ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: reading

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. đŸ˜‰

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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Weeknote 12

Weeknotes are back. Which means, sadly, that my vacation is over and normal life has resumed.

Work

I spent the week catching up. Emails, phone meetings, memo writing, and other sundry administrative tasks. Don’t you love forms that must be signed the old fashioned way? That means receiving the form, printing it, signing it, scanning it, and then emailing it onward. An electronic signature would take a fraction of the time to sign and send back. And no, this isn’t a legal document or a HIPAA/FERPA form. Sigh.

Reading/Watching/Listening

I am behind on my 20 Books of Summer list. I am reading, but not as much, and I’ve been reading non-list books like Iain M. Bank’s Culture novel, Matter. It’s very good, although frequently quite discursive in that patented Banks way. But I’m enjoying it. I did manage to read Sarah Morgan’s most recent release, which I wrote about in a previous post, and I liked it a lot.

I’m still thinking about the Women’s Fiction/Genre Romance debate. A lot of my romland friends are bummed by the switch to WF by longtime romance authors, but the market for contemporary and historical romance is just not very profitable for publishers anymore. If you don’t want to self-publish then you pretty much have to move into a romance-adjacent genre, or at least that’s how it seems to me. It isn’t new for romance authors to shift to more high-profile genres with hardback options; category authors started doing it in the 1980s and 1990s. It might just be that social media amplifies the voices who dislike these moves, or it may be that social media and the internet more generally allow more people to see publishing shifts happen in real time than was the case in the past. Anyway, I’m still going on a author-by-author, book-by-book basis.

I fell way behind on my podcasts but have been catching bits and pieces of the Women’s World Cup. England v. USA on Tuesday should be something. England demolished Norway and the USA did not look its best while beating France, so who knows.

We watched another episode of Good Omens (still fun) and the first episode of the most recent season of Endeavour, which has finally premiered on PBS. We were gone for the first one and missed the second one, but PBS gives us a few weeks to catch up for free if we give them our email. It was good! Although Endeavour’s moustache is not. It’s very true to 1970s style, I admit, but I keep wanting to reach into the TV and brush it off his face.

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Weeknote 10

Things are starting to heat up, what with getting ready to go on vacation, doing California house stuff, and herding cats I mean colleagues for work.

Work

I could just cut and paste from last week: admin, advising, etc.

I did get a book chapter sent off, though, so I can add something to the “my own damn work” side of the ledger.

Reading/Watching/Making

The biggest Reading/Watching event was the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool, which Liverpool won comfortably. The score was 2-0 and Tottenham did press them, but a penalty to Liverpool 22 seconds in (inadvertent handball, but still a handball) meant the game took on a set cast very early. It wasn’t a pretty or exciting game, but I’ll take it, thank you very much. The team was fantastic this year and they deserved to come out with a major trophy at the end of it. Somewhere between 250k and 500k people jammed the streets of Liverpool for the victory parade, which is pretty impressive given the city population is 550k, and I’m pretty sure there are some Everton fans living there.

What does this have to do with reading, you might ask? Well, I’ve been reading David Peace’s wonderful novel about legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, Red or Dead, since it was published in 2013. I start it, get 100-300 pages in, put it down, come back to it, rinse and repeat. It’s a book for literary footie fans, which can’t be a huge demographic. But I find it wonderful and fascinating and I don’t want it to end. I picked it up again this spring and I’m more than halfway through (it’s over 700 pages of minute details about Shankly and the football seasons). The repetition makes it hypnotic and almost zen-like, and Shankly is the hero we wish we had these days. Far from perfect but utterly admirable. I think I’ve been unable to finish because I don’t want it to end, but now that we’ve won a trophy again and look like the team Shankly created, it might be time to finally read the whole thing. And I can always start over when I’m done, right?

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarrĂ©

I’ve been slowly rereading all the Smiley novels by John le CarrĂ©. I first started reading them in college, so decades ago, and I reread them all a couple of times after that, but my more recent le CarrĂ© reading has been limited to the post-Smiley books, e.g., The Tailor of Panama, A Perfect Spy, and The Night Manager. When he brought back Smiley in A Legacy of Spies a couple of years ago, I realized that I didn’t want to read it until I had Smiley firmly fixed in my head again. I don’t like glomming authors anymore because it makes me too aware of their tics and lessens my reading pleasure. So Legacy languishes on my bookshelf while I make my way through the decades.

I took a good-sized break between A Small Town in Germany and TTSS, but then once I picked up the latter I read it in less than a week. My memory of reading it is patchy. I remembered the Big Reveal, of course, and Smiley and Ann’s estrangement, and Connie Sachs stuck in my head. But despite having seen the miniseries twice and the recent film, that was about it. In earlier readings, including rereads, I would often get lost in the puzzles. The first time I read it I was speeding through to find out what happened. The next times were slower, but I would still miss things.

This time, though, I had the almost perfect reading experience. I had a sense of familiarity as every character appeared on the stage, and I followed every twist and turn. It’s a fantastic story. Le CarrĂ© based it on the Cambridge Five, and his mole, Gerald, very much resembles them. We know from almost the beginning that Gerald is someone high up in the Circus (the spy agency, named that because it’s located at Cambridge Circus in London). The question is, which one of the handful of top men is he? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Beggarman, or someone else?

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