La Lecturess

(But our beginnings never know our ends!)

Email: lecturess[AT]gmail[DOT]com

Recent Posts Archives Things I Read and/or People I Like

Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union

I was sitting here half-listening to that idiot talk, thinking about fixing myself a v-e-r-r-y strong drink, when I looked up and saw as if with new eyes the cartoon I have taped up above my desk:


"I figure if I don't have that third Martini, then the terrorists win."


link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:44 PM | 4 comments


Sunday, January 29, 2006

In which the author proves how much of a clueless academic she is

A few blocks away from my apartment, there's an extremely plain storefront bearing the legend AGAPE in big black letters on a stark white background. It's been there for at least a year, but it's not on a route I usually travel, so I don't go by it or think of it often. I'd long assumed that it was a religious bookstore--I suppose just because of the name and the smallness of the establishment.

A month or so ago I walked right past it, looked in the single small window, and was suprised to note that it's actually a hair salon. Huh, I thought. Why on earth does it have that name?

I passed it again yesterday, again marvelled at the bizarre name, and started trying to figure out some logic whereby the love of God for humankind would strike someone as an appropriate name for a hair salon. Agape, I said to myself. Agape. What the fuck?

And then, today, it hit me.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:55 PM | 8 comments


(Re)writing, and it feels so good

Okay, first of all, my schedule this semester officially rocks. I've actually gotten a full night's sleep for the last three nights (and I'm looking forward to a fourth tonight), and I've been getting my reading and course-prep done in a leisurely fashion in the midst of a variety of other things.

Chief among those "other things" is working on that overdue article I think I've mentioned. It's been hanging over my head for a couple of weeks, and I'm still anxious about my ability to get it done in the next few days, but I've finally gotten to the point where working on it isn't actively painful.

I may have said this before, but I'm a terrible writer-from-scratch. I hate the early stages of writing with a firey passion, and although I've developed strategies to help me through them and I don't get "blocked," per se, the first several drafts of everything I write are accomplished only by my forcing myself to write (or revise) X number of pages a day. Doesn't matter if they're drivel (and I cheat, all the time, by plunking in r-e-a-l-l-y long block quotations followed by maybe three sentences of "analysis," just so I can meet my page quota)--the point is that I'm getting some rudimentary thoughts on paper.

But sooner or later, after moving those sentences around, expanding my arguments here and there, and forging some links between paragraphs, I reach the point where I mostly know what I'm trying to say, and the rest of the process is a joy. A qualified joy, since it's still work and it usually winds up taking me longer then I think it should, but past a certain point it's less about creating than it is about rearranging and polishing--or as I like to think of it, puzzle-solving.

I like puzzle-solving. I think that's why my personality tests, all my life long, always suggested that I'd be a great scientist (these personality tests didn't consider aptitude, which would have told them that I'm hopeless in quantitative fields). This worried me when I was younger, when what I really wanted to get were results that told me how creative and imaginative I was--since that's what someone who likes to read and write should be good at, right?--but I've come to realize that what makes me a good reader and a good writer are my patience and my attention to detail. I'm good at finding patterns, worrying over the thing that doesn't seem to fit, untangling syntax or imagery, and then constructing an argument that's maximally clear and coherent.

That's what I like about writing. I love figuring out where the paragraphs go, and what background information a certain audience needs. I love rearranging sentences, fiddling with words to achieve the right rhythm and effect, and making sure that my voice is strong and consistent. I get complimented on my academic writing all the time, and although I suppose that's a pretty left-handed form of praise (let's pause for a moment to think about how bad most academic writing is!)--I know it to be true. It's one of the few things I can confidently say I AM good at.

But I'm the first to admit, these days, that I'm not a "creative" person in the intuitive and fertile way that we expect artists to be. Nothing comes to me fully formed, and everything is a hell of a lot of work. In high school and college I wanted to be a writer--by which I meant a novelist or maybe an essayist--but I never had the gift for spontaneously generating storylines and characters that some of the students in my writing classes did. In fact, I didn't really enjoy coming up with stories for their own sake; they had to be about something larger.

