Weeknote 6

The flu is dragging on but I’m definitely improving.

Work

No writing this past week because (a) it was a short week in the office and (b) I was swamped with admin and teaching stuff. My sabbatical is basically over, whether it is supposed to be or not.

I had hours and hours of meetings with students and colleagues once I got back. The student meetings were enjoyable, the colleague ones a mix of enjoyable and difficult-work-related. More of the latter to come this week. Isn’t it always the way? But they’re necessary.

It’s interesting to write up these weeknotes and realize how much time I spend in appointments and meetings. I think I block that information from my memory, even though most of it is written down in my calendar. But the impromptu ones aren’t, and they are more frequent than I realize.

Reading/Watching

I continued reading North and South, which I’m about 3/4 of the way through at this point. I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m still not crazy about the dialect but I know it’s accurate (Gaskell’s husband wrote about Yorkshire dialect, I read somewhere), and it reminds me of Heyer. I also started and then set aside a Man Booker International shortlist book that I’d picked up last year: Annie Ernaux’s autofiction-memoir The Years. It is highly rated by the various MBI readers on GR and whose blogs I follow, but I found it a slog. The tone is unvarying (I’ve read the first 50 pages) and Ernaux charts her life through private and public events. I don’t mind when I don’t recognize the cultural references, but every single paragraph is related in the same pitch and style, and I just couldn’t keep going. I might dip into it again, but not now.

I also read a library book that was close to expiring: Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans. I’d been looking forward to it because it is a book set in the Mojave Desert area of California featuring stories about immigrants and other residents in a small town. I wrote a brief review at GR. It was mostly successful on its own terms, and at times I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t crazy about the style, and the characters, especially the supporting ones, tended to show up when needed and then disappear. The main characters were engaging, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m just not part of the audience for contemporary books about educated, cosmopolitan people in their 20s and early 30s. Their lives are so different from what I and my similarly educated and placed cohort experienced, and I find myself impatient. Not so much in a #getoffmylawn way, but more in the sense that yes, things are bad for you, but not orders or magnitude worse than for a lot of people then or now. I think that’s why I’m enjoying the historical and 19thC fiction I’m reading. These days I prefer socially engaged fiction that isn’t mostly inward-looking.

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