ReaderWriterVille

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Category: Weeknotes

Weeknote 17

This is our last week before we hit the road and start the school ratrace again next week. And it starts up as soon as we get back. I’m just hoping for decent weather and no big thunderstorms in the plains.

WORK

I managed to get some more work done this week! Amazing. My coauthor and I have found some interesting things going on with a survey we fielded via mTurk, which may be worth a research note in the end. It’s not completely surprising that mTurk workers are not always who they say they are and that has consequences for research, and many of us have been suspicious of the platform for years, but the way this survey was skewed was intriguing.

My committee is humming along nicely. Everyone is doing their bit and we disagree without being disagreeable. Is there higher praise? I think not.

I have one more almost-finished paper draft to get off my desk and then I will breathe a sigh of relief. And start packing up.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished An Orchestra of Minorities this week. It is an unusual novel, mixing Igbo cosmology with a plot and characters which owe a great deal to classical Western literature from Homer to Milton to Shakespeare. The main character suffers so many tragedies in his life, and in the final section he becomes consumed by a desire for vengeance. The story took some turns I wasn’t expecting, which was enjoyable, and I found the main character Chinonso’s journey sad but believable and important. I agree with reviewers who say the women characters weren’t well developed, but given everyone felt like an archetype I could live with it. I also appreciated the way the trajectory Ndali, the main female character played out, neither vilified nor idealized. The ending is tragic but given the storyline, it was always going to go there somehow.

I also finished Ironopolis, one of my 20 Books of Summer picks, which I had been picking up and putting down for the last month. It’s very good, but it’s a hard read. Set in Middlesborough from the mid-1980s through the present, it tells the story of a sink estate through the voices of half a dozen characters who are connected to each other in various ways. It negotiates the difficult line between sentimentalizing and condescending, but there’s no way around the fact that the lives of people in these positions mostly became worse over this period, as jobs went away, housing fell into disrepair, and drugs and alcohol became plentiful and/or cheap. Of the various books I’ve read with spirits and rural-English mythical beings, I thought this one handled it as well as any. I’ll write up a full review of this and the Obioma soonish.

No TV or movies this week, because we had a friend visiting who helped TheH with necessary household work. We now have a new floor in the guest bathroom and various other improvements. Go them. We ate well, though; lots of fresh fish from the boats at Half Moon Bay.

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Weeknote 16

It was an uneventful week, with very little out-and-about-ness. I minimized movement to give my knee time to recover (tendons and inflammation cannot be exercised/powered through) and it’s the dog days work-wise, so I read and did house stuff, mostly.

WORK

My coauthor and I wrapped up the first draft of our conference paper, so yay for us. It’s a very good paper, at least I think it is, and I can say this because I feel as if my coauthor did most of the work. He’s presenting it as a poster at the conference and I don’t have much left to do.

This week I get to nudge my committees and colleagues to the next stage of our tasks. So email! As I write these weekly notes, I realize how much time I spent either writing email, responding to email, or thinking about which emails I have to deal with and in what capacity. I guess it’s just the 21stC equivalent of memos, but somehow it seems more endless.

I should probably start thinking about what I want to change up in my classes this semester. I’m doing an overload this fall (don’t ask) and for scheduling and other reasons I have three, which I’ve only done one other time. It’s doable as long as I’m very organized (hahahaha) but it’s tiring. One of them is on immigration, which went really well last year but with everything going on I probably need to think about how I’m going to approach it.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished up Lost Children Archive, my fourth Booker longlist read, and I need to write the review. The first half was a slog and I can’t say I really enjoyed it, although it was interesting and I think I could see what the author was trying to do. The second half was much better and very powerful. The book as a whole made me think a lot about where my limits are to reading autofiction: what kind, what works and what doesn’t, etc. I’m now reading the next two more or less together: Ducks, Newburyport and An Orchestra of Minorities. The latter is from the library and I need to get it read before I have to return it. It’s quite compelling and I’m finding it hard to put down even though the style is more ornate than I usually go for. Ducks is hypnotic, at least I’ve fallen into the rhythm quite easily. I don’t know how it will feel for 1000 pages, but so far I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s really accomplished.

We watched the next Maigret and Foyle’s War episodes, both of which were about attitudes toward immigrants. They hit a bit close to home and I wouldn’t say they were entirely enjoyable, although they were excellently done. I’m just so worn out and my ability to cope with endless, avoidable tragedy is at a low. The Jackson Brodie installment we watched, which was merely about routine corruption and murder, seemed almost mundane in comparison, and how sad is that?

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Weeknote 15

I didn’t write a Weeknote last week, so this is two weeks’ worth.

WORK

Work has been slow and unproductive. I’ve had trouble sitting down and writing (probably why I didn’t do a Weeknote last week, it’s hard to report lack of progress. But not talking about it doesn’t make it go away).