So, I'm a craftsman, not an artist. I'm happy with that. But here's where the analogy breaks down: do we ask the master woodworker to go out and create wood? To grow the trees, harvest them, and make lumber before he gets down to making his fancy lintels or whatever? That's what I feel I'm doing when I start writing--growing the fucking trees. And it's usually about as much fun as watching the forest grow.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:05 PM | 3 comments


Friday, January 27, 2006

Stop the presses!

The latest issue of PMLA looks. . . interesting!

I can't remember the last time more than a single article in what George Washington Boyfriend refers to as "the PMLA bran muffin" seemed plausibly worth reading. (And, honestly, I can only think of one article in the last year or two that proved, afterwards, actually to have been worth reading.)

Now, if only I had the time to read the damn thing. . .


link | posted by La Lecturess at 12:54 AM | 5 comments


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Attack of the clones

I’m having a terrible time remembering the names of all my students this semester. Partly it's because I’m teaching an absurdly large number of students (110, at last count), but it’s also because those students are grouped together in unhelpful and frankly rather alarming ways.

Example No. 1: In my afternoon survey I have 30 students, eight or ten of whom are women with straight, approximately collarbone-length hair somewhere on the spectrum from light brown to semi-blond. They all have pleasant, regular features and nice smiles. Almost all of them have names like Sarah (two of those), Katie (two of those, too), Rachel, and Kathy.

Example No. 2: My seminar on Pretty Darn Famous Author has 25 students, ten of whom are decidedly unkempt men—men with shaggy or genuinely long hair, a few days’ worth of stubble, and tired eyes. They all look like they’re in bands (most of them are) or take regular part in skateboard competitions. A large number have eastern or southern European last names.

Example No. 3: My morning survey contains nine of my eleven total African-American students, three of whom are men with essentially the same build, skin tone, and facial shape. However, since in this case there are only three who share the same general profile, I’ve been able to learn their names much more quickly because I’ve been able to identify and remember their differences--one has cornrows, one has a moustache, and the third has both a moustache and a goatee.

Because that’s the thing: it’s not that all the women in Example 1 or the men in Example 2 look identical—in some cases, they don’t even look that much alike—but when there are so many in one room who meet the same general profile, their sameness overwhelms whatever distinguishing features they may have.

All I can say is: thank God for Shaved Head Girl, Beard-and-John-Lennon-Glasses Guy, Pixie Haircut, Goofy Gangly Blond Dude, and Black Dyejob Waif with Tattoos. They'd rock under any circumstances, but they especially, especially rock under these.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:35 PM | 10 comments


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

No, really: this floor is very comfortable. And I could totally get up if I wanted to!

After 12 hours of interviewing, teaching, eating, touring, and enthusing on my campus visit yesterday, I slept for five hours and then left, very early, so that I could get to Big Urban in time to teach my four classes today--two of which I hadn't prepped for, so I spent all my time in transit this morning scrawling lesson plans across legal pads and all my time in transit this evening grading the quizzes and semi-busywork I'd prepared for my other classes.

But I'm still alive, if not exactly vertical, and everything went, I think very well. I had quite a lot of fun on my visit and enjoyed seeing the campus, meeting the faculty, and teaching the students (indeed, the class I taught on Super Huge Famous Author there went better than my class in the same subject at Big Urban today). It's funny how much you learn just by watching people be themselves, regardless of what questions you ask or what answers they give*--and for the most part I was favorably impressed by what I saw.

And now--and now, I'm in my pyjamas, on my second glass of wine, and thinking about turning to my thank-you notes. Although maybe the wine and my exhaustion mean that I should put that particular project on hold until tomorrow morning.



*This is one reason I hate the excessively interrogatory style that so many schools use in their interviews; making me give an impromptu Marxist account of my work (which happened in one of my other MLA interviews) may indeed tell you how well I handle belligerent oddballs, and certainly that's a useful skill for a scholar to have. But. . . given that my work ISN'T Marxist, and that there's no real way it could be, there are, surely, more useful things that you could learn by letting me run in more loosely guided directions. If you've got basic horse sense and some knowledge of the field, you can tell who's full of shit, who's got scholarly chops, who's a good teacher--and who you'd want to have around your department for the next few years.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:45 PM | 7 comments


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Will return by: 1/24

I'm off tomorrow morning for my campus visit and I've got a ton of stuff to do between now and then--so I'll catch y'all on the flip side. Peace out!


link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:12 PM | 8 comments


Thursday, January 19, 2006

An open letter to my colleague or colleagues

Dear Unknown Colleague(s),

I don’t know what you teach, but I’m sure it’s terribly important. I’m sure you have a hard time fitting everything you want to teach into a semester, and everything you want to discuss into a class session. It’s hard, I know, when you have such wisdom to share, to remember that you aren’t the only person teaching at this school, and that your class isn’t the only class your students take.

