Sunday, October 28, 2007

I may not, in fact, be a fraud.

So I'm co-editing this collection of essays, and all the contributors are, let us say, luminaries in my field. I've had the strangest experience over the last weeks, and it keeps repeating. And repeating. As if the universe is trying to tell me something.

The pattern is as follows: Famous Scholar A sends me his essay (and I use the masculine pronoun because all the Famous Scholars in my field seem to be male). I read it. I don't follow what it's saying--sometimes a portion, sometimes the whole thing. I think "Dammit. I've got myself into a situation to which I am unequal." For a moment. But then I look at the essay, and realize that it ain't me. I see that it contains flaws. Not just typos, mind you, but gaping flaws in logic, in argumentation, in premise. It happens again with Famous Scholar B, and especially with Iconically Famous Scholar C. This, to me, is a strange and liberating realization. Because first of all, it appears that these big shots produce crappy drafts, just like I do. I'm used to seeing their work in its final, polished, revised, and edited form, but now I'm getting the raw feed, and it's, well, raw. It needs polishing, revising, and editing. Yes, yes, we all know this on some level, it makes intellectual sense....but seeing it play out so dramatically is a little inspiring (does that make me a terrible person? to be buoyed up by the imperfections of others?) (whatever.) . My own raw stuff, even revised, even published, retains for me some of the flavor of earlier shortcomings. But it appears that all of us (yes, even the Iconically Famous ones) engaged in this endeavor--this thing where we read something we love, and find something cool and surprising in it and want to share our realization with others, and then write it down--think it out slowly by writing it, and that thinking comes hard.

And here's the kicker: I actually SEE why their arguments aren't working, just like I can with my students. And I provide these really specific comments in response, pointing to moments where lapses in judgement of all sorts are occuring. And they respond with gratitude, and revise according to my comments. I feel somewhere between surreal and studiedly nonchalant about the whole thing. But one cannot argue with the universe.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A sigh (the good kind). And some ice cream.

Done, done, done: the abstract for my book proposal, its annotated table of contents, and all but a paragraph of the several pages in which I justify my enterprise, speculate about how long it will take me to unveil it in its perfection, and reveal the shocking shortcomings of competiting titles. (Alas for those competing titles! Why can they not be as brilliant as hers? one might be moved to say, upon finishing my proposal...)

As a reward, I think everyone in the world should eat some ice cream. I recommend: Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan (!) and Pomegranate with Dark Chocolate Chips (!!!).

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Abstract: An Exercise in Absurdity

Wrote half an abstract for the Book WIHMD, and I was struck by the ridiculousness of the enterprise. What I'm basically saying is that I've got this great idea and it's going to take 250-300 pages to explain...and I'm saying this in 500 words. Can the abstract be anything other than an advertisement for its own insufficiency?

Friday, October 19, 2007

One last hike.

With Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Now bring on the snow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Things I need:

<---These boots. Or possibly these. --->

And probably these shoes too:

And a tea chest. Yes, I need one of those for sure.

A haircut. Or rather, a hairstyle, of greater sass than my current bore.

The new Weakerthans album.

Waterproof thermal pants for cross-country skiing, because the snow is starting to fall, baby.

A good night's sleep. (Not looking good for tonight, now, is it?)

A combination compass/ altimeter/ inclinometer for my Forester. Wouldn't that be so cool? To know the angle of incline and not be left to guess....?

And holy smokes, get a load of these! Their name: if that ain't a sign for Renaissance Girl in the midst of her religio-historio-literary throes, I dunno what is.

Relative achievements.

Annotated Table of Contents: Done.

Now I just have to WRITE those three chapters I invented.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Here's to you, Professor Gradgrind

Over the past few days I have written five very good chapter abstracts. One to go (the one in which I bullshit most spectacularly--but I'm pushing myself to follow Gracious Mentor's model of considering the book proposal a "plausible fiction," which frees me from my compulsion to prove everything I'm saying with a jostle of footnotes). More importantly, especially in light of this eye-roll-inducing column in the Chronicle, I taught Thing 1 to ride a bike. Because training wheels are SO five years old. And because the job is, even on its very very best days, just a job. As it turns out--with apologies to all those serious researchers who supervised my graduate work--"family considerations were paramount after all."

Monday, October 8, 2007

The book whose incompletion haunts my dreams

Today's progress:

* Most of an annotated table of contents
* Further tightening of a publication prospectus
* Some degree of staring at the last complete paragraph of my Introduction, until I realized that there's no way around it: I have to go hang out with microfiche before I can go on.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Two Victories

1) Wrote a paragraph today. One sturdy introductory, sure-to-captivate-academic-editor-type paragraph. (Even though it's the weekend and I should be playing with kids, I have the flu.)

2) I have made peace with the unadorned look of this blog. Seriously--if part of my point here is expressing anxiety about time-management and other perils of the profession, I can't kick myself for not spending all day dolling it up.

After Long Silence

For years I have expressed puzzlement at the phenomenon of the blog. The strange devaluation of the private, the revelation of one's thoughts to potential millions of strangers--these notions ring strangely against even my generation X ears. I'm not, by, nature, a writer of personal journals--not given to ruminating on my life in prose--in part because my life is so defined by writing and I figure I'm saying it all in one form or another already, and in part because if I do have spare time (what is this thing called "spare time"?) I feel I should be using it either diligently working on the book whose incompletion consumes me and haunts my dreams, or playing with my kids. But I realized that some degree of support is missing from my current endeavors: while I'm surrounding by loving family and friends, I don't have that sense I had while I was writing my dissertation that a cohort of pals were in the same boat and could offer the occasional life raft of encouragement. So I figured I'd put it out there in the Blogosphere, and perhaps attract a few readers who could offer advice, cheering anecdotes, or just camaraderie.