Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Critics

How often does it happen that you're reading secondary material for an essay of dubious interest and you find a critic whose prose is so pleasing that you just might read it for fun? Well it just happened to me for the first time. Rod Edmond's book Representing the South Pacific is succinct and clever and basically smart. It isn't a topic I'm particularly interested in, but his prose gives academic writing a new lease on life. Edmonds is teaching at Kent, which had originally been my first choice for graduate work. Is it coincidence or a fact of academic incest? 

One class period left. Two papers remaining. Eleven full days until submission and vacation! 

Six Eyes

I have six eyes now but I only wear four at a time. I first thing I noticed when I tried on my new specs at Boots was that my nose is blotchy. My instinct was to take them right off so that the young male sales clerk wouldn't see my blotchy nose. 
The second thing I noticed was that the woman walking down the street in front of me had freckles on her calves. In the past skin coloration would blur into smooth peachiness. Now I see flaws. So despite the fact that I can now talk to people with my eyes wide open, can read important signs and menus, and can safely operate machinery, I can't help but wonder if my plain brown blurry eyes were more, well, kindly disposed towards the outside.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hardly Working

I have an astonishing ability to sleep in past ten o'clock and still take an afternoon/evening nap. Particularly when the alternative is writing a paper I no longer have much interest in. Perhaps I need the pressure of a deadline. Maybe two weeks is too distant.

To provide further distraction today, I watched episodes of Tool Time. I kind of miss 90s television about normal, mostly functional families like Family Matters, Life Goes On, etc... I also found out I have the same Myers-Briggs personality type as Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Laura Bush and that potential career prospects include law and librarianship and tend more towards higher education than secondary education. I don't trust those test of course. How can 30 questions or so, most of which I'm unsure of the answer, tell you three pages worth of advice about yourself. Also, the website listed Isaac Newton's personality type. As far as I know.... 

This procrastinating must stop. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mine eyes

I went to an optometrist this morning to replace the spectacles (as they are called here without affect) I lost in January. They offered a buy one get one free deal (yay!) and I can hardly wait until next week when I can start seeing again and being seen in two different styles. I think they should separate optometrists from sellers of eyewear. I am way too persuadable. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

After a Dorothea Smartt reading

Okay so tonight I feel incredibly fortunate to have access to University lectureships and readings. Even if I can't see myself doing a PhD or becoming a professor, I must keep literary readings and socially conscious authors in my life. How can I ensure this? 

Perplexed in Leeds

Not counting down

Three classes remain of the semester. I suspect I am losing my eyebrows. Too much forehead bashing I imagine. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Flip-Flop Finales

I love it when professors love a book. John McLeod is just such a professor. His emotional response to Caryl Phillip's final section of Crossing the River made my whole semester. Can I really only have four literature classes left in my life? 

In addition to the Coetzee reading in June, I am planning to hear Caryl Phillips give a paper on V.S. Naipaul in May. Zach and I also bought tickets to a Lisa Hannigan concert in two weeks. The sun and the celebrities are out for the season. The British people are all wearing shorts and flip-flops. 65 degree weather in AZ would merit long sleeves I think.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trousers and Trainers

Yesterday a woman in the public library cafe approached me vaguely and told me I should wear skirts in order to please members of the opposite sex. She said my trousers would do for working in the garden if I cannot afford help when I am older.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Capital T-h-e-o-r-y

I decided that for my final semester of academia, it was time I take on the monster. I'm using Homi Bhabha for one of my papers. Well, it's a bit easier than I thought it would be. In fact, I'm beginning to think that using a theorist to make your argument or structure your essay can actually be something of a cop out. You see once I got through applying Bhabha's theory of the stereotype to sexuality in a single scene of a novel, I had 1000 words. Unlike last semester, in which I structured an entire essay with my own thought and literally sweated over the creative form, I have next to no anxiety over how this paper will work. I am parroting the thoughts of a terribly authoritative person (in the small and lucrative realm of the academy of course), and who can possibly argue against Bhabha?; but now I have no space to make my own creative argument. 

My findings: theory is frightened of failure and uncreative. Academia is... not for me?

This passage from Pauline Melville's story 'The President's Exile' seems appropriate:

"This is remarkably like an essay from one of the current third-year students that I marked last year" ....
Naturally he feigned surprise and looked mystified, although he had, in fact, copied the essay from the student whose effort had been marked with an alpha plus. His own work was of a reasonably high standard but it was the certainty of obtaining the best grade that he had been unable to resist.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comic um, relief.

I spent today at the Leeds public library reading articles in the cafe, drinking tea from the white enamel ware that seems endemic to Britain. I knew I didn't have the time but I find it hard to pass up indentured books so I walked through a random aisle, stopped at the sight of Roald Dahl, and 'bagged' a red book with a minxy spider woman on the cover.  The book is My Uncle Oswald and to give you a idea of the contents of the stories, as I discovered in a far too open floored Starbucks, I'll quote a rather clever reviewer. 

'Very saucy, very funny... quite frankly [Dahl] could write an interesting story blindfolded [...] with his hands tied behind his back'

Well I suspect Dahl did write this book with his hands tied behind his back, blindfolded. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Judge Ely Blvd., Oxford UK

Zach and I spent the weekend at ACU House in Oxford. We stayed with Dr. Morris in his basement flat; we slept on bunk beds on which hung a thread blanket depicting the ACU buildings. Dr. Morris cooked pizza, pasta, and pie for us and we watched a French film adaptation of a novel. Our conversations ran from films to travel to common acquaintances at ACU. I had the strangest feeling of security and exception. To be welcomed into and walked through an ancient and affluent city by a 'local' who shares a valuable piece of your past is remarkably comforting. The soft Texas accent is easy on the ears. 

Does the picture of a past self always render a person anxious over the evidence of her own inconstancy? On the train ride back to Leeds I was struck by nostalgia and a mad desire to bundle all of my places and people into one manageable, rememberable town.  Stehekin-Leeds-Abilene-Boston-Denver-Tempe. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Dandelions have overtaken Leeds. Where daffodils sprouted  in untidy groves in Hyde Park and along the grass sides of walkways three weeks ago, now massive furry heads are boldly crowding.  

Life in the house of mirrors

Last summer I spent my working days cleaning hotels rooms and waiting tables. This school year I spend my working days and nights synthesizing articles written by scholars about other authors writing about other people who spend their days cleaning hotels rooms.  

Yesterday I sent an email to a professor from Leeds asking his opinion about a career trajectory. He wrote back positively, 'That sounds like a fascinating opportunity'. I was satisfied. Later, I told a British classmate about an alternative to coffee called 'Yerba Matte'. She responded ambivalently, 'Sounds fascinating'. So this semi-unproductive evening I'm wondering if 'fascinating' means the same thing in Britain as it does in America.