But perhaps you have noticed that most of the classroom buildings on campus are vertical, and that several of them are more than ten stories high. Perhaps you have also noticed that these building have two or at most four ancient elevators that take their sweet time going up and down, and that between classes there are never fewer than fifty students at any time waiting for those elevators. Under the best of circumstances, the ten minutes between class periods is just enough time to get from a room in one building to a room in another building.

So I fail to understand why you have, apparently, informed some of your students—my students—that they should “just expect” that your classes will run five minutes over, every time.

Maybe you can explain it to me. Maybe you don't start your own classes on time, so you've never been interrupted in the middle of delivering your opening monologue, or administering a pop quiz, or explaining a complicated assignment. Maybe you've never had to rush from one building to another or from one subject to another--or, as many of our students do, from campus to a full-time job (where being more than five minutes late means getting docked a half-hour's pay). Maybe you've forgotten that your students and their time deserve your respect.

Or maybe you're just an asshole.

Cordially,
LL


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:57 PM | 9 comments


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Well, there goes another $700 I don't have

I have to vent for a minute. The college of liberal arts at Big Urban offers a certain amount of conference travel funding, awarded on a competitive basis, to all full-time faculty. (That's how the announcement is worded, but I'm assuming that this means, basically, all lecturers, since I'd assume that t-t faculty already have travel budgets.)

So. I got an e-mail last week saying that for the first part of the spring semester there would be five awards given out, based on merit, but offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Deadline Jan. 18th. And I thought, well, fuck, I've probably missed my chance if the deadline is so soon--but maybe they haven't had enough takers. So I spent a couple of hours writing up a proposal for the conference I'm presenting at next month, recovering my acceptance e-mail, finding the on-line PDF of the program, etc., and then late on Friday (the 13th) I emailed everything in to the relevant sub-dean.

I got an e-mail back on Monday saying that the 18th was the FIRST day to apply, and that I should resubmit then.

So. . . it's not really a "deadline," then, is it? I emailed back an apology and an explanation, and figured I'd resubmit today. It crossed my mind to submit at, like, 12.05 a.m., before I went to sleep, but since I'd already jumped the gun once, I didn't want to look like a jerk. Instead, I emailed my materials this morning, at about 9.30 a.m.

And forty-five minutes later I got an e-mail from the sub-dean saying, "sorry, all the awards have already been granted."

Why do I bother?


[UPDATE: Well, file this in the door-closed-window-open department: this afternoon I received a cheque in the mail for 470.00 Euros (about $560). What for? Why, reimbursing me, at long fucking last, for my plane fare to European City for that conference back in October.

The university hosting the conference had picked up my hotel room and most of my meals, but they've been having a hell of time reimbursing me for my ticket--we've gone 'round and 'round with wire transfer codes and I'd finally given up on ever seeing that money again. But, glory be! They came through!

None of this makes me less pissed off at Big Urban, or (much) more able to afford my conference next month--but I'm at least less pissed off at the universe for its treatment of my conference travel needs.]


link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:35 AM | 10 comments


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Finnegan, begin again

First day of classes today, and I have what is either the most brilliant schedule ever conceived (given that I'd be teaching four classes regardless), or the worst: I teach Tuesday/Thursday. Period.

Yes, this does mean that I'm teaching for nearly six hours on both of those days (two classes back-to-back in the morning; a break of an hour and a half; two back-to-back in the afternoon). And yes, I do foresee serious damage being done to both my feet and my vocal chords. But it also means that I'm only on campus two days a week, that I have one fewer day of my extraordinarily hellish commute, and that I have a blessedly long weekend, every weekend.

