friends and family members are okay out there...)
FUCK. That's all, just fuck.
Heard from KF and she's okay. Otherwise not a lot of news yet--in re casualty numbers or anything else.
Time for me to return to freaking out when I ride the local subway.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Oh yes: it's time for another bout of financial whingeing. Not that the previous one ever really ended.
Let's just say that I'm taking back some of what I said yesterday about the abundant resources and the love-showering of Schmancy's rare books collection. Today I stuck my head into the director's office to ask her a couple of questions, and I figured I might as well ask her about my cheque, too, since I hadn't received it and I assumed she had just been too busy with a new crop of researchers to get around to handing them out.
To which query she gave me an EXTREMELY startled look, and said oh, well--she could assure me that it was in process, but it might take a couple of weeks. And that . . . wasn't a problem, was it?
To which of course I said no, not at all--just checking--but I was thinking: a couple of weeks? When this is enough money to (just barely, with some cutbacks) support me for a month? And when you knew the start date of my fellowship? (I should note that in her initial correspondence with me, back in March, she had specifically asked me to let her know my start date ASAP, so that they'd have my cheque ready upon my arrival.)
Financially this is okay--I've already paid this month's rent, I have a few hundred dollars in the bank, and if worst comes to worst I'll be getting the second half of my loan disbursement before I have to pay my August rent--but her surprise at my even asking her about the stipend that's supposedly supporting my research this month (and of which I've already spent $333.00 for a monthly train pass) just made me feel so pathetic and money-grubbing in that old familiar way. That, "but surely your parents/husband/trust fund can help you along this summer"; "but you're living the life of the MIND"; "but you don't realize how lucky you are to BE HERE, and how many people we reject" attitude that I've become a little too familiar with in grad school.
(Funniest damn story along these lines? A grad school friend of mine had to apply for a loan one summer when all of her funding options fell through, and when she mentioned this in passing to the woman in the financial aid office, said woman helpfully responded, "you know, when I was getting my M.A., my friends and I would go out to this bar that had a great happy hour, and we could usually get our drinks bought for us and we'd fill up on the free cheese and crackers and buffalo wings. It's a great way to save on groceries!")
Anyway. I just hate being continually reminded of how close to the brink of financial collapse I actually am, and I especially hate being made to feel that talking about money is just, you know, impolite. Something that People Like Us don't do.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Fun with Special Collections
First day of research went okay, though I was a little embarrassed to discover that there's even less to this project than I thought there would be--the annotations I'm focusing on are considerably fewer than I'd expected. Luckily, my boy's handwriting is pretty awful, and my orthography is only adequate, so that'll stretch things out a bit.
The Special Collections director even mentioned her concern that I might not have enough to keep me occupied--but it was more in a tone of anxiety for me, rather than of accusation (why would you propose such a thin project to us? we're giving you good money!).
All of which reminded me all over again of the crazy way in which the same institutions can be so stingy (with grad student wages, for example) and so lavish (all those random grants and fellowship dollars). I realize that these funds come from different places, but it's just strange to go from feeling like a serf to feeling like an Emerging Young Scholar. Okay, so Schmancy U isn't exactly showering me with money, but the stipend is pretty nice, the librarians seem excited that I'm looking at a document that (I think) no one has touched since the collection acquired it, and they're putting all the fellows' pictures up on their webpage (!?) and arranging for us to give brown bag lunches about our projects.
Obviously, it's a case of the library having excess money in a fellowship fund that someone started once upon a time, and their needing to find ways to disburse that money--but the whole movement from indentured scholar to Bright Young Thing (and back again) just gives me whiplash. I had a summer fellowship a few years ago through INRU's rare books collection, along with about a zillion other people (I don't think the scholarship bar was set very high, is what I'm saying), and the feeling was even more intense then--they threw us a fancy welcoming dinner and gave out monthly stipends that were at least 50% more than regular, academic-year grad student stipends. Very strange
But anyway, back to Schmancy--nice campus, nice town. I'd only ever been there briefly, a couple of times back in college (it's one of INRU's rivals), and had never had the chance to see much of the campus. Quite pretty. I was surprised by the relative smallness of the main library, though--I'm guessing they must have a lot of books stored off-site, or possibly in other libraries (I didn't quite get around to digesting the campus map). The Special Collections room is also pretty small, but with good facilities and an insanely helpful staff; guess that's what happens when you're actually excited to have people using your holdings rather than put out by it (like, oh, I don't know--maybe the loudly-sighing staff at the Bodleian?).
Riding the rails
Got up ridiculously early today to catch the train to Schmancy U for the first day of this grant--SU is about an hour and 20 min away by train, but since first I have to GET to the train station, I'm looking at close to a 2-hour commute each way. Which today, anyway, really wasn't bad: on the way out I finished up last week's New Yorker, and on the way back I would have made a serious dent in Erving Goffman (don't ask) had it not been for the fact that I kept falling asleep for a few minutes at a time and then waking up in alarm whenever there was an unexpected noise. Which was often.
