Archive for May, 2007

blogging with a vengeance

Can you tell that I’ve finished my papers and no longer feel guilty about spending time in the blogosphere? Somehow I convinced myself that if I didn’t post new entries, then that meant I could disregard the time spent reading other people’s entries. Yeah, I can rationalize anything!

Now that I have rejoined the “real” world, I looked around my apartment and realized that research is really detrimental to my already (admittedly, unabashedly) poor housecleaning skills. Haphazard piles of books and papers have taken over every flat surface of the house. Now, granted, Apparent Dip and I are genetically predisposed to clutter, but this has gone waaaay too far.

So, in addition to coming up with the “best summer reading list ever,” I will be embarking on another project. It’s a little something called: “You mean we have a floor?” I need to return all research books to the library (it’s so cathartic!) and organize the journal articles I’ve collected and enter them into my computer (and clean up the backlog of articles that need to be entered), and I need to seriously reorganize my bookshelves.

But given that I’m still “recovering” from the latest paper, I will instead present gratuitous pictures of my cats and rabbit:

Here is Myzithra (we named her after our favorite cheese). She is by far our craziest animal (she’s the black and white one with a grin on her face):


She’s sitting with Meshuggenah. As they are only a few months apart in age (we think, they were both rescued so it’s hard to know for sure), they get along quite well. Their favorite activities are destroying things and getting into trouble (usually in the wee small hours of the morning). Here’s what they do when we’re not home:


As you can see, they have a very demanding life. Our oldest cat Koshka generally has no time for the young whippersnappers as she’s more mature (read: cranky) and responsible (read: disdainful) than they are (ok, she’s not really old, she’s seven, and she’s really my cat as she generally dislikes anybody and anything that isn’t me–including Apparent Dip, poor guy):


The patriarch of this den of feline females is THUNDER! the rabbit (who insists that we type his name that way as it makes him seem more powerful and in charge–he’s only a little delusional). THUNDER! has been a rather expensive pet because early in his bunny life he thought it would be great fun to chew through a computer cord, shorting out everything but his life:


He looks innocent and snuggly, but don’t let that fool you. Now that he’s old he just hangs out, but back in the day he used to cause quite a bit o’grief. So that’s the menagerie! I apologize if you dislike looking at cute animal pictures, but I figure that once in a while it never hurts to remember that there are critters out that that could care less if I write the best paper or read the best books. Hell, all they really care about is getting fed and bugging us when it’s least convenient to do so (as in Myzithra trying to crawl under the covers to bite us at 4 in the morning). Good times…

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messing around

I’m playing around with the format again, so bear with me….

summer reading challenge?

I’ve been debating joining the summer reading challenge for a while now. I have a feeling that I will end up doing so on an unofficial basis. In fact, I think I will now deem my participation in all reading challenges as “unofficial” from this point forward. I still plan on participating in the reading groups, like Tilting at Windmills and Slaves of Golconda, (and I will of course continue with Proust), but I have come to face the fact that I am not good about challenges. That being said, I definitely need to come up with a summer reading list of some kind or another. After my first semester as a wannabe English grad student, it has been made clear to me that I have a lot catching up to do. I have no idea what “field(s)” I might be interested in pursuing at the doctoral level and I’m in a perfect position to ask questions and explore: after all, as a newbie to the field of english literature, it’s a-ok for me to not know what I’m talking about. And this time, I don’t really have to pretend that I do.

My first plan of attack was to get a feel for the state of different fields of criticism and see where I felt I fit in the best, but on second (and third, or perhaps I’m already at the fourth?) thought, I realize that I just need to read more literature in general–the criticism will follow. How will I ever decide which field to pursue if I can’t even tell anyone what I love to read (aside from the Brontës, Dickens, and Tolstoy). The point of this summer will be to challenge myself to read those canonical (and not so canonical) texts that I have previously overlooked (and there’s a lot out there). So now I’m on the hunt for titles to add to what I’m optimistically calling, “the best summer reading list ever.” There are a number of secondary sources that I would like to include as preparation for the lit classes I’m taking in the fall, but for the most part, right now I need to plan on immersing myself in the primary sources. Oh woe is me….being forced to read literature all summer long (in between fits of knitting like a maniac). So that’s my plan. Should I be worried that I’m great when it comes to dreaming up plans but mysteriously lose all ability to follow through with them in the long run? Perhaps. But in the meantime I get to make lots and lots of lists and drool over all of the great books that are just waiting for me to get my grubby little hands on and read, which is half the fun.