So we'll see. I think it will be good. I'm someone who is happier with big blocks of time in which to grade, read, or write, rather than a few hours here and a few hours there--even if putting together those blocks of time results in my busy days being EXTREMELY busy. I'm also someone who likes to work at home (although, now that I think about it, I've never had a real office--I share this one with another lecturer who teaches alternate days and who has taken over the, er, decorative responsibilities for the place). I'm also hoping that, once the job market plays itself out, I'll actually be able to dedicate one day a week to my own writing.

And you know, although I was really dreading coming to campus today, now that I've taught two of my four classes and met my students, I'm getting pumped about my courses--all of which are more or less in my field, and two of which I'm teaching for the first time. There's something so lovely about the way the academic schedule is full of both new beginnings and (blessedly) regular endings.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 2:04 PM | 4 comments


Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK Day

Today I “celebrated” MLK day by doing an insane amount of course prep and tending to those last few household chores and errands that I could get to before the semester begins and my time is no longer my own.

I did listen to one of my favorite shows on the local NPR affiliate, however, which every year features a fantastic MLK program: the host invites callers to prepare a 1-minute-long reading that they feel does tribute to the values of Dr. King, but written by someone from a race or culture other than their own. And then, for an hour, he takes their calls. It's always amazing. This year people called in with readings from Margaret Cho, Desmond Tutu, and To Kill a Mockingbird. A nine-year-old girl called up and read a passage from Sojourner Truth's Ain't I a Woman. A woman called up and read a poem by a Kenyan poet, crying the whole time. Another woman called up and read part of the Gettysburg Address in memory of her husband, a journalist who was kidnapped and killed in Iraq.

Some of the local churches must have had services this morning, for several still had their doors open and flowers out front when I went out late in the day to do my errands. The only other evidence of commemoration that I saw was a homemade sign strapped to a lamppost on the main thoroughfare of Historically Black Neighborhood: made out of two pieces of cardboard held together with twine, it read, in awkward black marker, "Dr. King. Why did they kill you?" And on the second piece of cardboard, "Like Jesus Christ he died for us."

I don't think there was a parade up there, or any other official ceremony; someone just felt moved to make the sign and do homage in his own way. And as busy as I am, I wanted to spare a minute to try to do the same.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 6:38 PM | 2 comments


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Reasons to date a libertarian

Yes, there are disadvantages. But they also tend to say things like, "You know, I expect my office calls to be monitored. But from here on out I'm answering my home phone with: 'Good morning, fuck the NSA!'"


link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:40 PM | 5 comments


Friday, January 13, 2006

Good news x 3

Good news the first
I've just had an essay solicited for an important new collection, edited by scholars I like and respect, to be published by Top University Press. I've been doing a little dance every few hours, whenever I think about this.

Good news the second
My first campus visit! I got a call today from Small College, with whose committee I had the other of my two best MLA interviews. I really liked the committee, I'm attracted by the school's undergraduate curriculum, and it's in a very appealing location. Haven't yet made up a dance, but I'm working on it.

Good news the third
I think I really am going back to the U.K. this summer. I have one project that really necessitates my going back, but since I'm not sure that I'll have the time or money this summer (especially if I'm moving and starting a new job) to work as intensively as I need to, I was thinking of waiting until 2007.

However, I had a nice chat today with h.k., who's going to be living in lavish corporate housing in London for part of the summer, and she promised I could crash there. I also want to catch up with my dear friend KFB, whose wedding I missed--and so even if I only get a little bit of work done, it won't be a waste. And of course it would be totally fun.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 7:40 PM | 12 comments


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

National de-lurking week

I've been informed by many reliable sources that this is national (nay, international!) de-lurking week. And as my site hits have grown enormously over the last couple of months, I know that there are a lot of you out there.

So I'd like to invite any readers to feel free to step on up and join the party, but I can't promise there will be much to comment ON in the next several days--I'm currently holed up in Quaint Smallish City, hoping to use this last week before classes begin to punch out an article and read a stack of journals (but getting continually distracted by much more enjoyable things, like changing the template for this blog).

So instead, I encourage anyone to comment at any time, on anything, or just to introduce yourself. Make it your belated New Year's resolution. De-lurking "week" be damned!


link | posted by La Lecturess at 4:16 PM | 21 comments


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tagged! Tagged again!