I may live to rue these words, but I don't really mind commuting when it's by train, and especially when it's not every day--last year I was commuting to Instant Name Recognition U twice a week, again just under 2 hours each way, and this fall I'll be commuting about the same distance, three days a week, to BUU (different locations and different transit systems, so at least I get some variety!). On the whole I find the train time productive, and when I was teaching I found that by saving most of my class prep until the commute I managed to limit and focus the amount of time I spent on my lesson plans.
And--I just really like trains. This may sound stupid, particularly since we're talking here about crappy commuter trains (Amtrak is only somewhat better), not The Golden Age of Rail, or anything, but I like living somewhere rail travel is a reasonable and affordable option; I like looking out the window, I like being able to get up and move around, and I like the way that mass transit creates a fluid, temporary community (especially good for when there are delays--this sense of being in something together). I guess it's the same reason that I like living in cities; you're surrounded by people, but at the same time able to be quite alone.
And this is even stupider, but growing up in a suburb way out west, in an area with virtually no train travel and where buses are the only form of public transportation, I think I also associated trains with everything in the Glamorous East. (Exactly what I thought was glamorous about the east, and exactly how those illusions got shattered, is the subject for another post. Although I will say that I was deeply confused when, at about age 14, I babysat for a family that was living in an apartment. I'd never been in an apartment before, and the whole idea of apartment-living seemed very exciting and sophisticated. . . but the place they lived was just a townhousy complex of boring new buildings surrounded by a parking lot. Not at all what I'd expected!)
So we'll see how it goes--after making the trip to Schmancy U five days a week for a few weeks, I may not be singing quite the same tune.
Monday, July 04, 2005
FREE! Free from the fourth chapter, which is now, in all its not-nearly-good-enough-ness, on its way to my advisor. (I sent one copy as an email attachment just now, and I have a hard copy sealed up to drop in the mail tomorrow.)
I can't believe I've been sweating over this for so long, and it's barely 40 pages (it does still lack a proper conclusion, but that isn't exactly going to push the page count up to the length of my two middle chapters, which are more like 60 or 65pp.). I know--page count isn't everything, but given that I'm not sure this thing has much CONTENT going for it either . . . I'd just feel better if it seemed more substantive in any one of several ways.
But--at least I can stop thinking about it for a week or two until I hear back from FA.
Caffeine, thank you. Couldn't have done it without your help. And thanks also go to the sofa of destiny, to my new, functional computer, and, lately, to Morphine. The band, that is--not the drug (I don't think Mary Tyrone's piano playing was noticeably improved when she was hitting the smack, and I'm pretty sure the same would be true for writing). I've had three of their albums on repeat for a few days now--Yes, Cure for Pain, and The Night--and they've proven a perfect soundtrack to write to. Dark, moody, and jazzy. Much like your humble blogger herself.
(And of course, thanks also to everyone who's listened to my bitching over the last couple of months. Unfortunately for you, there's more where that came from.)
And now ~~ off to make a martini!
Saturday, July 02, 2005
New Kid tagged me for this meme that's been going around--so now I'm it!
What were three of the stupidest things you've done in your life?
1. I wonder what it says about me that the first three things that came to mind ALL had to do with boys I dated or was involved with in the past? Let's lump them into just one stupid thing and say only that I wish I hadn't invested so many kilowatt hours of emotional energy into various individuals who so clearly were not worth it, not really interested, and generally treated me badly.
2. Getting into significant credit card debt in my early twenties--this is when I was working, mind you. Somehow I was just in denial about my ability to pay off my credit cards eventually, and had too many frivolous little habits that added up. Currently my CC debt is about par for the course for someone after six years of grad school, but I worked really hard to get it down.
3. This isn't a stupid thing so much as it is a regret--I wish I'd known my three deceased grandparents better and seen them more often. When I was young we saw them for a couple of weeks every summer (they lived 1000-1500 miles away), but in high school and early college I was often committed to activities elsewhere. Both my dad's parents died my junior year of college, and though I was lucky to have seen them the previous year, I just wish I had know them better or for longer.
At the current moment, who has the most influence in your life?
Probably GWBoyfriend first, and then my friends--not only do he & they listen/help problem-solve, but they continually introduce me to fun, interesting, and new things. Third, my advisor. Or rather, my slavish desire to please her.
If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?
It's hard to limit it to just five! But these, I think are mine:
1. Mary McCarthy. LOVE HER. Love her life, love her books, love every damn thing about her.
2. Neglected Author in my Field. Wish I could name him, but I think that would compromise my pseudonymity too much. Suffice to say, he's a gorgeous prose stylist and polymath, a scientist and doctor and philosopher, one of whose projects was an attempt to reconcile science and religion.
3. Ralph Ellison. The more I read his works, the more impressed I am. Like Neglected Author and McCarthy, Ellison seems to have had a really wide range of interests and obsessions, and that's a good thing for a dinner party.
4. Bing Crosby. As my friends know, I'm in love with Bing Crosby. Plus, he had a great sense of humor, could talk jazz with Ralph, and I wouldn't mind having someone around to entertain us after dinner.
5. Damn, this last one is hard. I was tempted to say Camille Paglia, because she's always interesting--but I'm worried she wouldn't let anyone else talk. Plus, her latest book on poetry sounds awful, and it seems like a waste of a time machine to pick up someone who's stil alive. So let's say Samuel Pepys.