I was also avoiding work email, but I’m catching up now. The summer is really almost over, because the work emails that aren’t about stuff that had to be done in the summer are starting to roll in. *cries*

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

While avoiding work I managed to get a fair bit of reading done. The Booker list came out on the 26th (at midnight BST, so at 4pm CDT on the 25th) and I dove into the ones I had access to. I read and reviewed My Sister the Serial Killer and I also finished John Lanchester’s The Wall, which I need to review. I then started Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive. In addition, I made progress on Ironopolis and read a Regency anthology from the Harlequin TBR, both for my 20 Books of Summer challenge. I have a feeling I won’t complete the challenge, but I still have five weeks to go so you never know. Barb said I’d picked a challenging list and she was right. It doesn’t help that I have a bunch of long and/or concentration-requiring books on it.

Or that I’m reading and listening to books that aren’t on the list! I’ve had the audiobook of Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? on the TBR forever. I read all the Palliser novels back in high school, but I’ve wanted to reread them. The narration is by Timothy West and he’s wonderful. I’m listening when I hike or jog by myself, and the audio is over 32 hours long, so it’s not going all that fast but it’s great. I’m impressed yet again by how Trollope can combine unsentimental acuity with empathy. I just finished a seaside party section that is up there with Emma‘s Box Hill scene.

On the watching front, we continued with the second Maigret (just as good as the first) and started rewatching Foyle’s War from the beginning. Everyone is so young! I’d forgotten how good the early seasons were, and how much Horowitz shows you the complex and not always admirable ways that different Brits reacted to the early months of the War. The first two episodes take us up to Dunkirk. I’m assuming you’ve all seen them, but if you haven’t, get started! And Michael Kitchen is brilliant.

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Weeknote 14

A week full of work stuff, but mostly moving forward on a number of projects and meeting deadlines, so the next week will be freer.

WORK

I had a bunch of phone meetings which were very productive and pleasant. If you’re going to have lots of admin, it helps to have a minimum of conflict.

I’m bored with writing about work. It’s summer!

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished Iain M. Banks’s Matter and found it extremely satisfying. It’s a mashup of medieval fantasy, family drama (which of course goes with medieval fantasy), Big Dumb Object SF, and space opera with Banks’s patented Mindships. The ending comes all of a rush, as usual, and there is a ton of exposition, as usual. Some readers dislike this installment of the Culture novels a lot, some love it. I’m in the latter camp. Oh, I alternated reading and listening to the audiobook, which had someone that wasn’t Peter Kenny as the narrator. Sacrilege! He was fine, but I missed Kenny. I hear his voice whenever I read Banks now.

On the watching front, we discovered that our library’s Hoopla (which we can use via Roku on the TV) has a bunch of the original French Inspector Maigret TV shows. They are from 1992 onward, but they feel as if they were made in the 1970s, and they are set in the 1950s, so they feel very vintage and noir. The whole cast is excellent and Bruno Cremer is perfect as Maigret. I haven’t seen Michael Gambon or Rowan Atkinson in the role, but I have trouble believing either can embody the character as well. One nice thing about the language is that it is straightforward enough that I can understand a lot of it (although the subtitles are very good for non-French-speakers). Anyway, I recommend the series if you have access to it and like the novels.

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Weeknote 13

It’s July. Good grief. Oh well, at least I have six weeks left before school starts. And we finally have a stove, so we can cook normal meals again.

WORK

Same as it ever was. Although this past week I’ve been doing as much reading as memo writing and phone meetings. That makes a nice change and reminds me of why I got into this profession in the first place. It’s especially rewarding to read work by younger scholars and see how my fields of research are advancing.

But have no fear, the admin isn’t going away. Our chair just sent out next year’s operational memo and everyone is overburdened as usual. I’m grateful to be in a department with no slackers, but it would be nice to have a light year without having to go on leave. Still, our department is more fortunate than many and I’m not complaining. Much. 😉

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I’m a bit bogged down in my reading, in the sense that I’m having trouble finding books where the reading experience is fully satisfying. It’s not the books, it’s me. I’m about a quarter of the way through Ironopolis by Glen James Brown and it’s very good. But it’s also reminding me of how depressing and sad the world is in some ways, and I’m burning out on that. I’ve been reading more lit fic than anything else for the past few years and while I’m enjoying and appreciating the books a great deal, they’re emotionally demanding.

To get back into the reading groove I turned to genre fiction in the form of Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. I had DNF’d the first one years ago but this time I was prepared for the sort-of-procedural it was and I had a great time reading it. I fell into the world she created and wanted to stay in it when I finished, so I went straight to the second installment. That one I didn’t love quite as much; as Liz and Barb remarked at Goodreads, it was probably the back-to-back reading, which never works that well for me. You start seeing all the author’s trademarks and tics. And this one was even more ruminative and discursive than the first book. Still, the two novels together had the intended effect of helping me immerse myself in a fictional world.

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