But as “the best summer reading list ever” is still under construction (indeed, one might say it’s merely a twinkle in my eye)–what should be included? I’m thinking I need some Hemingway, Faulkner, Woolf, Twain, (I’m all Stowe-ed out at the moment, so no Stowe), Forster, Hardy, and… does anybody have other titles/authors in mind?

finish what you started…

I am supposed to be finishing up my last paper, but I discovered a new podcast today that has put a notable crimp in my writing momentum. I intended this blog to be primarily about books, but I’m a knitter as well, and, as I am entering the obsessive knitting season for myself I was thrilled to find the Stash and Burn podcast on iTunes. For those of my readers who might also be knitters and haven’t heard this podcast, I highly recommend it as it documents another obsession: attempting to de-stash (aka go through one’s stash of yarn v. buying more). Unfortunately, one thing led to another and before you know it, I’ve spent most of the afternoon looking at different discount yarn websites, etc. I’m going to have to put my foot down and limit my internet time to the evenings.

The subject of finished and unfinished objects (FOs and UFOs in knitting parlance) came up repeatedly in the podcasts I’ve listened to so far, and I have to say–they are the bane of my existence. I consider myself to be something of a quitter (and not always in a bad sense): whether it be finishing a knitting project (I still have a sweater that I cast on at least ten years ago!), finishing books, or, most recently, finishing a ph.d. program (that I ended because I never finished a paper), I have a tendency to simply walk away (my marriage is perhaps the one exception to this). Now, one could argue that my inability to finish the paper/program was tied to the fact that I was inherently unhappy with both and that I needed to leave to save my sanity (and the whole long-distance marriage thing sucked rocks). But I am always ashamed when I read various people’s blogs and they remark on their inability or hesitation to leave a book unfinished. My problem is exactly the opposite. I have the tendency to check out trillions of books from the library, start them all (or at least think about starting them all, which I feel is at least half the battle), but more often than not, I finish none. NONE. I haven’t been able to truthfully update the books I’ve read since the end of classes two weeks ago.

I would like to blame this inability to push myself to the finish line on the Queen Mother (why did she have to introduce me to so many fun and exciting crafts?), but in reality, that doesn’t work. I think the problem I have is a complete lack of focus: somehow I need to fashion a pair of blinders for myself, so that I stop getting distracted (now that would be a fashion statement!). When I enter a bookstore (or library) there are so many books just waiting to attack me, and before you know it my arms are full by the time I get to the counter (where I have to pick up those being held for me as well). Entering a yarn store is even more disastrous, both for my stash and my wallet. I think it’s interesting that both of my obsessions (fiber arts and books) are very sensual endeavors. I love the feel of paper between my fingers and the smell of the book as I open it and I love to sink my hands into a pile of yarn. I often catch myself pausing often in my knitting just to feel the fabric.

As of late, I have been feeling rather upset with myself over this problem I have with finishing things, but perhaps there is another way to look at it. I think it’s a sign that I’m an optimist at heart. After all, when faced with beautiful book covers, rich colors of silky yarns, rough-cut pages, and handcrafted wooden knitting needles, I don’t necessarily see the objects themselves: I see the possibilities they represent, and those possibilities are endless. The contents of an unread book remain a tantalizing mystery as long as the book is unfinished, after all. In some respects, this kind of thinking can lead to a dangerous attachment to high expectations (in which I’m inevitably disappointed when the story/writing doesn’t live up to the one I’ve fashioned in my mind), or a tendency to live in a fantastical future v. the present. But there are those special moments, when the experience of reading lives up to everything I had hoped for, when I become so enraptured in my knitting or reading project that I forget to eat, forget to check the clock, forget that there are thousands of things I should be doing at the moment, and let myself sink into the experience at hand…those are the moments when I do finish what I’ve started. In other words, I’m just waiting for the right inspiration, and in the meantime, I will continue to populate my life with unfinished scarves, half-read stories, and sweaters that are only a suggestion of what they are meant to be. I’ll get around to them….sooner or later (I think). And if not, I need to focus on enjoying the process. And who knows what these (false) starts might turn out to be in the future?

reading update

I’ve been something of a bad blogger lately, which I blame solely on the weather. It’s been so beautiful outside that I’ve transitioned into summer vacation mode, despite the fact that I am not on vacation, that it’s not quite summer, and I still have a bajillion things I should be doing. Time to pull myself out of lala land and get a move-on with the work that needs to be done.