I've got a couple of memes to catch up on. First, ABD Me tagged me for the five weird things meme:

Five Weird Things about Me

1. I take a bath every day. Not because I'm all fancy like that, but because my apartment does not, in fact, have a shower. My apartment is in a circa-1890 townhouse, and I got the building's original bathroom. What do I mean by that? I mean that I'm in a 500-square-foot apartment, 100 SF of which is bathroom. A bathroom with a six-foot-long bathtub.

2. I would be totally happy never owning a car or driving one regularly again.

3. My memory works in really strange ways. For example: if I've had a conversation with someone and I'm trying to remember who it was with (you know: "I was talking about this with someone. . . who was it told me that . . . "), the one thing that I always, instantly know is the sex of that person. I may have no idea where the conversation took place, whether we were alone or with other people, or even how long ago it was, but I always know whether the person in question was male or female.

4. Although I'd bet that I have at least as many appearance-related anxieties as the next woman, I've never been concerned about my weight or figure. I've never dieted (or, for that matter, eaten particularly well) and I've never belonged to a gym.

5. I have serious sidewalk rage. I'm a very good and usually a very brisk walker, and I get REALLY irritated at people who don't know how to move around public spaces--who weave aimlessly back and forth, stop dead in the middle of a busy sidewalk, or (in the case of tourists) walk, like, three abreast with linked arms. I've been known to deliberately run into people in order to give their actions consequences. (See, it's a good thing that I don't like to drive!)

--------------------

Then, Clare tagged me for the 5 books/5 books meme:

Name five books that left you totally flat even though your friends / critics raved about them.

1. Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. I threw this book across the room when I finished it.

2. Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One. I'm all about Evelyn Waugh. I cede my place in the Waugh Fan Club to no one. But this book. . . just isn't the satiric masterpiece it's made out to be.

3. Everything by Haruki Murakami. Okay, I haven't read everything by Murakami, but I've read three or four novels and many short stories, and I've found them all a yawn when they aren't actively annoying.

4. Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie. I like Williams generally, but this play irritates me beyond measure.

5. Can I cast a sweeping, negative judgement on an entire literary field? Knowing that some of my readers will probably abandon this blog in protest? Okay, well--I really dislike the Romantic poets. I can get behind individual poems by all of them, and I actually quite like Byron, but collectively they make me want to gag.

Name five books that you read and loved that your friends / critics panned, ignored, or hated, or that are just undeservingly uncelebrated.

1. Mary McCarthy, The Group. Her nonfiction is what I really love her for, but this novel--supposedly her trashy potboiler--deserves to be much more widely read.

2. John Dos Passos, U.S.A. It's not like the trilogy is unknown, or that critical opinion on it isn't high, but it seems neglected. Is it ever taught? Does the average reader with literary tastes even know it exists?

3. Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye. A great detective novel, but one that far transcends the limits of that genre. It's good literature, period.

4. Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae. Yes, she's nuts. But she's an interesting kind of nuts. I read this book early on in college, and it was the first work of literary criticism that really excited and interested me--and made me see the discipline as something other than dry hairsplitting.

5. Pretty much all the works I focus on in my dissertation. I can't get more specific here, but most of them are regarded as the "weaker" or less interesting products of some great authors, and the lesser genre of a period with way more compelling stuff going on elsewhere. Bullshit, say I!


link | posted by La Lecturess at 12:05 PM | 9 comments


Monday, January 09, 2006

Phone interview

Sigh. Everything that everyone said about phone interviews turned out to be true of this one--which is to say, it was an awkward and vexing experience.

First of all, there were SEVEN people on the other end of the line. I'd had prior contact with only two individuals, and, for various reasons, I expected the entire committee to consist of only three or four people. So: seven people to try to keep track of, a bad speakerphone connection, and no visual or even really verbal cues as to how what I was saying was going over. GREAT.

The best piece of advice I've read about how to stay collected in an interview emphasizes the importance of sticking to specifics--concrete examples of teaching techniques, illustrative moments from one's research--and I did generally manage to do that. But I found myself flailing around several times, unable to produce a neat and coherent example or anecdote even when I knew perfectly well what I wanted to say. That didn't happen in my in-person interviews, and I'm tempted to put it down to my discomfort with the format itself: not having a face or two to focus on and steady myself.

