Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hell's bells.

As I may have mentioned, I have finished clearing my calendar, sweeping the desk clear, wiping the slate clean, swabbing the decks, and I am preparing myself to focus on NOTHING BUT THE BOOK from the moment this term ends until I go back to teaching after my leave.

But. I got this email tonight from an acquaintance of mine, a truly lovely person and also an eminent scholar in my field, who has been asked by a prestigious UP to put together a collection of essays on Shakespeare. He's asked me if I'd like to write on either "The Rape of Lucrece" or "Venus and Adonis" for the volume.

On one hand: Obviously, VERY FLATTERED.

On the other hand: NOTHING BUT THE BOOK--that's the mantra! And I really don't need anything to further stretch my already threadbare schedule as I commit myself to finishing, finally, this project.

But on the first hand: Don't want to turn down such a gesture from someone so respected by me and others, or, more crassly, to turn down an opportunity to have a good publication.

But on the other hand: I'm not actually a Shakespearean. Have never so much as presented a conference paper on him (though I wrote a short paper on Henry 4 in grad school--but that hardly counts, as it had, I believe, not a single reference to a critic).

But on the first hand again: I AM pretty solid about poetry and how it works, and perhaps I could get away with not being a Shakespeare pro by being a poetics pro.

But on the other hand, really loudly: Of all the works of Shakespeare, I outright DETEST three pieces. One of them is R&J. The other two are Lucrece and V&A.

Shit. I do not enjoy saying no, I do not enjoy not being a reliable go-to girl, I do not enjoy turning down a chance for well-placed publication with what will surely be illustrious company in a high-profile volume. But I wonder if it will take everything I've got to produce this paper to my satisfaction, and suck up my leave.

Anyone out with some distance from my drama have dispassionate thoughts on the matter?


dkm said...

I think accepting the invitation to write the essay would be a lovely idea. It sounds like a manageable project, it would strengthen your network, and who knows? Maybe it would kickstart your work on the book as well, success building upon success. One thing's certain: you have the chops to handle both, if that's what you decide to do. And invitations like that are such a good opportunity . . .

Anonymous said...

Oh, I understand. When wonderful opportunities present themselves, it's very hard to say no.

And certainly you could accomplish both, with world enough and time. But do you have world enough and time? Are the deadlines manageable? If so, then cheerio and off to the races!

If not, though, then it's okay. You don't HAVE to do the essay...you have an enormous project with the book. Books take heart and soul!

I've had to make the same choice in the past few years. Sometimes we have to focus on the Big Things in order to finish them (i.e., book). And I don't regret having said no to the others...I just figure that I'll do what I would have done for those projects on my own later. :D

Good luck, whatever you decide!

servetus said...

Knowing only what I know from what you say here I would say this is a "no," unless you can find some compelling reason to be interested in one of the topics. It will suck up leave on a topic you are not that personally interested in, which means it is a prime candidate for a project that drags on and on. A finished book will get you a lot more.

Moria said...

You DETEST LUCRECE?! On the one hand, you are so fired.

On the other hand, having just put myself through the process of proofing a similar volume of such essays, I can say on behalf of graduate research assistants everywhere that we would far rather have YOUR prose in front of us than... well. You'd be surprised, is all. (Or maybe you wouldn't. But I was.)

Meanwhile, writing on a poem you hate is bound to go faster than writing on poems you love. Right?

Renaissance Girl said...

Moria--I stand by my loathing. It's a ripe piece of melodrama, and this is my point in pointing out my loathing (thanks Serv): I don't think writing WILL go faster if I hate it, because I'll have to labor to find something interesting to say, something that lights my brain on fire. Maybe I'll reread it this morning and reflect, but as it stands this minute, I think that Nancy Vickers may have said already all that I would ever have to say about that poem.

Blue Cheese said...

This is the year of what?

jw said...

It's always good to find out about another R&J hater. We should start a club.

I say no to the essay. This isn't some make-or-break publication for your tenure file, and you're absolutely sophisticated enough to decline gracefully while keeping yourself open to future offers... so what's the draw? Even if the prestigious UP begins with an O or a C, your half-hearted essay isn't going to be the thing that people talk about in five years.

You're flattered: that's nice, but is that the real motivator here? That you want to keep people thinking nice things about you? Presuming that the eminent scholar really is a lovely person, you have nothing to fear for decline and almost nothing to gain by accepting.

The book, on the other hand, is A Big Deal. This is a book that will Dramatically Improve Your Reputation, right? You care deeply about what you're writing in the book, so it's time to woman up and make the sacrifices. I want to read the book: get it written.