Thursday, March 22, 2012

Miscellaneous update

I have just had rather a dreadful week due to circumstances well beyond my control (medical calamity of an extended family member, won't go into more detail than that!), and in short, the spring break that I hoped might be restorative just dug me deeper into the hole!

Last night, on a plane to San Antonio for the big annual eighteenth-century studies conference, I thought with dislike about the deep unpleasantness of flying and the unfortunate scheduling of such academic events at a time of year when I am already in any case barely keeping my head above water.

In short, I have been grumpy and glum indeed!

However now that I have actually written my paper (it was in my head, but I did not have time and concentration to get it down on the page until just this afternoon in my hotel room), I feel much less grumpy - that is good.  I remain perplexed that the institution of these conferences still has so much traction in the age of the internet (if one thousand academics each need to spend something in the region of $1,500, probably mostly reimbursed by their home institutions but often coming at least partly out of pocket, and 10 hours of travel time and an entire Wednesday to Sunday when none of their other work and life responsibilities offer any surcease, just in order to press the flesh, is that really a good use of communal resources?), but it is admittedly a very attractive setting here, and I will go out for dinner later on with my graduate students and junior colleagues from Columbia.  The conference hotel is very nice!  The metaphysical advantages of non-virtual presence, though, are surely overrated.

Closing tabs: Ed Park on Harry Stephen Keeler; Amy Davidson on the Hunger Games and counterinsurgency; at the TLS, Robert D. Hume on Michael Dobson's book about amateur Shakespeare performance.

Light reading around the edges:

A wonderful book by Will Chaffey, someone I only met recently in the wake of Carey Monserrat's death, called Swimming with Crocodiles (free for Kindle with Amazon Prime, though enthusiasm led me to purchase my copy before I realized I could get it for free!); very vivid and moving in its account of the geology and wildlife of Australia, and also a nerve-racking survivalist tale of a wilderness trek that did not make me reverse my anti-camping position (but I do wish I could go swimming with 'freshies' if not with 'salties'!);

Lauren Groff's mesmerizing and moving Arcadia, which I resisted at first but then fell into headlong (it is not relevant, but I am predisposed to like Groff's work not just because I enjoyed her first novel so much but also because her sister is a top triathlete!);

Seanan McGuire's new novel Discount Armageddon, which is full of charming and humorous details and which I thoroughly recommend if you read this sort of thing;

and an electronic advance copy of Rosamond Lupton's forthcoming Afterwards, which will sound ludicrous if I describe it to you and whose narrative premise I cannot really endorse as a matter of principle but which is certainly one of the most grippingly readable thrillers I will read this year.  It was the only redeeming feature of yesterday's plane flight, that's for sure!

In conclusion, saltwater crocodiles are almost certainly more dangerous than sharks, from a swimmer's point of view - a shark is only going to chomp you by accident (especially if you're wearing a wetsuit that makes you resemble a seal), whereas the croc really does want to digest not just your limbs but probably also your torso if at all possible.

Now I am going to go and find the business center to print out my paper....


  1. Hmm, I have been going back and forth on Arcadia and had just decided against (reading, that is), but may need to reconsider. So sorry things have been rough, hope conference is enjoyable.

  2. I am sympathetic to this view of large conferences, and agree with it on the whole (but the one thing worth saying in mitigation is that they are the one place that geographically distant junior people see each other -- being in a position neither to invite nor to give seminars at will -- and that in-the-flesh conversations have the advantage over, e.g., Skype calls, of being more relaxed).

  3. I want what you say about conferences to be true, because it is a pain for all involved for me to be away from my family, but I can't deny that in my own life my research is spurred forward at those times when I physically get myself in the same room with my collaborators.

  4. shepherd arranged everything for his friend's comfort, putting things in readiness for his noonday meal, and showing him the spring. taking his own lunch, as his custom was, he went to the corral and released the sheep. doctor watched until the last of the flock was gone, and he could no longer hear the tinkle of the bells and the bark of the dog.