However, I have to say that the committee didn't seem particularly comfortable with the process, either. This brings me to the best piece of wisdom I've received about the interviewing process, which came, quite recently, from GWB, who's now been on both sides of it: most interviewers are fucking terrible at asking questions. I saw some of this at the MLA (where I'd think, wait, was that actually a question? Which part of it?), but I saw a lot of it today--quite possibly because they, too, weren't getting the cues we all look for in a conversation.

Take this question: "Can you talk about how your work on X Period of literature informs your work in Y Period, and your teaching?" Umm, well--I don't actually do any work in X Period. I do teach parts of it, sometimes, but neither my dissertation nor any of my other research projects engage with that period. At all.

I said as much, albeit more politely, and asked for a clarification, but the questioner essentially repeated exactly the same question. So all I could say was, "well, I really enjoy teaching Author A and Author B from that period, and I hope to do more of that in the future--and there's certainly been work done on, say, the influence of Author A on Pretty Darn Famous Author--but that influence doesn't really seem relevant to the works by PDFA that I investigate--so, I can't really answer your question."

Which wasn't probably my most stunning moment, but I had no idea what he was actually asking. It occurs to me now that he might have wanted to know whether I saw a rigid division between those two periods, artistically and culturally (thus explaining why I work on one and not on the other)--or that perhaps he was asking whether there was any scholarship on the first period that I was familiar with that was relevant to or had influenced my work on the second. But, dude! It's your job to know what you want from me! Not mine to guess it!

Anyway. It's not really a big deal; I'd absolutely love a couple of things about this position, but there's also one gi-normous drawback to it--so, on balance, I'm content to wait and see.

Indeed, that's more or less how I feel about this whole process right now: I'm anxious and rather irritable, but I also feel just profoundly bored by it all. Since I may well wind up with nothing, it doesn't seem like a reasonable use of my energy to get overly invested in any one school.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:34 PM | 5 comments


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Advice

I have a phone interview tomorrow. Anyone have any advice specific to this type of interview that they want to share?*


*I actually did have a phone interview last year, but it was for a position for which I'd already interviewed at the MLA: the chair of the search committee had had a last-minute family emergency, and so couldn't be at the conference; instead, the chair called all the candidates up a week or so later and asked exactly the same questions that the rest of the committee had already posed in person. So, no surprises.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:22 AM | 6 comments


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Uptown, downtown, out & about

In the spirit of so not thinking about the job market, and also in the spirit of catching up with as many of my friends as I can before the madness of the semester begins, I've got a pretty busy few days before I head out to Quaint Smallish City. Today, I spent all day with one of my bestest (and until recently somewhat long-lost) friends, Bert.

We'd made vague plans several days ago to get together and maybe see a movie, but when he called he had a better idea: the botanical gardens! To see the Christmas village and the trains! And because neither of us had ever been!

I had no idea what he was talking about, with the Christmas village and the trains, but it sounded like fun, and Bert's persuasive capacities are always increased by the way he shows up bearing interesting foodstuffs--today, bottles of Jamaican ginger beer and jerk chicken patties. So we figured out our somewhat complicated route and made our way to the subway with a number of stops along the way.

It was really cold, and our trip involved a lot of walking, but the Botanical Gardens were excellent, even in their more dormant winter state. We wandered through the enormous Gilded Age pavillion, part of which is set up as a rain forest and another part of which does an approximation of a desert, but all of which led us eventually to the Holiday Trains.

And. . . the exhibit was incredible. Throughout the very large room were scattered replicas of famous buildings in MEC and its environs--department stores, cathedrals, museums, Victorian mansions, municial buildings, statues and fountains--all made entirely out of organic materials. Twigs. Bark. Toadstoles. Petals for shingles. And what appeared to be sugar for the window panes. These were nestled among plants of every description, and numerous different electric trains ran around them and throughout the room. High above us were twig-and-branch replicas of the city's many bridges, strung with lights, on which trains also chugged back and forth. Really amazing.

