The newest member of the menagerie

Because it’s Friday, and apparently crazy cat ladies* post pictures of cats on Fridays, I’ve decided to join the club! Without further ado, I present the newest member of our menagerie (although if her parents contact us, we’ll have to say goodbye, which is going to be VERY difficult for me).

This is Zoe. We found her on our porch on Wednesday. After a long night (only two hours of sleep for me), much caterwauling, and a vet visit, Zoe is now free to roam about the house and, as you can see, help me review for the GRE subject test. I’m a sucker for torties, and she’s a very sweet little cat. She’s also VERY helpful:

Apparently she thinks the GREs are a waste of time and boring to boot. Although they do make nice pillows.

*note: I don’t think of them in this way, but several people have determined that I am, indeed, a crazy cat lady, so I figure I might as well own it!

Heelllloooo!

Note: when you read the title to this post, imagine John Stewart doing his Queen Elizabeth impersonation (something Apparent Dip threatened to do in England every time we met someone).

My brain is too scattered to make much sense today, so bullets it is!

  • Just thought I would stop in and say hi!  I realize it’s been a while, but boy-howdy, how time does fly when I actually attempt to get some work done.  I’m actually reading articles!  And revising my seminar paper draft!  And creating bibliographies!  Oh my!
  • In other news, I had surgery last week and I’m almost back to normal.  I have bruises all over my abdomen, and I think my belly button was somewhat insulted by the procedure, but all is well!
  • I have apparently had too much caffeine this morning, as the exclamation points are threatening to take over (if they haven’t already done so).
  • As of today, I only have two weeks left at my job before I can declare with pride that I am no longer a wannabe grad student but an actual grad student (ok, perhaps pride is a bit of a reach, but it sure beats the pants off of what I do now!  Damn, another pesky exclamation mark).
  • I have been reading fun books as well.  I’m continuing to enjoy the Paul Scott novel from my last post, and I also have a slew of non-fiction books in the ever-increasing pile o’ doom at the side of my bed.  Diarmid MacCullough’s The Reformation: A History, is, well, a history of the religious turmoil of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  It’s extremely well-written and engaging and in a surprising move, it dovetails nicely with Arthur Herman’s How the Scots Invented the Modern World (which I might leave behind in favor of T. M. Devine’s The Scottish Nation).
  • I have discovered an alternative career path if the whole grad school-leads-to-a-bajillion-years-on-the-job-market path doesn’t work out: I need to become a product/software tester for magazines like MacLife.  Seriously…I think I own every word processing, bibliographic, productivity tool/program known to man.
  • I owe Emily a meme response, and I do believe I’ll get to it before hell freezes over, but I have decided that one of the reasons I’m actually being productive in my work life is because I’m not procrastinating as much on the blog.  So so sad.  Before you know it, I’ll actually be writing papers weeks before the day they’re due instead of the night before!  What is the world coming to?

See?  Told you I was random/boring today.  I’m going to blame the anesthesia…

Happy go lucky

Last night Apparent Dip and I went to a bookstore (no surprise there, it’s something we do two to three times a week it seems). As the ever-insightful Emily has pointed out, books are like drugs, and I need a regular fix. I don’t always buy books when we go, but there’s something about walking between the shelves that rejuvenates me and soothes me when I’m stressed. Anyhoo, last night I picked up a copy of the new MLA Manual of Style (I’ve documented my nerdy love of style manuals before) and sat down with my tall Americano with a triple shot of espresso (my other drug of choice). And then it hit me. Here I was in a cafe reading through a style manual, which I picked up in part because it’s something I need for work/school. When was the last time I just randomly picked up a book to read? When was the last time I wandered through the shelves without having a specific title or author in mind?

My method of selecting books has changed dramatically over the years. As it should, I suppose, but I also miss the days when I was more random in my choices. I have fond memories of the public library in my hometown, where I spent a lot of time in the summers (because it was air conditioned and filled with books, what else does a girl need?). I would wander around the fiction stacks, completely oblivious to generic divisions, bestselling lists, etc. And I would find a book that looked interesting–usually one that was really fat with tiny print–and I would hide up in the children’s book section and read for what felt like hours (our library had this fake “train” thing upstairs–little cubbyholes with cushions where kids could hang out and read. I’d stack the cushions up against the doorway so no one could see in). In Fanny Herself (which, by the way, is partially based in my hometown), Edna Ferber has a great paragraph describing Fanny’s reading habits:

Fanny Brandeis had a way of going to the public library on Saturday afternoons (with a bag of very sticky peanut candy in her pocket, the little sensualist!), and there, huddled in a chair, dreamily and almost automatically munching peanut brittle, her cheeks growing redder and redder in the close air of the poorly ventilated room, she would read, and read, and read. There was no one to censor her reading, so she read promiscuously, wading gloriously through trash and classic and historical and hysterical alike, and finding something of interest in them all (41).*

This image really resonated with me when I first read it, and it continues to do so. I, too, used to read promiscuously, often to the point where one of the librarians would wag her head disapprovingly when I checked out books that she felt were inappropriate for my age (Nothing smutty, really. I just had delusions of grandeur and tried to read War and Peace when I was in seventh grade. I liked to carry it around with me–it felt solid and full of potential in my arms).

