Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Random bullets of WOOT!

* Rome: not terrible after all. (Though, honestly. That bus/metro/train system: ridiculous.) Things looked way up after Thing 1 and I were taken in by the elderly Italian aunt of a friend of a friend. Still my least favorite part of our Italian itinerary, but all in all, an excellent adventure.

* Thing 1 has retained every detail about art, history, architecture, literature, or religion that he learned along the way.

* Machine laundered underwear! And no international roaming on my cell phone!

* And my parents came by my house during my long absence and mopped my floors and mowed my lawn.

* And I heard from my translation's publisher, which is based in London, saying they will release the American edition next year, with its recognizable signature jacket design. That will be surreal.

* The wind tonight! My golly! And snow for the next two nights!

* My sister and her husband and baby boy have moved back into my state, as of yesterday. Into one of the very cool and rock-filled parts, what's more. She will be a park ranger. He will run a theatrical organization. I will have a cool place to weekend. With a hot tub.

* Last class's grades in the can as of tonight: this academic year officially history.

* Accordingly,from tomorrow morning until beyond the horizon: VIVA LEAVE! Which is to say: all book-writing, all the time.

* Except, of course, for the new little beets, and peas, and artichokes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Rome report

Okay. I loved Venice. Loved Ravenna. Loved Florence. And all for different reasons: Venice's stateliness. Ravenna's small-town charm and mind-blowing mosaics. Florence's beauty and Art-History-Textbook nonchalance.

Rome? I freaking hate it.

Hate Rome.

Hate it.

Why? Is it the completely incomprehensible, where's-your-secret-decoder-ring public transportation system? Is it the city's hostility to pedestrians? Its general rudeness to those of us whose knowledge of the local dialect is a couple of millennia old? Its overrun antiquities? Its fake gladiators hoping for a pose so that they can charge you for the picture? General lack of internet accessibility? The general atmosphere of overkill and plunder at St. Peter's?

Yes, and yes, and yes. I hate it.

And I'm trapped here for five extra days because of a volcano.

And Neruda will live here for all of next year. And frankly, I'd rather visit him in the fifth circle of the Inferno than come back here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The kid's got funny bones.

Today, Thing 1 endured an extended disquisition on Lateran eucharistic theology (not his native interpretation of that ritual), prompted by a display of ornate ciboria at the Bargello Museum. Tonight as we waited to place our dinner order, the table next to us was given a basket of crusty bread and a small jug of house red. He grinned at me and said: "Dinner is served. It's a miracle!"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On academic celebrity

Leaving Venice this morning, I happened to be on the vaporetto with a certain scholar of early modern English literature who has achieved, if anyone in this field has, a kind of superstar, even celebrity, status. In 20 minutes on the vaporetto, he was approached by three fans/well-wishers, who wanted to compliment him and engage him in some point of discussion. He was attended by his wife, who went to my alma mater just ahead of me, and whose status as an academic object of fascination/ fetishization owes much, I think, to refracted celebrity. In any case, I was amused to watch this power couple work the boat, and to think what a small sphere it is, really, in which we signify, insofar as we signify. And to remember how much it seems to matter, at times, to me--to all of us.

Having said that, it is always a small thrill to me to go to a panel and be flanked in the audience chairs by folks who are, to me, household names. Grande dames and great men of three or four decades ago, still jumping into the fray. That moves me.

Finally, Venice was a great idea for a conference site. If you didn't care if anyone attended any panels. I don't think I was in a room with more than 8 people the whole time. And I myself only attended 3 panels. One of which I chaired.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

RSA blogging

To summarize the significant points of the last three days:

1) Sat next to a prominent senior scholar in my field at the RSA business lunch. I had met hir before, and thought s/he was a total condescending and snooty asshat. But at lunch, s/he was lovely, charming, and thrilled to make the acquaintance of Thing 1, or managed a good facsimile of thrill. So s/he gets off my list of problematic scholars.

2) Later that day, s/he gave a paper that made much the same argument as an article I've published, and announced that the paper from this conference is from hir next book, to be released in the next year. I may drop hir a note saying, "Enjoyed your talk. You might find this interesting too...." Or something.

3) Thing 1 is punchy at 11pm, which he's seen every night so far in Italy. And unexpectedly fixated on the bidet. And the penises in Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese. (Really, Thing 1? Didn't I raise you better than to giggle at art-penises?)

4) The Basilica de San Marco: HOLY CRAP. I'm dumbstruck.

5) Yes, the food really is that good.

6) I've run into my colleague more times on back streets of Venice than I ever have in our school hallways.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Frontloading National Poetry Month

In years past, this blog has devoted April to providing a sort of anthology of poems I like. since I'm going to be away for most of April, that's not going to happen this year. Instead, I'm going to make two very loud recommendations here at the start of the month, with the hope that anyone who crosses paths with this blog during April will be inspired to submerse hirself in good reading.

So I say to thee: If you have not read Paradise Lost, or haven't read it since you were an undergrad 25 years ago, this is the time to lose yourself in what is perhaps the most staggering piece of poetry in English.

And if you're one of those people who reads around in old stuff for a living and/or is continually reading Milton, then you should read Louise Gluck's The Wild Iris, ideally cover-to-cover in one sitting.

They're more or less the same text, anyway--just written 300 years apart.