Back to life, back to reality

February 26, 2007

Everyone is telling me to update this more often. And I’d like to post more regularly, I really would. I just don’t know what to say – with two classes three times a week I have a hard time finding space in my head for much else, or even switching off my teaching voice (my roommate is now reluctant to watch Canadian or crime television with me – I’m a few didactic outbursts away from being insufferable). This first day back after the break was a refresher in how unwaveringly routine and segmented each week is: Monday, Wednesday and Friday: teach, office hours, gym, office hours, teach, dinner, prep, bed (coffee breaks are implied). Tuesday and Thursday: run, write, domestic errands (such as buying more coffee), dinner, prep, bed. Repeat two days later. My planner breaks weekdays down by the hour, and I actually have to use that section. I mildly enjoy all this structure. I always know exactly what I’m doing next, and my days are a series of small tasks continually being accomplished. Full and satisfying. Like lasagne.
Today’s tasty tidbit: I taught a few of Poe’s short stories early in the term, and as a larf started one lecture with The Alan Parsons Project’s “The Raven.” Since then a bunch of students have emailed me other musical interpretations of Poe, and after class today one approached*, earphones in hand, to have me listen to an Iron Maiden version of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Rock on! I’ve now got nearly enough for a very macabre mixed tape.

*the same student who, in a discussion about the eroticism of violence and the violence of eroticism, mentioned that it’s easy to meet a chick you want to fuck, or a chick you want to kill, but never one you want to marry because that goes on forever. Maybe romance really is dead.

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This Post Has Seven Days

February 25, 2007

Yes, I actually did read over reading week. Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, and one of my comfort novels – Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood. Still peppered with post-its from my last pass, I noticed how the book speaks to me differently on each return. Flagged this time:

Love becomes the deposit of the heart, analogous in all degrees to the ‘findings’ in a tomb. As in one will be charted the taken place of the body, the raiment, the utensils necessary to its other life, so in the heart of the lover will be traced, as an indelible shadow, that which he loves.

Aside from reading, the break meant I actually had to think about what’s been going on in my life, rather than just unreflectively living through it. Patterns of lost and found (or perhaps I just see it that way because my inner structuralist likes to impose categories? At any rate, a skewed equilibrium in which some sides are punching more than their weight). This past week of downtime meant I couldn’t escape thinking about what I’ve been doing, or not doing, for me. The double-edged sword of busy is that while it keeps you from looking too closely at what you’re missing the moments of loneliness hit harder – the end of the night when the computer shuts down and there’s nothing else left.
I’ve been debating about this post for awhile (well, at least a week). A friend told me to own it. So I’m trying. I’m missing some of the anchors in my life right now, and it’s hard. During a therapeutic pizza, wine, and roommate evening this week he laughed at the suggestion that I was an open book. He tossed off a detailed list of jokes, deflections, quippy rhetorical diversions that I use to keep people outside, and tried to explain what these moves have cost me. My usual strategy is to move on without looking back, but lately that’s been obscuring things – like how not looking back can be an expression of fear rather than strength. I’m trying to face and own up to repercussions of the past, of both messing up and of letting things get messed up. Not really a ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,’ because I always knew. It’s hitting harder now – the people that matter and what I need to do bring my life back into balance again. Like seeing strength not as leaving someone behind, but something – a habit of armour, a belief that intimacy and vulnerability are signs of weakness. Otherwise what’s lost could stay that way, and I’m brave enough to do better than that.

The Bluenotes clothing store chain is selling guys’ t-shirts that read “No means have another drink.” A classy endorsement of date rape for the low price of $15.50. More on that here. Even better, use the chain’s convenient feedback button at the bottom of their website to remind them that promoting sexual assault in order to make money is offensive.

One down

February 13, 2007

Round one (of four) of marking is done. I like grading papers. Really. Particularly because it reminds me of the things language can do. Once you hit a certain point academically your writing style solidifies – you can learn new minor rhetorical flourishes (which you then promptly overuse) but your voice is pretty much established. So it’s refreshing to read undergraduate essays for glimpses of other ways words can be put together – creative, enthusiastic, proud sentences. My two faves from this round:
1. (From a paper on the development of Canadian film): “Then Grierson emerged.” I like this because it makes me think of Swamp Thing: John Grierson rising impressively out of the muck in a dated suit, flabby arms flailing, spouting gibberish about how narrative film degenerates the mind.
2. (On the detective’s trademark wit): “He wields his snark and disdain like a flaming sword.” Awesome: a) the use of ‘snark’ in an academic paper; b) “flaming sword.” That’s a weapon.
And my vote for sexiest sentence: “What Canada’s taste for American film style suggests, then, is that we imagine ourselves as a bland shadow of a borrowed cinema.”
With this done, reading week seems so tantalizing close – sleeping in, wine on a weeknight, a book without a bibliography. Soon.