The Roller-Coaster Ride that is Research

This is rather a long post, but I figured that since I haven’t written anything for so long, I deserve to assault my readers with what a former professor once described ever-so-delicately as verbal diarrhea (now that you’ve got that image in your head….)

I finally have my research topics picked out for this semester, and golly, it only took me 6 WEEKS TO DECIDE! And of course, I really only came up with one of my topics right before the proposal itself was due–despite my best efforts (ok, maybe my mediocre efforts) I can’t seem to get things finished in advance. But hey, where would the fun be in that?

I love doing research–it’s like a giant puzzle, a mystery where I get to be J.B. Fletcher for a change (although I can’t pretend to be an expert on nuclear physics, or film production, or sailor’s knots like she can on “Murder She Wrote”). It’s also a great excuse to flex my “nosy rosie” muscles (albeit on people who are already dead–often not as dangerous as spying on the neighbors). I love fleshing out the picture in my mind bit by little bit, looking through old letters, newspapers, book reviews, etc. It’s great…..


Did you know that you actually have to write the stuff down after a while? Yeah, that bit always seems to surprise me as well. I have all of these “great” ideas swarming in my head, but I somehow have to get them onto paper. Usually I accomplish this at the last minute, writing in a caffeine-induced, maniacal trance that leaves me completely dazed. When this happens, I often don’t even recognize my own paper when it’s given back to me (a rather creepy feeling, I must say, although if it’s a bad paper, I’m more than happy to feel a bit of distance from it).

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to delving into the archives on these two projects. I also have three or four other projects hanging around in the back of my mind. Why is it that it takes me forever to come up with one lousy topic and then when I do, suddenly a bajillion other ideas suddenly decide that they can come forward as well? Where were they before? Waiting for the brave one to step forward? And I am going to make an honest effort to start writing WELL BEFORE the deadline. (Those of you who know me…stop snickering. I did say “honest effort.” Can I help it if that falls short? I think not.)

On another note, a fellow blogger gave me an idea of creating a list of 10 books that I want to read that are drawn from my overly cluttered bookshelves (whether real or imaginary–yes, I also have bookshelves in my mind, full of the books that I thought I had or wished I had, or that I am determined I WILL have one day). You know, those books that I have long wanted to read, but somehow keep pushing aside or forgetting. I’ve decided to come up with a list of my own “Must Reads in 2007.” I love making these lists–it gives me a sense of accomplishment without actually having to accomplish anything. Then I blithely ignore it. But here goes anyway…

  1. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West. I have had this book for YEARS and have yet to read it. It’s fat, it’s about Eastern Europe, what’s my problem?
  2. The Demons/Possessed by Dostoevsky. Because I used to be a Russian major who hated Dostoevsky. It’s time to give him another try. Now that I am officially a “non-matriculated graduate student” I feel strong enough to overcome my immature, 18-year-old reading past…..(ha!)
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have an awful confession to make….I’ve never made it past the first half of this book, and because I knew the ending, I just never got around to finishing it. This will be my year!
  4. Gulag by Anne Applebaum. Because it’s about gulags, snowy Siberia, and a history book that I should have read looooooong ago.
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I have started this a number of times and loved it. So why did I put it down? I was probably ambushed by other books (they’re sneaky like that).
  6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I love Austen, but this is the only book of hers that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.
  7. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Because I have the BBC adaptation of this novel, and I really should read the novel that’s been sitting around waiting for me for a number of years.
  8. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. I have a strange fascination for books set in the British Raj period.
  9. Trust by Cynthia Ozick. I have almost everything that Ozick has written, including her essays but I have yet to read this.
  10. Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee. I’ve been schlepping this book around for YEARS, and it’s about time I read it. Besides, I’ve heard good things about it, and I’m always in the mood for a good bio.

This list has much in common with other lists I’ve made of my reading goals (like my Chunkster list, etc.) but I’m choosing to ignore that slight detail. Huzzah! I’ve accomplished something! I’ve made another list to ignore! And now off to the archives…..


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Clair on March 9, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I hope you’re having fun in the archives, hopefully ones that let you in with a small, carefully covered cup of liquid caffeine of your choice, and your favorite pen.

    Happy hunting!


  2. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on March 9, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Clair–unfortunately/fortunately for me, the “archives” I’m using are largely available via computer. So on the plus side, I get to have a LARGE quantity of caffeine with me at all times (although, as you know, that can be a negative thing when it comes to me). On the bummer side, I don’t get to handle actual materials, which is one of my favorite parts….oh well, at least I can use pens, I don’t have to leave my stuff in lockers, and I can do research practically anywhere…


  3. Posted by Danielle on March 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I love the idea of research, but I hate the writing part. So I guess I can just call the first part reading, eh?! I like making lists, too. I didn’t read Jane Eyre for a long time, but when I did I really liked it. I do hate reading books where you already know the story, but still there are usually other surprises along the way. I’d love to read Bleak House, and more Jane Austen and more George Eliot–great list.


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