Another Sunday, another Weeknote. And already I’m feeling a bit stressed because I didn’t finish what I meant to. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything, just other things.
The paper is closer to being off my desk but not yet off my desk. I cracked something that had been eluding me for a couple of weeks, though, so that was progress. Now it’s a matter of getting it down on paper. I should have the bulk of it to my coauthor by Tuesday and then it will take another day or two to polish off the rest of what I need to do, while he’s working on the part I’ve given him.
I had multiple meetings about administrative stuff with colleagues this week. Of course I’m not supposed to but that’s the price you pay when you go to the office. And when things need to get done or they’ll be bigger and much worse when it is the proper time to work on them. But I think we solved a couple of issues that I couldn’t have addressed by myself, and I should be able to move stuff on to the next round this week. If I tie myself to a chair, since writing memos is not in the top 100 things I enjoy doing. Bullet points! Problem-solution format!
One more letter of recommendation and some emails. A doddle.
I was about to type: and then maybe I can get back to other writing I’ve been wanting to do. Which is exactly the wrong way to think about it. It has to be incorporated into all this other stuff I’m doing. One of the mistakes academics who devote a lot of time and attention to teaching make is to think you can do the other work, the non-outward-facing work, in down times like weekends, non-teaching-related days, summers. But that’s not how it works. It has to be part of your regular practice.
I’m in the midst of a couple of books this week. I took a break from the Man Booker International list and started Country by Michael Hughes, which I’ve had out via ILL for the last two months but haven’t managed to read. It goes back this weekend so it’s now or never. So far it’s really good. Hughes relocates the characters and storyline of The Iliad to 1990s Northern Ireland. We have characters named Achill, Pat, and Nellie. The writing is musical and recalls Homer while still being entirely modern and Irish. Cathy of 746Books has an excellent review here. It doesn’t come out in the US until October, but I hope it gets a good promotional push. And for you audiobook fans, look for it in that version.
The other book I picked up this week is the Spanish authors Javier Cercas’s Soldiers of Salamis, which was just re-released in an ebook version. I could tell you it’s a novel about historical memory and honoring participants on both sides of a conflict and trying to understand the motivations of ordinary people in times of great division, and that wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s also a warm, friendly approachable novel about Big Themes, and reading it is like having a relaxed conversation with a learned and articulate friend while sitting on the front porch, or in comfy chairs in your living room, drinking coffee or wine or beer. It’s only when you’re done that you realize how deeply and profoundly you’ve been engaging with important topics and how much you’ve figured out without trying. Cercas, like his fellow Spanish-language authors Marias, Vasquez, and Muñoz Molina, writes autofiction at a level that is so much broader and deeper in scope than their more navel-gazing Anglophone and French counterparts. Not that navel-gazing is bad when done well! But this is an order of magnitude different.
The MBI shortlist and the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) longlist both come out this week. That should make for lively conversations at Goodreads. I’m not planning to be a completist on either, but I’m hoping a couple of the books I read (and one I want to read) make the former, and the latter is always good for new reading ideas.
I have been neglecting my Hobonichi, which is never a good sign. Not doing ToDo lists, not writing down all my appointments, not logging the stuff I usually log. Time to get back on the horse. And speaking of time, last fall I ordered a clock stamp along with my 2019 diary. I’ve yet to use it. I think this had better be the week. I kept track of how I spent my time a few years ago, and it was illuminating. This year, when I have so much discretionary time, I’ve been avoiding doing that because I don’t want to know how much time I “waste.” But isn’t that always the case? It doesn’t help not to know.
In other news, the Mostly Dumbphone Life continues. I put music and podcasts on my Nokia, so I listen to those instead of reading news and other timepass stuff when I’m commuting, waiting in line, or otherwise standing/sitting around. Since it doesn’t have email, checking it isn’t the first thing I do when I get up! That is kind of exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I still look at it pretty quickly, but not as soon as I turn on the bedside light. And guess what, nothing bad has happened. When I’m at the office or working on non-research things I still have notifications enabled during weekday working hours, but the rest of the time I can go an hour or two or even more without looking at my email. Sometimes I even forget to check. If I can turn this into a habit by the time I go back to admin and teaching stuff in the fall, it could make my days a lot less frenetic.
Get the paper off my desk. Spend a few hours on a different project. Draft the admin memo I need to send to a couple of people for comments. Start logging my days and activities fully. Stay away from the office at least three of the next five days. Work in the library or at home.
Spring has finally arrived. The magnolia trees are in full bloom, the daffodils are on their way out, and the day lilies and hydrangea bushes are showing shoots. The flowering trees aren’t quite as thick with buds this year, but there should still be plenty of color.
Looking forward to your reviews of the two books you mentioned. Both sound quite interesting.
Barb, I’ll definitely talk about them when I’m done. I’m about halfway through Soldiers of Salamis now and Part II is about the war itself. The writing style is a bit different (still excellent but less chatty) and Cercas conveys so much about the change in political mood in the 1930s and the rise of the Falange. All in a minimum of words but without sounding spare and terse. I can see why people love this book and consider it a modern classic.