Friday, June 28, 2013

Closing tabs

I have said this before, but when I was a little kid, I wanted to be famous when I grew up. I wanted to have an interesting life, and I thought you had to be famous for that to be the case. Little did I know that I was grossly mistaken. Many famous people have what I would consider very boring lives, and some of the most interesting days of my life have been spent in libraries and classrooms!

It is a good week that sees the successful completion of the Syracuse half-Ironman, the final revisions completed on the style book (I sent the file to my editor earlier this afternoon) and news of the official confirmation, by the trustees of Columbia University, of my promotion to full professor! Not so status-oriented myself, but it means a decent raise and I have also been irked for some years that my lovely doctoral advisees have to have their primary letter of recommendation written by an associate professor - I am particularly glad to have set that straight...

Some very enjoyable light reading: two novels I absolutely loved by Alex Bledsoe, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing; Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane (gave me a keen desire to reread the tales in Joan Aiken's A Touch of Chill - also, Pobby and Dingan!); installments two and three of the Expanse series, Caliban's War and Abaddon's Gate (it really is a super trilogy - the characters are much more fully and appealingly rendered than in standard space opera); and Iain M. Banks, The Quarry.

Next work thing I have to do is a reader's report on a book manuscript for a university press - haven't cracked it open yet, but am rather looking forward to it, if not easier then certainly more intellectually engaging than putting final touches on one's own book. Looking forward to much (warm) triathlon training, yoga and reading in the days to come - I'm here in Cayman through Monday the 8th.

Closing tabs:

My former student Sarah Courteau on the self-help movement and the logic of affirmation.

A friend is recognized for excellence in book design.

Ian Bogost's principles for university presses (I am very strongly in favor of most of these, though I think the tenure question is more complicated than this format permits delving into).

Last but not least, sconic sections.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Table of contents

I am basically congenitally incapable of writing either graceful transitions or satisfying endings - I prefer to switch topics abruptly or just stop, as the case may be! I also prefer - see my post titling approach (not this one) - obliquity to articulating the obvious. But at the suggestion of my editor, I have given the chapters of the style book individual titles at the intersection between utility and personal taste....


I. The glimmer factor
Anthony Burgess’s 99 Novels

II. Lord Leighton, Liberace and the advantages of bad writing
Helen DeWitt, Harry Stephen Keeler, Lionel Shriver, George Eliot

III. Mouthy pleasures and the problem of momentum
Gary Lutz, Lolita, Lydia Davis, Jonathan Lethem

IV. The acoustical elegance of aphorism
Kafka, Fielding, Austen, Flaubert

V. Tempo, repetition and a taxonomy of pacing
Peter Temple, Neil Gaiman, A. L. Kennedy, Edward P. Jones

VI. Late style
The Golden Bowl and Swann’s Way

VII. Disordered sentences
Georges Perec, Roland Barthes, Wayne Koestenbaum, Luc Sante

VIII. Details that linger and the charm of voluntary reading
George Pelecanos, Stephen King, Thomas Pynchon

IX. The ideal bookshelf
The Rings of Saturn and The Line of Beauty

X. The bind of literature and the bind of life
Voices from Chernobyl, Bernhard, Knausgaard

Monday, June 17, 2013

Closing tabs

I have been remiss in documenting theatergoing! A Picture of Autumn was perhaps overly long but highly watchable (very good dinner afterwards at Esca); to my surprise, since it is a play I've never really seen the point of, the Shakespeare in the Park Comedy of Errors was wonderfully good! Everything about the production is inspired: the costumes, the music, the fact that the actors sound as though they genuinely understand the words they are saying (not always the case); the performance of Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Dromio is particularly good.

Finishing revisions on the style book this week and next before I go to Cayman at the end of next week. (Also final tinkering with two essays, one on Restoration drama and the eighteenth-century novel and the other on conditions of knowledge in Austen's fiction.) Week two of Ironman training went well and I am racing this coming weekend in Syracuse.


Research on holes in cheese. (Via GeekPress.)

