Archive for July, 2012
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Perhaps to speak at all is false; more true
Simply to sit at times alone and dumb
And with most pure intensity of thought
And concentrated inmost feeling, reach
Towards your shadow on the years’ crumbling wall.
David Gascoyne – An Elegy
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Things Dearly Loved and Seldom Mentioned III
Here’s another poem for the “things dearly loved and seldom mentioned” category – IE things you don’t really post about loving or liking or being fond of because you think that everybody knows them, only to find out by chance that, hey, not everyone knows them! It’s clearly a bias in the first place – you work in a certain field and so things are tradified there and your blinders make it seem like surely everyone must come across these things all the time, because, hey, you do – only to then stop and think “Hmm, come to think of it, the overlap of people teaching American lit classes and the people reading this blog might not be all that large…” :-) (and if it is, hey presto, canon formation? [Oops?])
Weeks ago, at DFDF, S ran a lovely workshop where everyone was asked to bring poems they love (or hate), and I took a Rilke along (you’ve got to have Rilke along) and two about Ozymandias, and S. told me that I’d kind of flaked off on the whole ‘Sib posts the classics she loves’ project (I know! Sorry! I’ll try to do better), and so, here’s another one of those:
The Imaginary Iceberg
We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship,
although it meant the end of travel.
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock
and all the sea were moving marble.
We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship;
we’d rather own this breathing plain of snow
though the ship’s sails were laid upon the sea
as the snow lies undissolved upon the water.
Read the complete poem here.
So, any thoughts on the iceberg?
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
American Short Fiction Reading List
Since someone asked in a comment, here’s what was on the reading list for my “American Short Fiction” syllabus for the summer term (sans theoretical texts except for Poe) – I left off the “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and chose one of Poe’s ‘tales of ratiocination’ instead of a ‘tale of effect’ as most students had already encountered OCB and a ‘tale of effect’ in their “Introduction to Literature”.
Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour” (1894)
Robert Coover, “A Sudden Story” (1986)
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Purloined Letter” (1844)
–. “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846)
–. “Review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales” (1842)
Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)
Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants” (1927)
Ernest Hemingway, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (1933)
William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” (1930)
John Steinbeck, “The Chrysanthemums” (1938)
Raymond Carver, “A Small, Good Thing” (1983)
John Cheever, “The World of Apples” (1973)
Joyce Carol Oates, “Where are you going, where have you been?” (1966)
Sunday, July 8th, 2012
Summer Reading (this title is misleading!)
Misleading not in so far as whether or not we’re going to have anything resembling a proper summer up here (I am typing this sitting on my living room windowsill, with the window open and the sun shinging on my legs, so today is definitely the fourth truly summer-y day up here this year [the other three were over Pentecost]), but rather that the books I will mention here shall undoubtedly only constitute a very small part of my summer reading – the for fun, non-fiction, not directly concerning my work/academic disciplines part. And might not all get read during the summer either, depending on work and other reading. But I am determined to make at least some of them summer reading! In fact, I’ve already started.
Among the various and manifold small sub-jobs I have in our department, one of them is to be our library liaison – which mostly means that I get a lot of book catalogues sent to me or passed on to me by other colleagues, I round robin them to my colleagues asking if they want me to order any of the books in them for the library, keep an eye out for more generalist books that we could use, and then get in touch with my (wondeful) contact person at the library telling her the books we want. An effect of this job is that a lot of publishing houses and book distributors have me in their mailing lists, and thus I get a lot of emails about books not relating to our field and general book offers, as well. And every year in the early summer, I get an email from the Oxford University Press* about their ‘summer sale for private academics’ (or some such title), where they sell books to said ‘private academics’ (IE not to uni libraries/institutions) at super reduced prices (up to 80%). And always a lot of other books that manage to intrigue me – and so, every year, I set myself a spending limit and then buy books about things that sound interesting. I usually put one or two of the more expensive but truly centrally interesting and academically relevant-to-my-subject must-have books in my shopping basket first, and then I sort the list by price and look for things that sound a) fascinating, b) accessible (I have learned since first doing this that, when it says ‘for the advance student of mathematics’, one better heed the warning …) and that c) get decent reviews else-net. I usually end up with a mix of maths and science theory, archeology, history, philosophy and linguistics. You can see this year’s haul depicted on the right.
I started reading Symmetry and the Monster this morning – and while I am still not sure what precisely ‘the Monster’ is, I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things about cubes, octagedrons, icosahedrons and dodecahedrons in chapter 1 alone. We’re into Évariste Galois’ work on the grouping of permutations right now, and, puh, I’ll need to let this all settle for a bit before reading on – I am at the stage where I get what the text says, but don’t yet truly get what it means, in an application-oriented kind of sense.
