ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: Weeknotes

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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Weeknote 5

Sorry for the delayed Weeknote and the radio silence over the last few days. I’m still recovering from the flu and we drove cross-country so I was mostly offline.

Work

I managed to do some this past week! I got out my unkillable zombie manuscript and started mapping out revisions, chapter by chapter. And they actually work. Maybe letting my brain wander around through the various options was a good idea. All that not-writing has turned into writing. Go me. I still need to finish the chapter outlines, but I will be able to keep quite a bit of what I have, which I wasn’t expecting. And the new parts are mostly things I’ve already been working on, so I don’t have as much to figure out from scratch as I originally thought.

I’m also back in meetings and admin. I am really going to pay for this semester off, I can tell already. One task is going to start this summer. Blergh. I thought I would be able to ease into old-person-colleague status and let the newly tenured, newly promoted, eager younger colleagues take over and I would just teach and do research. Ah well. Maybe next year.

Reading/Watching

I’m still reading North and South, which I’m enjoying a great deal. It’s more dramatic than I remember Cranford being, but now that I’m halfway through the romance is definitely picking up and we’ve got the impending deaths out of the way. My hold on Ali Smith’s Spring came in, so I will take a break from Gaskell and read that over the next week. It’s received some very good reviews and I’m curious to see where she goes in this seasonal installment.

In addition, spurred by an intriguing Goodreads review, I read Jarett Kobek’s latest work, Only Americans Burn in Hell. He’s the author of I Hate the Internet, which I haven’t read but now want to. OABiH is like being hit over the head with a mallet for 200+ pages, but it says a lot of things (over and over again) that I think need to be said. Kobek links consumption, surveillance, and capitalism in ways that I wish more people would pay attention to. We’re getting better with our realization that online life makes us give up a lot of privacy and control, quite apart from the cognitive effects it has on our modes of thought and interaction. But we’re still not really willing to acknowledge that the system itself is broken. We talk about the great friends we’ve made online (which is true) and the way it offers a window into the world for people who are isolated (which is also true), but we’re not really willing to confront the full individual and social costs.

I can’t decide whether to review the book on Goodreads, because (irony alert) that’s giving Amazon free content, which is part of his argument against GR and other platforms. And I’m not sure I can fully recommend it, given the mallet-to-head aspect. But I’m glad I read it.

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Weeknote 4

A lost week, for the most part. Although I did get to read a bit and watch movies and sports when I was awake.

Felled by the flu

No “Work” category this week because I didn’t do any. I woke up Monday morning with a sore and swollen throat which turned into a full-blown case of the flu. Yes I had my flu shot, and I’d avoided even a cold to this point. But this isn’t the longest flu season in years for nothing. I kept seeing news reports on TV about how the flu was persisting into spring. No, being one of many did not make me feel better.

On the plus side, I’m almost completely off the cold meds and I’m only coughing myself awake about once a night now. And I did manage to get some email and writing done yesterday. So the trajectory is positive!

We won’t talk about allergy season, though.

Reading/Watching

In between bouts of napping and full-on sleeping I managed to read a bit. I’m now in the middle of three extremely long books: Red or Dead, In the Night of Time, and now Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I pulled the last off my shelf because I wanted something that was engaging but not too demanding, and Gaskell fits the bill perfectly. Although I read a couple of her other novels ages ago, I’ve never read this one. It’s a real Condition of England novel, pitting Hampshire- and London-raised Margaret Hale against powerful mill owner John Thornton in Milton (Manchester), Darkshire (Lancashire). Margaret befriends a consumptive girl, Bessy , and her father, who joins a strike against Thornton and the other mill owners. And that’s as far as I’ve read. It’s got drama, romance, social commentary, and lots of Mancunian dialect.

I also managed to finish my TBR Challenge book and somehow cobble together a review, which is posted here. I also read a lovely Hugo-nominated novelette by Zen Cho and a newly released lit fic about white and Japanese Californians in World War 2 through the 1980s, and I DNF’d another new release. That writeup is here.

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Weeknote 3

It felt like a busier week than it probably was, in part because I had unexpected appointments (and cancellations) that changed the way I thought it would unfold.

Work

I’m done with letters and recommendations for the season, I’m pretty sure. But I kept meeting with grad students and undergrads. They are rewarding, no question, but I have to prepare for them.

I was supposed to be in town in part to participate in the campus visit of a distinguished professor of South Asian studies who would be giving public lectures and smaller presentations as well as lunching and dining with faculty and university officers. Alas, the giant storm that blew through the center of the country made it impossible for the Distinguished Visitor to visit. It was a big disappointment, not only because these visits are organized months in advance, but also because the talks and meetings promised to be particularly interesting. I hope it can be rescheduled.

I also had impromptu meetings about department issues that needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. And yes, I’m supposed to be not meeting on this stuff, but that’s not always feasible. At least I’m out of town for this week’s slate of important stuff. Here’s hoping I won’t retrospectively wish I’d been there for them.

Writing, what is that? Oh yeah, I remember!

Reading/Listening

I finished the two books I talked about last week and they were just as good as I thought they’d be. I owe you reviews of them, and they’re coming, I promise! I paused for a bit, because when you finish two excellent reads it can be hard to pivot to something new. I burned time reading about the books on the BTBA longlist and tracking them down via Overdrive, Hoopla, and ebook vendors. I’m still not going to read them all! But there are some intriguing books on there and at least half of the longlist is available either on loan or at reasonable prices to buy.

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Weeknote 2

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.

Work

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.

Reading

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.

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