Friday, 31 August 2012

7 Quick Takes

I realize that I have been neglecting this blog. For a period I thought about writing a post explaining why, but that might be too self-indulgent. I don’t know what to expect of the future: I could suddenly be more productive, but I could also continue by unreliable trickle. We will see. In the interim, I can at least tell you what is going on with me.

I have finished my courses for my Master’s of English Literature. In a few days I begin a Master’s of Library Science. The good news is that I am not moving from the city or, indeed, my apartment. All is jolly roses here.
A short word on the switch: there are very few professorships available, so getting a PhD is risky; I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the seclusion of the English department, as I am uninterested in producing knowledge that will not reach people making decisions; I want a degree which gives me some clear career path, so that even if I do not wind up following that path, I at least know that I can if I need to; I find the idea of helping people access information and knowledge appealing.

For those of you curious about academics, would you be interested in knowing what I have been writing about? I wrote a paper about the trouble with empathy in Wilfred Owen’s poetry; I wrote another paper, for a class on the history of the discipline, trying to figure out the epistemological base of Stephen Greenblatt’s new historicism, finally arguing that he produces a sleight-of-hand covering over a fundamental instability (fusing the old historicism and new criticism); and I wrote a final paper, in my summer course, using Laplanche’s psychoanalysis and Butler’s Giving an Account of Oneself to analyze the asexuality described in the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN).

I went on a cross-country trip with Jon after my summer course; I also went to Florida and (very briefly) the Bahamas, including a day in the Magic Kingdom; afterwards, I stayed with my parents in Fort McMurray, where we started a road trip to Hay River, Northwest Territories. It was a busy summer.

What have I been reading? Half-World, by Hiromi Goto, is a YA urban fantasy novel that is surprisingly bleak and difficult, but certainly engaging and worth a read (so long as you aren’t put off by journeys into hell-worlds). Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, and Witch Week, by Diana Wynne Jones are the first three of the Chrestomanci series (if you order them according to Jones’ recommended reading order, and not publishing or internal chronological order). Of them, I think I preferred The Lives of Christopher Chant, though I did quite like Charmed Life. Silver: Return to Treasure Island, by Andrew Motion, is a sequel (written by another author) to Treasure Island. It was enjoyable and a highly appropriate read in the Bahamas, but it has perhaps unachieved presumptions to Literature. The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head, by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan, is an interesting, readable, Oliver-Sacks-style set of essays on psychological cases, though I would accuse it of voyeurism and unfounded philosophizing. G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Knew Too Much is what you would get if a Catholic, somewhat bitter C. S. Lewis wrote detective fiction in the school of Sherlock Holmes (at least, that's what I took from it).
From class, I would recommend Roberto Bolano’s Amulet, Pat Barker’s Another World, Judith Butler’s Giving an Account of Oneself (caution: theory! jargon! Neitzsche! Kafka! Foucault!), and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (which I had the pleasure of discussing as a TA rather than as a student, and which is now my favourite play ever). I would even recommend Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead; I did not especially enjoy the beginning and it was very difficult to teach, but it got better as a plot sedimented.

Of course I have also been reading webcomics. I have picked up John Allison’s Bad Machinery and Scary Go Round, both of which are lovely just for their linguistic talent. Scary Go Round is one that improves as it goes, beginning without much strength but getting wonderful as it loses one set of protagonists and picks up a couple other sets of protagonists. (It is somewhat like what Questionable Content would be like if the characters went on adventurers, stopped genuflecting, had a plot, and decided to investigate the weird things going around them instead of mope about relationship issues...OK, so it’s not much like Questionable Content, I guess.) Bad Machinery, the sequel to Scary Go Round, begins wonderful and holds the note. Namesakes is also a lot of fun for people who are interested in things set in Oz, Wonderland, and other public domain fantasy settings.
And my sister-in-law-to-be is about to launch a web-serialized graphic novel entitled Megan Kearney’s Beauty and the Beast, located here. This I will be reading.

I have also been watching lots of things. I will not list them all, but I especially loved BBC’s Sherlock Holmes. With The X-Files I for perhaps the first time in my life shipped a couple (and was satisfied). I have finished off everything Joss Whedon has directed for television, after watching his work for years. The Secret World of Arriety is gorgeous. I am also starting to watch the Disney "classics" again or for the first time, as the case may be. So far, I have seen Sleeping Beauty, Pocahontas, and The Little Mermaid.

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