Archive for May, 2008

London Calling

It is now less than a week before I board a plane for my trip to London and Paris.  You know what that means…the all important question arises: What books do I bring with me?  I don’t want to bring too many because I have plans (oh so many plans) for shopping while in London (I get to go to Persephone Books!).  But in the meantime, I have a plane ride to get through…

Apparent Dip and I are reading Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, so I could bring that along, but the version I have is a hard-cover Everyman edition of the entire Cairo Trilogy.  Do I bring it and read the rest of the books?  Do I bring Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fate?  All of a sudden the number of books that I just have to read has skyrocketed.  I’m hoping to finish Victor Serge’s The Unforgiving Years, before I leave, because I hate bringing along books that are already in progress (I always finish them too early in the flight) and because it is haunting me.  I started it last night before bed and it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up.  Or perhaps I should bring along Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy?  By the way, can anyone explain to me why I seem to be obsessed with novels set around WWII?  And I apparently love those epic/multi-generational tales.  I don’t call this blog Loose Baggy Monster for nothin’.

As you can see, I am horrible when it comes to making a decision about reading material on flights.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated…

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I’m free!!!

Well, after an all-nighter last Thursday (I am getting waaaaay to old for those I’ve discovered), I turned in that last paper and the semester is over!  Well, it’s almost over.  It won’t feel like it’s behind me until I get that last grade sometime today or tomorrow.  Then I’ll have closure.

But I’ve already rebounded after a weekend of sleeping and drinking wine and knitting (of which I hope to have pictures soon, I swear, because it’s pretty lace that I’ll never wear but can’t seem to stop knitting).  And I have started my next projects.

PROJECT THE FIRST: I bought a filing cabinet!  And manila folders!  And I’m sooooo excited to get my articles organized–I’m practically drooling.  Because yes, I am a filing nerd.

PROJECT THE SECOND: I’m getting a couple of summer reading lists together.  One comprised of fun books and another of books in my field that I need to read ASAP.  There’s a good chance I’ll be able to petition to have all of the grad courses I’ve taken as a non-matriculated wannabe transfer over, which means: I’m halfway through my English M.A.!  That means, GRE again this summer (ugh!) and getting my butt in gear for Ph.D. program applications come fall.  While I really don’t like this process, it does give me more excuses to file things, so that’s a bonus.  Ooooh, I’m thinking some sort of color-coding might be necessary to fool me into thinking I’m enjoying the whole deal…

PROJECT THE THIRD: I have four writing projects I want to work on this summer. 1) Revise a paper from this past semester.  2) Revise/rethink/completely rewrite a paper from my first semester as a wannabe.  3) Start research for a fun creative nonfiction project.  4) Write a fourth paper for my old advisor in history.  And somewhere in there, I need to raise $1000 for an accordion.

PROJECT THE FOURTH: I need to get some language skills back.  I want to start teaching myself some Yiddish, and I need to refresh my French and German.  And if I can get to it, my Russian as well.  I need to see if our crappy library here has any audiobooks in foreign languages.  Sometimes just listening to a foreign language and blocking out English altogether helps.  When I was taking a translation course, I discovered that I could only listen to Russian books or classical music while translating.  English broke the spell.

So, I’ll be back soon with book lists I’m sure, and pictures of lace, and other fun stuff.  In the meantime, I am going to surround myself with lovely pens, manila folders, and articles…

The process of writing…

…is like getting sweat from a stone.

I’ve recently read a number of posts about the process of writing and it’s made me think a bit about my own “process” (I don’t remember where, exactly, but if I find the posts, I’ll put up the links). Actually, “process” is rather a polite term for the caffeine-induced, anxiety-wracked haze that drives most of my writing. I have a confession to make: I am a binge writer. I have tried to work in a more methodical way, hammering out a bit at a time, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried outlines, pages of notes, anything to prevent me from writing everything in a mad dash at the end of the semester (ok, not everything–for example, I don’t actively sit my butt down in my chair and write every day, which I really need to start doing). But luckily for me, I am just starting my the next stage of my graduate work, so there is time to improve. I need to rethink and retool my process. It really is quite pathetic that I am 31, have been in grad school far longer than I care to remember, and still write like I did when I was 21.

So, here are the promises I’m making to myself for next semester. It may not work perfectly, and I’m sure I will still struggle, but it’s a start.

FIRST: I will try to write every day. My current schedule for research papers looks a bit like this: 1) think of topic. 2) Check out every single book I can find that pertains to said topic. Download and print out articles. 3) Start a binder dedicated just to the materials I have on this topic (I include printouts of the books I’ve looked up at the library so that I don’t repeat myself and I write notes about whether the books are applicable or not–at least, I do this in an ideal sense. It doesn’t always work out that way). 4) Read/skim the pertinent materials. 5) Get wrapped up in the everyday work of the semester and forget everything I’ve just read/skimmed. Not such a good method. Thus, promise number two.

SECOND: I will try and be more methodical about my reading. I will read Inter-Library Loan books first and take notes. That way, I can order them again near the end of the semester if necessary, but will not find myself clutching the book feverishly as the librarian on duty tries to wrestle it from my anxious grasp.

THIRD: I will accept the fact that I am a binge writer and plan accordingly. In other words, I will try to stage/induce the binge a bit earlier in the semester. In order to do this I have a rather devious plan. I am always on the ball in the beginning of a semester and I have little trouble completing the reading ahead of time. But, like the silly person I am, when this happens I sit back and twiddle my thumbs instead of reading ahead. Because really, why would I do that? So, new goal: when I’ve finished ahead of time, I will immediately pick up (and read) the books from the end of the semester. Sneaky, eh? That way, in the last month of the semester I can schedule a writing binge, skim over the books I’ve already read so I’m ready for class, and not be up at four in the morning the day before a paper is due, dashing off gobbledy-gook that only faintly resembles complete sentences.

If I can keep these promises, there is a chance that I will find myself in a wholly new frame of mind at the end of my semester. Will I still be stressed out? Of course! If I wasn’t the people who know and love me might think I had a lobotomy (I prefer to think that my neuroses make me lovable. Did I mention that I am borderline delusional as well?). But I will hopefully not be in the state I’m in right now. When I emerge from the dungeon of my office (I have to use my imagination here as my office doesn’t actually have doors, and it’s aboveground, and freshly painted) …as I was saying, when I emerge from the door-free and quite lovely dungeon that is my office, I often feel like a younger, female, beardless, and not-politically-oppressed version of Dr. Manette in A Tale of Two Cities. Except that I can’t make shoes. But who knows? Check back on Friday and I just might have figured out how to get sweat from a stone.