After some more time in the gardens, we wended our way far downtown to a hole-in-the-wall Japanese place with excellent food and even better music--a crazy fusion of funk, rap, soul, and Japanese pop rock. Then we walked back to Bert's apartment, stopping to buy pastries on the way. We hung out for a couple of hours, eating and drinking coffee, while he occasionally doodled around on several of his many instruments. (His small studio apartment houses, by my count, these instruments: alto, tenor, and soprano saxes, a flute, a piccolo, a clarinet, a recorder, a tin whistle, a practice bagpipe, and a fife. Don't ask.)

And I dunno: every time I have a day like today, I'm torn between feeling glad that I'm making the most of my probably limited time in this city, and feeling just impossibly sad at the likelihood of leaving it.

Some of it is bound up with Bert himself: we both lived in this city right after we graduated from college, when we were both single, and for those two years we did everything together. Even after I started grad school, for my first couple of years I was here at least one weekend a month, crashing on his couch and going out clubbing with the gay boys after dark.

When I moved back, two and a half years ago, I was excited in large part because he was still here (even though he hadn't been himself for a long while by that point)--but until five months ago, we virtually didn't see each other. When we did, Bert was either manic or withdrawn or fighting with his boyfriend, or otherwise just not. . . present.

But now that he's back, and I'm remembering what he was like in the old old days--what he was like up until maybe 2000--it's so hard to think of leaving. I feel like I have so much lost time with him to make up for.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:35 PM | 0 comments


Cleaning house

What with my sudden decision last summer to finish my dissertation by October, starting teaching full-time in late August, and going on the job market in the midst of it all, it's been a LONG time since I've really been on top of my shit, housekeeping-wise. Sure, I'd scrub out the bathroom, vaccuum, and sort my papers and books into relatively neat piles when I had company coming, but that was about the extent of it.

Over the last few days, however, I have:
  • Taken three large bags of clothing to the thrift store at my church
  • Thrown out all the drafts and other papers in my refrigerator's crisper drawer
  • Tossed a year's worth of old magazines
  • Filed or boxed old letters & correspondence
  • Purchased a shredder, the better to purge my file cabinet of old bills and bank statements
  • Written thank-you notes for Xmas presents, my hand-me-down doctoral robes (which actually aren't in the style INRU currently uses; bummer!), and my mink
  • Finalized my syllabi and uploaded them onto Blackboard
  • Written two letters of recommendation
  • Gotten my hair cut
  • Dusted, vaccuumed, scrubbed, and polished my apartment's Victorian-era woodwork
I'm not quite done yet, but I'm starting to feel as though I can breathe again. Although I still have a lot of work to do before the semester starts (most urgently: writing an article for which I've already had the deadline extended once; revising a paper for a conference next month; planning my first week of classes), getting on top of my physical environment and removing some of those little nagging obligations always improves my outlook. For the moment, anyway, I am so not thinking about the job market.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:41 PM | 3 comments


Friday, January 06, 2006

Wisdom from the discard pile

I've been doing a complete purge of my files, especially the dissertation-related ones, and I came across this quotation among my notes from what appears to have been a meeting about prospectus-writing and beginning the dissertation:
Fear is the belief that someone is going to throw you off a cliff; anxiety is the belief that you're going to throw yourself off a cliff.
I have no idea who said it (though I have a good guess), or if it's original to that person, but I offer it up for such inspiration as it's worth.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:49 PM | 2 comments


Four things meme

Four Jobs I've Had
  1. Page at the local public library (high school)
  2. Mail clerk at an insurance company (summer after my freshman year in college. I hated the company and its fascistic policies so much that I started decorating my mail-sorting cube to resemble hell: orange tagboard river over here to represent Phlegethon, blue tagboard river over there to represent Acheron, etc. Yeah. I was a smart-ass like that.)
  3. Page at the rare books & manuscript library (college work-study job. I'd do photocopy requests for patrons real-l-ly slowly so that I could read the Ezra Pound or Gertrude Stein correspondence they wanted, or examine all those photographs of naked young men Carl Van Vechten had photographed next to African statuary or wearing tribal masks.)
  4. Paralegal (post-college)
See a pattern here? Apparently, I'm good with paper.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
  1. Chinatown
  2. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (I'm totally with Margo on this one)
  3. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  4. Six Degrees of Separation
Four Places I've Lived

Huh. I've lived in exactly three towns or cities in my entire life: the place I grew up in, the place I went to college/grad school, and the place I lived after college/live now.

