Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Book meme

Hurrah, a good excuse to post something here! Thank you to the Storyteller for passing this to me.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
To my shame, I've never read Fahrenheit 451, but I'm going to assume that this question doesn't require any specialist knowledge beyond the ability to imagine that one would like to be a book. If I actually have to be the book, I'd like to be a first edition of Virginia Woolf, owned by Jeanette Winterson. I think that it's fabulous that Winterson actually reads and loves and tells the world about her first editions. However, if I am just going to be the text of a book, I'd like to be Neil Astley's wonderful anthology of poetry, Staying Alive, as that would take me through the whole range of emotion and event. Also, I'd probably have a much deeper sense of rhythm and meter than I do now!

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
No.

The last book you bought is?
The last book that I bought for myself was Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, which I've written about briefly here on my Livejournal. Technically speaking, though, the last book that I bought was a present for my ex-step-father's birthday: Amélie Nothomb's delightfully dark tale, The Book of Proper Names.

What are you currently reading?
Lots of things all at once! In terms of reading for pleasure alone, I'm in the middle of A.L. Kennedy's So I Am Glad. I'm also trying to work my way through the Thomas Carper and Derek Attridge text on Meter and Meaning: this is apparently "an introduction to rhythm in poetry", and it bothers me no end that the title appears on the front cover sans capital letters. I'm also reading Marilyn May Lombardi's Elizabeth Bishop: The Geography of Gender and Lorrie Goldensohn's Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry. Who has been working from the same 'how to pick your book title' worksheet, now?

Five books you would take to a deserted island?
An edition of the collected works of Shakespeare (ask me later which edition I'd choose!). The aforementioned Bloodaxe anthology of 'real poetry for unreal times', edited by Neil Astley: Staying Alive. My favourite big Dorling Kindersley New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour. Probably J.H. Prynne's Poems, and maybe Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.

Who are you going to pass this to (three persons) and why?
I'll have to find three readers first!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Real life and otherwise

I can't say that I have much blogging stamina. In fact, it's been almost a month and a half since I last wrote here. In the meantime I've been reading blogs quite regularly, but still can't imagine having time to come up with something that's polished enough to be 'publishable' on a regular basis. Having given up, I've now fallen back on 'decent' rather than 'polished'. With 'decent' meaning that I've proof-read for typos...

When I write on Livejournal, I can make sure that only the people on my friends list can see the dross. Sometimes I complain about work, although I'm making more of an effort not to do this. Sometimes I spill the sordid details of my life, or of my thoughts - not really things that I'd like to share with all & sundry, but often things that do beg some sort of external response. So, while it might be less suitable for public consumption, it's also a great deal more personal and intimate than anything I'd write here. I've met some wonderful people through Livejournal; one really good friend, several objects of great admiration, a few casual friends of a very pleasant kind, and all of them are definitely the sort of people that I like to spend time with. I'm expecting a visit from one of my very favourite Livejournal friends in May - somebody I've never met before.

One of the things that first surprised me was that I might not like somebody whose online presence I adore. It was a matter of hand gestures, of how we interacted, and of how we just wouldn't have ever started to get to know each other in real life because each of us found the other just a little bit off-putting. Over time we've come to like each other's company a great deal more but mostly, I think, because we know that there's something special - something that we already know that we like - lurking beneath the facade of personality.

So I suppose that, for me, blogging is the equivalent of personality. Something put on for the benefit of others, or for one's own benefit in seeing their reaction to it. Whereas writing more privately is always going to feel more like an expression of character: something less guarded and 'static' if you are to believe Yeats' contrasting with 'fluid personality'.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Two days too short

Every time February comes along, I feel cheated of at least two days. Bah. Feeling stressed about where nonexistent days go is probably another symptom of life in the education system - especially one with deadlines as tight as these. I can't help feeling that a taught Masters course is a bit of a waste of time. While the classes on research methods, bibliography & teaching methods have been very useful, a large part of our time has been taken up by obligatory literature seminars (unrelated to our main academic interests, and consequently rather superficial) which have felt like a regression to undergraduate level. Fine, so I know slightly more about Yeats, Eliot & Pound than I did before - but still not enough to teach them with much confidence. I just want to get on and do my research now!

I've been trying to compile a list of things to do to stop feeling so anxious. I realised pretty early on in this exercise that the things I actually do are not the things that I should do. In fact, my stress-busting techniques consist largely of procrastinating, which just postpones stress rather than alleviating it!

Funnily enough, the things that seem like "wasted time" actually increase productivity in the long term. For example, going to evensong at Christ Church the other day - something that I'd managed to convince myself was a "lost" hour - actually helped me to work with much greater enthusiasm and concentration afterwards.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Gimlet eye

Spent most of the day in a murky haze, following last night's pleasant drink with a friend. My superior knowledge of Philip Marlowe's drinking preferences did not prevent me from exclaiming "Gosh, this tastes just like Fairy Liquid!" when taking my first sip of a make-shift vodka gimlet. Evidently my tastes are not quite so refined - or maybe it was the fact that we mistakenly added tonic to our glasses. Neither can I claim to be as hardy as Raymond Chandler, who once boasted that:

When I was a young man in the RAF I would get so plastered that I had to crawl to my bed on my hands and knees, and at 7.30 the next morning, I would be as blithe as a sparrow and howling for my breakfast. It is not in some ways the most desirable gift.

Still, perhaps Chandler was drinking a better class of alcohol than I was, as his description of the gimlet in The Long Goodbye is significantly more appealing:

The bartender sat the drink in front of me. With the lime juice it has a sort of pale greenish yellowish misty look. I tasted it. It was both sweet and sharp and the same time. The woman in black watched me. Then she lifted her own glass towards me. We both drank. Then I knew hers was the same drink.

Technically last night I was a woman in black. However I doubt that my gimlet-drinking technique was quite so appealing - or restrained. So this morning was spent sleeping in while the sun came in through the windows, and then lazily reading Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Kafka on the Shore. I think that it is the best of his novels so far - more directed than previous ones. That's not to say that some plot issues aren't left open, but somehow the narrative just ran more coherently towards a point where the reader can choose what they think. I really enjoyed it, but found again (as I did while reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles) that some of the descriptions of physical violence were discomforting.

This week I need to choose a title for a Yeats essay, and prepare my dissertation abstract, so I don't imagine that I'll have much time for reading novels. I feel almost constantly queasy with anxiety about everything that needs to be done. This weekend has been a waste of time, enjoyable as it was in parts, and I need to get back into a routine of academic work.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

First step

There is always a first post. This is the first post.

I am rereading J.H. Prynne's Poems. The book was given to me by my mother after I finished my A-levels, and I had always been particularly fascinated by 'Love in the Air', which I studied with a favourite tutor. With this particular tutor, everything miraculously became clear. Now the book itself is an amulet promising clarity, as emblematic as a dictionary cover, even though I have to try so very hard to tease out the meaning from the rest of the poems within it.

"... What you can
afford is nothing: the sediment on which we stand
was too much, and unasked for."


- from 'Love in the Air', 1969.