I haven’t really read promiscuously in quite a while. So last night I threw caution to the wind and picked up a book that I’d never heard of before, by an author I’d never read about. It’s a fat book, and it’s the first of two volumes, so I know that if I finish and like the first one, another fat book awaits. It contains the first two books in Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, The Jewel in the Crown and The Day of the Scorpion. And although I feel somewhat guilty that I’m not reading books that will patch the holes in my literary background for grad school, there’s a sense of excitement every time I pick this book up. There’s an adventure waiting for me in those pages. I have no idea if I will appreciate it when I look back from the other side, but for the time being, I feel like the younger Sarah is standing next to me and reminding me why I love to read in the first place. Now I just need to find some very sticky peanut brittle!

* Edna Ferber. Fanny Herself. New York: Grossett and Dunlap, 1917. Google Books.

Mercury must be in retrograde

[Warning: this is a post that begins with navel gazing and ends with boring drivel.  No pictures of London and Paris yet.  Or yarn.  Or cupcakes.  But all of that will come, I PROMISE]

So, I had every intention of posting last week, but then I had a health scare.  One relating to my previous crazy health thing.  It turns out I need to have surgery again.  It’s nothing too serious, because this time they know what they’re looking for, but it’s still rather unsettling.  Good news though: I will have enforced recovery (meaning: reading) time!  And although I will be recovering from the foggy joys of anesthesia, I’m a fast healer and relish any opportunity to not do much (I’m usually efficient in what I do because at heart, I’m the laziest person I know).

On the reading front, most of my time has been spent doing research.  I’m coming into the MA program here as a second year student, which means I have to choose three papers to revise and present in the spring.  I have two picked out and a third waiting in the wings (maybe).  Only I’ve discovered a problem: they’re crap.  I’ve blogged about my pathetic research method before.  Turns out that downloading and printing off journal articles isn’t quite the same thing as reading them.  Who’d have thunk it?  But I’m thoroughly enjoying Peter Marshall’s biography of “my man,” William Godwin, and I have a pile of articles that I can’t wait to get into.  Then it’s Edna’s turn (as in Edna Ferber–I have a bad habit of assuming close friendships with dead authors). After that, Aphra Behn might get a second chance to shine, but we’ll see about that one.

And one last thing in this incredibly boring post: I LOVE my new research buddy Zotero.  Love it.  Because it’s free.  And I’m cheap.

What I learned on my blogging vacation

  • I have no patience–seriously, I had envisioned a long, long time away from the blog. The result? A frickin’ week (unless you count my trip to Europe and then it’s something like two-three weeks).
  • I still need to find some sort of balance between writing on the blog and writing for work. I do believe my work suffered last semester because I spent way too much time writing/reading blogs. No more! I’m going to go for one post a week I think (I know, I know, that’s the rate I was writing at last semester as well, BUT, this time I vow to write once a week and not feel guilty if I don’t write any more than that).
  • I have a problem with guilt. Oh wait, that’s nothing new. What do you expect when I come from a Catholic-Jewish background? It’s like a doubly-potent-guilt-trip laser beam is constantly aimed at me. Oy.
  • For a while I tried to figure out what kind of blog I was writing. It’s not really a book blog. It’s not really an academic blog. Oh wait! The answer’s in my blog name: Loose Baggy Monster. I’m not a fan of Tolstoy for nothing!
  • I have no patience. Thought it was worth repeating.

Anyhoo, I think I’m back, and coming up will be a post with pictures! of London! and Paris! and the books I bought while I was there!

Like a bad tv show…

Well, Paris and London were amazing.  My high school French came in handy, I ate nutella crepes, I walked around two amazing cities, and I decided that being parted from my computer was actually pretty great.  So for the time being, I’ve decided to re-prioritize things a bit.  I have a lot of writing projects on my plate at the moment, and I need to make sure my energy is headed in the right direction.  So the blog will be on hiatus for an indefinite period.  But I’m sure, like the bad tv shows of my childhood, I’ll be back in the future.  And I might pop in every once in a while.  And I’ll continue reading other people’s blogs, albeit much less than I used to. So ta for now!

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…