Thursday, March 26, 2009

'I have a fear of exploding tires'

I got The Bean Trees earlier this week and having been laughing loudly in the library, the otherwise empty bedroom, and Opposite cafe. I think I detect some words substituted for the British reading audience but I'm not sure. Things like 'jumper' really could be the American word for those overall-type atrocities of the 1980s. Thankfully the Kentucky syntax and vocabulary is still intact. I didn't notice before how obsessed this book is with ethnicity, and less so with other differences like disability. From the deep depths of my mid-semester trench, I read Kingsolver for fresh air and a dose of nostalgia for Arizona. Speaking of evangelism, Julie reminded me that I haven't extended a used copy of this wonderful book (or any other book) to anyone since I left Boston. Definitely need to resume my used bookstore 
perusal habits asap. Academia does drain some joy out of the reading life. 

In other literary news, I bought tickets the other week to hear Coetzee read, (read what I don't know), in Oxford. Luckily they were only £4 a pop. I hope to have time to read something like Waiting for the Barbarians before then. 

The rest of the semester involves an exciting book by Caryl Philips, who is of Leeds, and rereadings of the nefarious Naipaul. Has anyone read Keri Hulmes' The Bone People? I am really interested in others' opinions of it.  

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't Make Me Talk

I would get by in graduate school if I never had to talk in class. That is the point where I become self-defeating. Can I write my answers please? 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

tid bits

I'm typing in the Brotherton computer lab. There was a line of about six people ahead of me. While I waited I thumbed the paper I must edit. I remembered the three months I spent in Denver learning about social work. I decided I need a job that aims somewhere between social work and academia. A seat opened up. I mechanically sat down. The worn green fabric of the chair was warm on my legs and back from the person before me.

Sunday was a bright day. While walking home I noticed a vine that had bloomed in the night or morning. The small wonder of it was that I smelled the flowers before I saw the white blossoms.
I looked to the grass then and found three small white grass flowers. My friend Amber is having allergy attacks.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Unpardonable List: My 11 week marathon

Typee Herman Melville (USA)
In The Castle of my Skin George Lamming (Barbados)
South Seas Tales Robert Louis Stevenson (Scotland)
The Lonely Londoners Sam Selvon (Trinidad)
Selected Stories Katherine Mansfield (NZ)
the Mimic Men V.S. Naipaul* (Trinidad)
Poetry Alan Curnow (NZ)
Selected Poetry Derek Walcott* (Saint Lucia)
Stories Frank Sargeson (NZ)
Crick Crack Monkey! Merle Hodge (Trinidad)
My Place Sally Morgan (Australia)
My Revalueshanary Fren Linton Kwesi Johnson (Jamaica)
The Bone People Keri Hulme (NZ)
Myal Erna Brodber (Jamaica)
Remembering Babylon David Malouf (Australia)
A Small Place Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)
Cloudstreet Tim Winton (NZ)
Migration of Ghosts Pauline Melville (Guyana)
Crossing the River Caryl Philips (Leeds, UK)

*Nobel Prize Winners

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A still moment

It's nearly midnight. I've washed the dishes, swept the floor, wiped down the counters. I'm listening to NPR, smelling a mocha candle. If only I could finish this paper. 

5 days until Easter break. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One week to Easter

I have two major complaints with Leeds today. The first is deadlines. Our essays are regimented by the department rather than the professors themselves. I've never had a problem with deadlines before, but this year I have on two occasions. I've developed an anxiety about submitting my work that is really disabling. My second complaint is vomit. I assume it is always on the sidewalks because there are too few outdoor trash bins. Whatever the case, it interferes with my freedom to amble and I protest. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the Stars?

It was one of those days. The meter man rang our bell relentlessly while I was in the shower. When I came to the front he insisted there was a secret door in our flat that held the meter. Of course there wasn't. I knocked over the course convener's coffee cup and it tumbled down the stairs and over my coat. I passed him at the coffee vender two hours later and wasn't sure if I should hide or pay for his coffee. As usual, I was a dollar short. A visiting academic was locked inside of someone's office for 45 minutes. Campus Health and Safety had to saw off the bolt. 

But I survived a mid-day confidence crisis by lying in the sun and watching Jon Stewart, my lifeline back to the US. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day Late, dollar short, an added expense

In January I submitted a paper proposal for a conference in Maynooth, Ireland in June. I was thanked for my 'interesting proposal' and told I would hear back from them very shortly. For the first week I checked my email a bit obsessively. After the second week I decided I didn't care. After the third I felt a bit relieved that I wouldn't have to come up with an extra paper or figure out how to present to a group of professionals with more elegant accents and superfluous letters after their names. Believing I would have four solid months of time to write, I helped buy my sister a plane ticket to Scotland, planned a monastic visit to the Pluscarden Abbey, and scheduled an extensive tour of Scotland across the month of May.