I’ve also been distracted lately by other hobbies, namely knitting. Even though wool and summer weather would not seem to mix, this is the time of year when I could easily spend an entire day working on a number of fiber arts projects. I need to weave dish towels and I’m knitting some projects for my cousin’s twins and my nephew-to-be (because these are gifts, I can’t put the pictures up until I finish them). I think I need to invest in a few books-on-tape so that I can kill two birds with one stone. Although, I am supremely picky about the books I listen to. I’ve purchased a few where the voices were so distracting that I couldn’t actually finish listening to them. Perhaps it would be easier to add extra hours to the day? (note: I have also been distracted by two books–otherwise known as “brain candy”–that are soooo flimsy and light, that I can’t bring myself to put them on my list of books I have read).

Over at A Work in Progress, Danielle mentioned that she tends to have a number of books going at once, but has to delineate a couple that she is reading in earnest. I found myself nodding along at that. I currently have something like 10 books checked out from the library, and I am supposed to be reading my May selection for the Nonfiction Five challenge, I should at least attempt a NYT challenge book, I need to read The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford for the Slaves of Golconda, I’m only halfway through Swann’s Way, and Cervantes has been neglected (which is incredibly unfair as I find Don Quixote delightful to read). In the meantime, there are so many books that keep calling out to me! I find that my life has recently taken on the tone of a poorly organized paper: there’s so much to say, but where the hell is the thesis statement!?

In an effort to organize the paragraphs of my time, then, it’s time to reorganize, to use the cut-and-paste option before I wake up to find that it’s August, a new semester is starting, and all of my well-laid plans (ok, half-baked plans) have come to naught. I found that breaking my school reading into smaller segments really worked for me, so perhaps it’s time to apply that to the hours of my day more generally….(when I work this out, I will no doubt inflict my new schedule on you, my poor readers, if you haven’t walked away by then).

In the meantime, I think I should read more blogs….yeah, that will totally motivate me to do more work….

home again

After my last post, I managed to whittle my choices down to five books to carry with me (four fiction and one biography). Space/weight issues weren’t a problem as we took the train to Washington D.C., but I am ashamed to note that I barely read a single book. Well, that’s not completely true: I did read another 100 pages of Proust’s Swann’s Way (which I am thoroughly enjoying. I’ll have a post on this a bit later, after I can gather my thoughts). He has one of the best descriptions of reading that I have ever come across.

But I only bought one additional book in D.C. (although I did splurge and buy some silk yarn for a lacy scarf). Not bad! (Although I should be buying yarn for baby projects: my cousin will soon be a mom as will my sister-in-law–I have my work cut out for me!).

So, sorry this isn’t a substantial post, more are to come, I promise. Right now Apparent Dip and I are trying to regain our footing. Even though we were only gone for five days it seems like we were away for much longer! So back to work I go….

hmmmm, decisions, decisions….

At last, I have turned in one of the dreaded papers and am FREE! Well, for a few days at least. Tomorrow Apparent Dip and I head out to Washington D.C. and I couldn’t be more excited. We’re taking the train (a first for me) and it’s a ten-hour journey. Which raises the all-important question: What books to bring? I have decided to take a break from academic-ese for the trip, so I’m free to bring “fun” books. However, there’s a good chance I’ll be stopping by some bookstores in D.C., so I don’t want to bring too many along to start with….

Don Quixote and the Tadie biography of Proust are chunksters, but DQ could be just what the doctor ordered for an overloaded brain. And I generally like to have a spread of fiction and non-fiction. Swann’s Way will be making the journey with me, but I start getting nervous: what if I finish the first volume while I’m there? Should I bring the second as a backup? From experience I can almost guarantee that the second volume will never be touched, but that won’t stop me from lugging it along. Perhaps I should at least attempt to bring one of my other challenge books? Oh, if all decisions could be this enjoyable….