Wednesday, February 25, 2009

sp(r)outing discontent

Why the gap between the writing life and the academic life? I feel slightly skeptical of the value of even using phrases like 'the writing/academic life' which appear either artificial or incestuous. Give me a Philip Larkin or Barbara Kingsolver, living writers of the ordinary and to hell with high modern writer-artists. Despite my rancor, I'm writing a paper on these same strange self-appointed high artists and must spout my slightly hypocritical discontent. 


Saturday, February 21, 2009

the Reader

I watched The Reader last night for the second time and of my own volition. I like how the film is actively discussing within itself the processes and failures of testimony. I am intrigued by Michael's deep psychological torment at having loved Hannah and their lifelong entanglement. One criticism of the film is that it seeks to humanize Holocaust perpetrators. One one hand, this may be valid for the film suggests it is Hannah's illiteracy that leads her to work for Auschwitz. The other Nazi women on trial are then portrayed as utterly unethical villains, in part by their betrayal of her. So it privileges an exception-Nazi rather than discussing how all individuals became involved in the crimes. On the other hand, in privileging one woman's involvement, suggesting the poverty and lack of opportunity that led to her employment by the SS, the film begins to understand how a new regime utilizes society's impoverished to mobilize its purposes. It exposes the limitations- or perhaps the utter inabilities- of the justice system which can neither satisfy victims nor correctly assign guilt.  

Today I'm taking a little break from long term studying and enjoying the exuberance of Derek Walcott in poetry and prose. Thank God for joyful souls and that we can't all be V.S. Naipauls. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dialect Dreams

I was told by a high school Spanish teacher that to dream in Spanish is a sign that one is becoming fluent. Well last week I dreamt in Yorky and a couple of nights ago in an East-Texas twang. Discussing the accents of my dream characters with a professor, I was told that Yorkshire is to England as Texas is to the entire US. ... In other words my nocturnal brain is hosting a country/folk festival. Two nights later I woke myself up with my own maniacal laughter. Could I possibly be under undue stress?

Friday, February 13, 2009

PhD statement of purpose

Over the past twelve weeks I have had the pleasure of studying the troubling and compelling texts of V.S. Naipaul under the guidance of his recent award winning biographer Peter French. Many scholars have examined Naipaul's works from postcolonial critical perspectives. Others have remarked upon his formal existentialist debts to Sarte and the high modernists. As of yet, far too little has been said concerning the sheer power that his liminal sexism and philandering practices have had upon structuring his fictional terrain.  The research I have begun, and propose to continue through the course of this dissertation, fills this critical gap in our knowledge of this significant male writer. I carry out an exhausted comparative analysis of Naipaul's novels and the musical contributions of American grunge-blues-lounge-wtf? performer Tom Waits. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beating my MA Ambivalence

I love tom waits. I know he's often growly. I know that a real life incarnation of his music would involve spilled whisky, saxophones, and rear tire breaks grinding over a drawbridge. But still... I am an introverted lover of beat music and talk. I admit to listening to it while drinking yerba matte and wearing a blue bathrobe, but let's face it- you can't reason with true love. 

On a less amorous note, today's 'planning and writing your dissertation class' proved to be no more than a powerpoint projecting the great variety of departmental requirements that are born and die in the pages of university handbooks.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Library and Dissertation Woes

I'm beginning to see the contours of my dissertation. I'm frightened because they are lumpy. There is no smooth, overarching theory, no linear logic to make it svelte and smart. But this is how I think. In montages of experience.  Isn't that how we're taught to write? The imperative as always been 'show don't tell!' Why is there so much difference between the form and subject of academic writing? 


Julie's postings about her library stalker, her library opera singer/light bulb, and her polygamous library book prepared me for a library encounter of my own. I now have a library foe. Yesterday I went down to the bottom floor of Brotherton at 4:30. An irate employee chided me, asking why I would turn on a single stack section light when they are preparing to close (in 30 minutes). I responded as I always do in direct confrontation, a little bluntly, a little daftly,
'I'm looking for a book and I can't see.' Today I saw said closer-of-libraries, bringer-of-darkness on the second and third floors and received suspicious looks of recognition despite the fact that the library doesn't close for six hours.