Today I was supposed to turn in a draft of the first chapter of my dissertation. I didn't. I even believed myself to be a bit of a rebel, setting my own guidelines, working at my own slow pace. Then I got two emails. The first is from the English department secretary, a rather terrifying lady really. Her email trusted that we had all turned in our draft or if we had not, that we had notified our advisors in advance. I spent the evening at the theatre feeling every second of 'wasted time' dragging me down. I came home,  feeling quite rotten, and received a schedule of the Maynooth conference. I scrolled through it rather wryly and found to my horror/excitement that I am presenting a paper at 9:30 am on June 19th. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

September 2nd

Zach and I return to the US.

Anecdotes from a Yorkshire Primary School

On Thursday afternoon I took the bus to the Ebor Gardens Community Centre in order to spend a couple of hours with a crowd of small , costumed British people. The whole of the Thursday after school time is spent making crafts and playing games. Amazingly the children are content spending two hours gluing, cutting, sticking, coloring, and folding. Here are a few precious moments...

All of the children stare at me whenever I speak but one Caribbean-British girl of about seven years piped up in a clear Yorkshire dialect, 'Are you from America?' After, and because no doubt, I answered yes, she made me a paper bracelet of cut and pasted hearts. It caught on something on the bus ride home and tore off.

The incoherence runs both ways. Another of that group asked me, 'Do you ave un awbby?' That's either equestrian or marital, I thought; so I said 'um, yes!' 'Well, wha is it?'

One little girl, aptly dressed in a princess costume, was keen to fight with three very quiet sisters. She kept accusing them of writing things about her on their Easter cards. They all proceeded to pile their cards in my hands for approval and to my surprise they were letters of wild declaration to Stan, Randy (think about this name with a British accent), and Marshall. I didn't know how to handle this one, short of saying that they can write whatever they want because the cards are private. Fortunately for me another girl piped in, 'You all better stop talkin bout love!'

The cards were made of creased stock that was much larger than the envelopes provided. It was kind of amusing to me that each child only learned that the cards wouldn't fit when it came time to envelop their own card. I had to explain to fifteen kids that the cards were in fact too small. Most of them were content to fold their carefully made cards in half rather than do without envelopes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WTF mate!? Frank Sargeson and Zach

This afternoon Zach required a nap but couldn't fall asleep. I sat on the bed with him, brimming over with enthusiasm for a new short story writer. I tried not to talk about it. Finally I asked him to let me read a short one to him aloud. Reading aloud to him is a habit that I can't control and one that annoys him because he can't follow aurally, but I felt this story was one he couldn't miss. 
I read the story quickly. It was only four small pages with a lot of dialogue. Probably took 4 minutes. As I finished I read faster and faster in anticipation of the cracker ending. 

'You want to lift the pan right up, Victor said. They're burning. 
Well Elsie lifted the pan and Victor dumped the cat in the fire. Elsie just stood there, and Victor grabbed the pan and jammed it down on top of the cat. 
Then, not far away, you could hear the car, and Victor went over to put his shirt on.
Look here, Elsie, he said, it's a fortnight to next sale day. If I was in your shoes I'd look around for another job.' 

"Well?" I asked triumphantly.
There was a significant pause.  "What!?" 
"You didn't understand it?"
"Maybe I fell asleep" 
and then ten minutes later I hear from the other room.  
'You're a five legged monster! Aren't you wearing slippers and heels from a castle?' 

that revolving door

Today I went back to my earliest posts and read up till April 2007. I'm amazed and slightly concerned to find myself in a similar dilemma, considering similar career options and location moves. When will it make sense? 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

a rare moment of contentment

a successful, balanced class
a personable professor
tempeh cooked in olive oil and soy sauce
a cup of coffee
chocolate cake
a quiet dim afternoon
tom waits tunes

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dracula's Strawberry Remains

Yesterday two friends and I took a grueling 3.5 hour bus ride to Whitby, a beach town noted for its quaint beauty and its literary significance as the sometimes residence of Dracula. The town was indeed quaint, the beach beautiful, the weather a hopeful sign of spring's relief. The abbey ruins on the cliffs were especially impressive, their elegant arches largely intact. The tombstone of Dracula was really odd. It bears no engraving other than a skull and cross bones. Was it carved to look ancient and worn? Did some one pick an anonymous stone, engrave the symbol and call it Dracula's? Or did this unknown person actually have a skull and cross bones on their tombstone and their identity has been appropriated by literary goths? I purchased a 'Dracula's Coffin' confection at Justin's Chocolatier but shirked my tourist obligations by avoiding the £8 fish and chips. 

My sister is coming to stay with me while Zach does research in the Pacific NW. She spent a summer in St. Andrews a few years ago and has friends to visit in the region. We're going meet in Edinburgh and make our way through northern Scotland: St. Andrews, a monastery near Inverness, the Highlands, and hopefully one of the islands. I'm stoked.