Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tractor, truck-like vehicle

Enjoyable week of reading here: Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (I was recently almost overwhelmed with a yen to read books by and about Spinoza, and obtained some immediately, but this was the first week it was practical to dig in); the first half of the Kimpel and Eaves Richardson biography, which I have dipped into but never before read straight through from start to finish, and which I am thinking will put me in the right mood to plunge into my Clarissa project (about which, more soon, along with the other more notional projects that also have me in sway to them); and My Struggle vol. 3, which I have just finished.

It is hard to explain why the Knausgaard is so mesmerizing, but I was again absolutely riveted. Here's a bit I especially liked:
Even though history didn't exist for me when I went there as a child and everything belonged to the moment, I could still feel its presence. Grandad had lived there all his life, and in some way or other that influenced the image I had of him. But if there was one image or notion that embodied Grandad, it was not everything he had done in his life, of that I knew very little, and the little I did know, I had nothing to compare it with, no, the one thing that embodied Grandad was the little two-stroke tractor he used for a multitude of purposes. That tractor was the very essence of Grandad. It was red and a bit rusty, needed to be kick-started, and had a small gear stick, a column with a black ball on top, on one hand lever, while the accelerator was on the other. He used it for mowing, walking behind it while an enormous scissor-like attachment on the front cut down the grass in its path. And he used it to transport heavy items; then he put a trailer on the back with a green seat, from which he steered what all of a sudden had become a truck-like vehicle. There was little I rated higher than being with him then, sitting on the back and chugging toward the two shops in Vagen, for example, where he would collect cans of formic acid or sacks of feed or artificial manure. The vehicle was so slow you could walk beside it, but that didn't matter, speed wasn't of any consequence, all the rest was: the rattle of the engine, the exhaust fumes that smelled so god and wafted across the road as we drove, the feeling of freedom in the trailer, being able to hang over one side, then the other, all the things there were to see on the journey, including Grandad's slight figure and his peaked cap in front of me, and getting out at the shop, where the Bergen boat docked, and being able to walk around, often with an ice cream in our hands while Grandad did whatever he had to do.
I am a little worried about the way my summer is slipping away from me! Have had a truly lovely quiet week here, homemade Spa Week with yoga and running and green smoothies and a lot of reading time - only problem is distinct shortage of cats! - but we are already in the middle of June, and I haven't at all gotten started on proper work. I have 3 dissertation defenses in the next four weeks, and rashly also agreed to write four tenure letters - the first two because they came in first, the second two because they are people I know and want to help - and 3 PhD students going on the job market for the first time. I need to make the syllabus for the "Literary Texts, Critical Methods" class I'm teaching for the first time in the fall - this is much more complex than usual syllabus-making. I also want to write a proposal and some pages for the Clarissa book and do substantial reading and thinking about my ancients-and-moderns book; this may be cumulatively unrealistic, as there are of course all sorts of other bits and bobs that must be taken care of too....

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