P.S. I love the fact that the deviser of this meme had to specify "a time machine that functioned."
If you had three wishes not supernatural, what would they be?
1. A tenure-track job at a decent school no more than 3 hours from GWBoyfriend.
2. Happiness, health, and some measure of success for all of my friends and family members (someone else wished this already, but I second it).
3. I don’t know—no more debt? Better posture? World peace?
Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.
I believe that the place I currently live does have everything—except enough affordable housing. From a visitor's perspective, more affordable hotels would be nice, as would a lower collective stress level (see below).
Visitors should avoid stopping stock-still in the middle of the sidewalk, walking with arms linked, three across, or otherwise showing they do not know how to move around a city. (I WILL deliberately run into you to teach you that particular lesson.) They should also avoid going to any club with more straight than gay people, and every bar that charges more than $10 for a drink.
Name one event that has changed your life.
Going far away to college, and attending the college I did. It's probably responsible for almost everything I've done since and where I've done it.
Tag five people.
I don't know whether HK is even reading this these days, but she's up. Also, how about Cynical Prof, Tiruncula, What Now?, and Bright Star. Apologies if you've already done it!
More trials & tribulations
Grr. I’m having trouble with my internet connection.
By which I mean, of course, that I’m having trouble stealing wireless from my neighbors—I think the people with the best connection must have moved yesterday, since my computer is no longer registering that source. I know, I know—I should just get my own service, but I’m so broke that even dialing into GWBoyfriend’s system, as I did last night, keeps me with my eye on the clock (which may be a good thing for my dissertation progress!).
But still: grrr.
Another boring work update
I'm closing in on the end of my third round of hand-edits and hope to have finished transcribing them before I got to bed tonight (though since I've been changing and adding so much, writing all down the margins of each page and in messy riders on legal pads, it may take longer than I expect). I'm hoping to be able to do one more round of revisions before Tuesday morning . . . when I'll be shipping it off to Fearsome Advisor!
So yeah, my Independence Day will be all about getting myself free from the tyranny of this final chapter. However briefly.
Because what happens on Tuesday? Tuesday, I begin a month-long research grant at a nearby university library. On a subject only peripherally related to my dissertation. Yeah: not such great timing, but it's my only real income for the summer, and the project is one that's important to me. Moreover, I'm pretty sure the library portion of this project won't actually take a month. In fact, I'm hopeful that I can do everything I need to do (basically, transcribing some really elaborate handwritten annotations, changes, and comments to a short printed work, and comparing them with a different work) in about a week of very hard work, while I spend the rest of my time surreptitiously working on the revisions to my first chapter. Which is the real project of July.
Sigh. Well, at least I have a couple of weeks out in Northwest, visiting my folks, to look forward to in August—even if that, too, will be a working vacation.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Yesterday was my last day at the office, and it got off to a great start: as I was on the train to work, a woman in my car suddenly started testifying. Prophesying. Speaking in tongues. And calling out for someone named “Seego, Seebo—something like that. Are you hear today Seego? Someone in this car is named Seego.”
And of course, some credulous woman took the bait, and said yeah, actually, that’s her brother. (And I was wondering: Seagull? Seigel? C-Go?) So the prophet, as she identified herself, walked over there and pointed out the passage in the Bible that had brought her the name of this guy, and earnestly told her and her companions that God had a message for him, and God works in mysterious ways.
And at first I was all, MY GOD, this is funny—pretending to read my magazine as I kept an eye on the prophet—but she kept going as the car became jammed full of people at the next few stops, calling out in some unknown language that sounded like mangled Greek (ekkalousia ekka thanous thalus), punctuated by reminders to all of us that God got us up this morning, and God has a mission for us, and he is El Shaddai, and he is the Rose of Sharon, and he wants us to be strong like the cedars of Lebanon—and you know, ultimately there was something strangely compelling about her performance and its complete self-assurance.
As a Catholic, I haven’t had much exposure to the Pentacostal tradition, and I don’t think it would really work for me spiritually, much less intellectually—but even on a damn subway car at 9.15 it can be undeniably affecting on some deep and emotional level.
So okay, shine on you crazy pentacostal diamonds. At least I understand the appeal of that devotional mode. What I DON’T get is the appeal of those horrid come-as-you-are suburban amphitheatre churches with bad anodyne rock music and messages of generic uplift and self-satisfaction, where no one is challenged to do much of anything (except maybe sign the occasional petition protecting the sanctity of marriage or bring a sad lost friend to fellowship night).
* * * * * * * *
But anyway—to sum up: last day of work was good. Got taken out to lunch, and after work joined a drinks thing that was actually intended to celebrate a full-time employee’s departure, but as she’s one of my favorite people there and we’re friends/friendly with all the same people, it was a nice way of chatting and catching up with people whom otherwise I wouldn’t have had much of a chance to say goodbye to.
Sad to leave, but one of my editors is pledging to get me invited to the Christmas party, and I’m trying to get the head of my group to hire a friend as my replacement—so I’m managing to feel as though I’ll be able to stay connected if I want to.