I took a break between classes to see what the haps were around wordpress, and found a friendly note from the friendly Mrs. Carmichael, and on the other side of it was a blog award thingy – the Liebster, which is designed to showcase blogs that aren’t getting the attention they deserve – neat! (I looked it up, and one stat said it was for new blogs or blogs with under 200 followers. I suppose I still count for the former, as we come up on my seven-month-iversary, and I’m definitely in the latter category, so we’re good to go either way.)
There’s a two part pay-off, which I’m doing literally in two parts, because I have another meeting tomorrow, which means another early morning, which means I don’t have as much time as I’d like to do justice to both pieces. Which means we’re only doing part I. Part II, by the way, which I hope to get to in short order, involves making up some questions of my own and tagging some new / underfollowed blogs that I enjoy, to introduce y’all to some new brain fodder. Part I, though, which I’ll do now, involves thanking my gifter (thanks, Mrs. Carmichael!) and answering the questions she posed. To wit:
1) Is there a book you would never want to be parted from? Why?
My first thought was the Iliad, of course, but then I thought, Greek or English? If Greek, which edition, and if English, which translation? I went with Greek, and Munro & Allen’s OCT. But then I thought, maybe Smyth’s Greek Grammar is a more productive book to have always at my side – I can dip into it at a spare moment and lose myself in some obscure point of grammar, see it illustrated in Xenophon, or Lysias, or Aristophanes, and have it explained in English so British that the Ox-Bridge accent comes through the very printed page. I feel certain that good grammars could double as self-help books flawlessly. Consider: “§2156.5. Unattainable wishes for the present or past may be entirely reasonable.” Well said, Mr. Smyth. Well said.
2) Which six authors, living or dead, will you invite to join your new reading group?
(1) Kurt Vonnegut, obviously. He would make sure we all stayed honest and earnest, all the while himself being scandalous and outrageously funny.
(Now I feel the need to clarify the purpose of my reading group: we would read obscure, forgotten books tossed aside by time.)
(2) China Mieville. He seems quite nice, and yet he looks at what I look at and sees a whole other world. A scary one, but a fascinating and fun one too. (3) Virginia Woolf. Her command of language is unparalleled, and her sensitivity to, and outrage for, great injustices to be greatly admired. (4) A. A. Milne. He strikes me as a man who reads carefully, and listens carefullyer.
(I’m starting to get anxious – only two to go, but so many people I want to include!)
(5) Emily Dickinson. No eye has ever been more attentive. And (6) Emily Vermeule. Perhaps because I am in my office and therefore surrounded by my Classics books rather than my novels. I’ve only ever read one of her books, after all – Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry – which – horrors! – is out of print, it seems. She’s another one who looks closely before she draws conclusions, and writes with a poeticism and lightness rare in academic works, and that make me suspect she would be someone I would very much enjoy leaning in to listen to over a cup of tea.
3) Book or Kindle? Would anything change this decision?
The unwritten third: audio. Somewhere in the process of writing my dissertation, I lost my ability to read. It happens to a lot of people, in my experience (someone should write a dissertation on that). I do better on my tablet, for some reason – maybe all those hours and hours and endless hours of staring at the computer screen habituated me to it too completely. But I am best at audio. I can get completely lost in a book as I clean, or walk, or sit, or sew, and it’s my favorite way to pass my spare (or at least undedicated) time these days.
I want to read again someday. I trust it will come back, eventually. I miss the feeling of books, the texture of the pages, the smell, the regular, predictable font. I read a couple of short stories (Distant View of a Minaret, if you’re curious) over the weekend and it went okay, so maybe that bodes well for a slow drift back towards books.
4) If you could study full time or study full time again what would you choose to learn about?
Ha! My PhD is still shiny in its frame at only a year and a half old, so returning to pursue serious study is not exactly on my agenda. That said, I have been trying – with little success – to audit classes. My first choice was a history of the universe, in the astrophysics department, but it conflicted with my schedule. Then there was an Indo-European historical grammar class, but it met on Friday morning, and Friday was supposed to be my time to work (plus, morning! Ugh). But I did manage to sit in on an “Af-Am Lit” (as my teacher called it – African American Literature, for the rest of us) class last spring, and it was wonderful. So I guess the short answer is, I solved that by getting a job that puts me in a position to always be surrounded by new avenues of academic pursuit, because everything in the fucking world is so fucking interesting.
But I’m done with terminal degrees, I believe. The BA, MA, and PhD have left me pretty satisfied on that front.
5) Who would you write a biography of? What’s so special about them?
This one took me a while. First I thought Mary Renault, who was a quietly pioneering gay woman in the early-mid 20th c. who wrote historical novels set in ancient Greece; then I thought my great grandmothers, who are hazy to me, but are firmly Texas women who dealt with what came their way without blinking an eye; but I landed on Anne Carson. She’s made a name for herself both as a Classicist and a poet, and has done a beautiful translation of Sappho, and a heartbreaking reading/meditation on Catullus 101 after the death of her brother, and is generally amazing. I once saw her give a talk at a conference, and the convention is that you give your talk and then open yourself to questions from the audience. Ms. Carson finished her talk, looked up through oversized glasses, straightened her papers, and said, “I will not be taking questions.” And right then, I knew: I want to be her someday.
6) You’ve been asked to write an article for Condé Nast’s Traveller magazine on your favourite holiday destination. What is your opening sentence?
“First, you have to be open to the idea of getting lost.”
7) If you had to paint every wall in your house one colour what would it be? Why? I do not allow you white or magnolia.
While the great majority of my clothes reveal that I am extremely partial to colors on the red and purple spectrums, those are not colors I want for walls. For one thing, I would blend in.
Sky blue. Almost turquoise. The color of the Aegean, the Caribbean, the Texas sky in June. A bright deep rich blue with endless possibilities. I rarely wear light blue, but it’s a color I respond to well, and it makes me feel well and healthy and hopeful. Our house in Brooklyn had blue walls, and I loved them every time I noticed them.
And I’m over time, although I had such fun with those wonderful, thought-provoking questions! I will pick up with part II in the next few days, and I hope I can articulate questions as rich and interesting as these.
And, as promised, a brief AcWriMo check-in: I haven’t been keeping as formal records, so I haven’t been posting about it here, but I am carrying on. I got my talk into a solid enough shape that I shared it with the husband, who is always my first editor. It lacks a conclusion as of now, and definitely needs further edits, but it’s at about 3,500 words – or ~500 shy of the final – and is coming together. I’m scheduled to finish it by 11/15, but I suspect I will push that back into the weekend, because I have some job applications to put together for 11/15, and they will take much of my time for the next few days.
Anyway, it’s past my bedtime now, and I’m all worked up from all the excitement of this post, so I need to go stare at my white walls for a few minutes so I can then fall into a deep sleep, and wake up ready to face a meeting tomorrow morning. Til next time, friends, I hope inspiration walks beside you, whatever your path —