Incidentally, needing to take a break is good, since I’ve promised the afternoon to image-use inquiries and getting-the-PhD-ready-for-publication-work.
Oh, and an update on ‘la grande expérience’: reading your guitar tuner upside down is confusing. Also, what kind of bad idea was this? It’s not only that hands need to do different things now, it feels like I am trying to re-wire my brain at the same time! The first hurdle is definitely – as expected – a steep one. But intriguingly so. I shall persevere (for now)!
* Dear other UPs and publishing houses out there, mine is an equal opportunity shopping spree, so if you have serious offers like that, mail ’em round. :-) (Uh, next year?) If you spam me, though, no business from me!
Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
La grande expérience
The French word ‘expérience’ means both ‘experience’ and ‘experiment,’ and I am quite fond of the overlap of meanings, because sometimes great experiements are totally also great experiences, and the other way around, non? Mais oui! If you’re thinking that I might be using this introduction to talk about the possible discovery of the Higgs particle you are mistaken, however – although if its discovery holds true then that is surely one of the great discoveries of the decade.
I was tempted to write ‘of our age’ – a term more lyrical and also a lot more vague. And whose age, anyway? Mine or yours? Mine is 33 right now, but rising steadily (and hopefully continuing to rise for a long looong time). And aaaanyway. The grande expérience of the title is not, by comparison, all that grande. It just feels a bit like one, since it entails deconnecting and reconnecting a lot of familiar habits and movements and brain-hand-coordination shortcuts and well-worn tracks.
If you’ve met me – and if you pay attention to these things (which not everyone does, and if you don’t, fair enough) – you might have noticed that I am very definitely and rather strongly left-handed. I did, however, and for reasons I cannot recall, learn to play the guitar the ‘right’ way around, and while I have no problems learning all sorts of chords, playing more intricate rhythms is oh-so-frustrating and challenging and feels impossible … and as skills progress that divergence of fluidity and adaptability becomes ever more apparent.
I’ve maintained for years that I really only need one guitar, and certainly only one six-string guitar, and if at all then I would, once my skills are advanced enough, maybe, possibly, eventually acquire a twelve-string. But not a second six string, no sir.
Well, let’s relativise that to … one guitar … for each hand, ok?
I invested some of the money I made selling things on paypal (my collection of Status Quo CDs is apparently now making someone in Arizona very happy, I am pleased to say) in the cheapest-yet-decent left-handed guitar I could find*, and it just arrived – and its certainly okay for the purpose I acquired it for – trying to see whether or not I have the diligence, patience, and skill to essential re-train both my hands into doing the opposite of what they’re used to doing, and whether the (hopefully) added agility regarding rhythms offsets the loss of chord changing swiftness and ease. I expect it to be a rather frustrating experience, really … but I’ll see how it goes! And if I end up realizing that I’d rather stick to what I am used to … then that’s a fair enough outcome, as well. If you never try, you never know! I’ll keep you posted! :-)
* I also invested about a tenner into a flute, because how hard can it be? Small children learn to play it. And a krix. Actually, I initially only wanted to buy a krix. Ooops? For science!
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
I returned from Regensburg yesterday but didn’t do very much except unpack, look at my work preparation for today* and go to sleep, and today it’s been classes and meetings and composing exams and thinking about next term and what novels to put on the reading list for the BA 6 project and so there’s not much to relate that’s non-work. I’ve also had what I hope is but a tension headache since around noon and it’s being resistant to paracetamol, so I’ll go and see whether sleep will do the trick instead – it’s at the point where distraction works well enough for long enough stretches of time so that I got a good amount of work done anyway, and then took it as an excuse to finally watch Juliet & Julia. Alas, I have no great feelings about the movie to relate, other than that Meryl Streep is brilliant as always, and I’d totally buy that cookbook now, if it wasn’t for how I ought really not to have butter, and dairy and gluten are out as well. But the rest of the movie … well, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. Lukewarm feelings persist.
So, yes, that is the excitement that was my Tuesday. Gotta go and liberate the washing from the tumble drier now, and then go and hopefully sleep this headache away. The next few days are going to be busy!
(Plus I really need to think about my summer plans [and possibly also blog about them], and possibly also blog about DFDF – its not forgotten, it just got surmounted by the things that happened right after it was over.)
* A day that included the last session [ :-( ] of my “American Short Fiction” class. We disussed John Cheever’s short story “The World of Apples,” which has one of my (many) first sentences: “Asa Bascomb, the old laureate, wandered around his work-house or study — he had never been able to settle on a name for a house where one wrote poetry — swatting hornets with a copy of La Stampa and wondering why he had never been given the Nobel Prize.” How’s that for an intriguing start? Do you have any favourite first sentences? What are they?