Medieval leprosy bacterium sequenced.

Malcolm Gladwell on A. O. Hirschman (I must read that biography - this is a particular favorite of mine).

Miscellaneous light reading around the edges of far too much internet time-wasting: Gene Kerrigan, Little Criminals (this guy's books are amazing, only I am afraid I have now read them all!); Joanna Hershon, A Dual Inheritance; Karin Slaughter, Busted (a teaser for the full-length book, which I am eagerly awaiting); Ake Edwardson, Room No. 10 (annoyingly poetic, and definitely not his best); and M. E. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath (luridly enjoyable, and rings true to my personal experience of this type - realized I had to read the book after reading this endorsement). I would like to read a long essay or a book-length discussion of quasi-truthful first-person narratives, from Robinson Crusoe through things like this - especially it seems to me an interesting topic in American Studies (someone should write a dissertation!).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The last interview

Stuart Kelly interviews Iain Banks for the Guardian. It is really a super interview, it very much gives the feel of Banks's lively intelligence (a great part of what makes his books so appealing - I am surprised by the way that he says Canal Dreams was probably his worst book, it's one of the ones I particularly love!):
"I'm annoyed I won't get to vote in the referendum. I'm annoyed I won't get to ride an Edinburgh tram and I'm annoyed I won't get to go on the new Fife crossing.

"And," he sighs, "just not seeing so much of the near future. I'd love to see what's going to happen next, what's happening in the oceans of Jupiter's moon, Europa, and what else we'll find out just in our own solar system. And we're not far from being able to analyse the atmospheres of planets around other stars and maybe spotting the signs of life there. There's so much I would have loved to have seen. The positives? I've been lucky in that I've had such a good life. Simple as that. My first 30 years were pretty damn good and the last 30, since I got published, have been absolutely brilliant. I've so many good friends and been part of a wonderful extended family and I'll leave behind a substantial body of work."

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Couples and communities

More from Nathaniel Frank on why gay marriage matters.

Closing tabs

Iain Banks has died.

What is it like to be an octopus? (Via Mike Doe. I note that though I am not a vegetarian, the one creature I really cannot eat is octopus, though in the past I have found grilled octopus delicious. The problem: the part you eat is the part it thinks with....)

Adam Johnson on Kim Jong-il's sushi chef. (Still haven't read the novel - I am torn, often I buy books I suspect I will want to hand on to others in paper rather than electronically, only it makes me much less likely to read them myself - I might have to buy a second copy for Kindle!).

An interesting survey on women and clothes - go and fill it out if you have some spare minutes, I found it quite thought-provoking.

Miscellaneous light reading around the edges: James S. A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes (I don't read a great deal of this style of science fiction, but I hugely enjoyed this one, and will definitely continue with the next installment soon); Jo Nesbo, The Redeemer (it's an earlier installment in the Harry Hole story, I suppose just now published in the United States - I liked it very much indeed, I think it's stronger than the last couple I've read, which lose a little steam compared to the early ones); Taylor Stevens, The Doll (I have been a huge fan of this series so far, but I'm a little worried about the direction it seems to be moving in - I will certainly read the next one, but the Mary Sue element is stronger and there's a bit of Patricia-Cornwellesque grandiosity in the international serial-killer plot - on the other hand, I think Stevens should be counted on a very short list of writers who could be considered to come close to beating Lee Child at his own game, and I still definitely would recommend the series); and Lauren Beukes, The Shining Girls. Curiously extended similarities to Nos4A2 (neither author's fault, just in the DNA of this genre), and not I think as impressive to me as her previous novel, which is probably one of my favorite books of the last five years, but still very much worthwhile, with some really lovely stretches of writing.

Next two weeks: massive triathlon training (especially cycling) culminating in a 70.3 race in Syracuse (I'm not tapering, I'm just going to train through); style book revisions; revisions on the essay I wrote a couple years ago about the relationship between drama and the novel in eighteenth-century Britain. A couple plays - I don't have tickets yet to this, but I'm very keen to see it.