Four TV Shows I Like or Have Liked

I don't actually have a t.v., but these are high on my list of things to watch on my laptop or chez GWB:
  1. Dave Chappelle's show
  2. Six Feet Under
  3. Ab-Fab
  4. Sopranos
Four Places I've Been on Vacation
  1. Paris
  2. London
  3. Seoul, S. Korea
  4. Culver, Indiana
Four Blogs I Visit Daily

I visit way more than four blogs daily. And while it's true that there are some I read more eagerly than others, there's no need to play favorites.

Four of My Favorite Foods
  1. Granny Smith apples
  2. Salmon
  3. Cheese and crackers
  4. Gin
Four Places I'd Rather Be
  1. Walking up and down the streets of a new-to-me foreign city
  2. In a dimly-lit bar with good music, good friends, and free booze
  3. At Big Football Game, mid-tailgate, in College/Grad School City
  4. Right in this city, but in a larger apartment with GWB, a cat, and a t-t job
Four Albums I Can't Live Without
  1. Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense
  2. Tori Amos, From the Choirgirl Hotel
  3. Peggy Lee & Benny Goodman, Complete Recordings
  4. Morphine, Cure for Pain
Four Vehicles I've Owned

The only vehicle I've ever actually owned was a cobalt-blue Panasonic bicycle. In high school I drove a 1978 Pontiac station wagon and then a slightly more recent GMC "Jimmy." Since then, it's been all about the public transportation, baby.

Four Taggees

Damn. Has anyone not done this yet? If so, consider yourself tagged!


link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:31 PM | 1 comments


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hello 2006!

George Washington Boyfriend and I spent the waning hours of 2005 and the first 36 or so of 2006 in the best way I know how: among good friends at the Chateau Fergusberg. The Fergusbergs, Marielle and Bugsy, really know how to live--but more importantly, they know how to entertain. Our numbers were smaller this year than last, but the good times rolled all the same, with course after fabulous course, too many glasses of wine to count, and some of my favorite people in the world.

We all rang in the new year and then stayed overnight, the next morning brunching on food nearly as good as the previous night's. Afterwards we lazed around for hours playing Mah Jongg and Taboo, watching football and reading the Sunday Times, and continuing the previous day's conversations. Everyone else left around 4 p.m., but GWB and I stayed on and the four of us went to see The Constant Gardner and then ordered in sushi. We took the train back after lunch the following day.

------------------------

And now it's a few days into 2006, and I suppose that I'm due the introspection that seems to be seizing everyone in the blogosphere. So herewith my thoughts on the year just past and the one just begun:

2005
A good year, on balance. I turned 30, finished my dissertation and my Ph.D., got my first full-time job, and unexpectedly got to stay in Major Eastern City (than which there's really nowhere I'd rather be). GWB got a book contract and his parents are in improving health and spirits. I started this blog, saw my first two articles in print, and gave a keynote talk in a crazy foreign city.

Negatives: I think I read exactly four books not related to my research or my teaching all year; I missed a ton of movies; I owe probably every single one of my friends three email messages and two meals.

2006
Hopefully this will be an even better year than the last, but its major elements--whether I get a tenure-track job; where I'll be living; if GWB and I wind up closer together or further apart--aren't really under my control, and don't make for good resolutions. My goals, then, for 2006 are as follow:

Professional
  • Revise and submit one of the two articles I've had kicking around my brain for over a year now
  • Revise the material from diss chapter #1
  • Start research for a full-fledged book introduction to replace the half-assed diss intro
  • Get to the U.K. again this summer, for pleasure if not for research
  • Use my two new classes this semester as scholarly opportunities, reading or dipping into some major works of criticism as I prep my lesson plans
Personal
  • Be happy wherever I wind up, geographically and professionally
  • Rein in some of my debt
  • See as much of my friends as I can, while I remain in MEC
  • Start eating a somewhat more healthy and/or interesting diet
  • Do a better job of keeping on top of cultural events


link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:08 PM | 2 comments


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