Monday, 19 October 2009

One Can of Spam

photo courtesy of: Jackie121467

Another period of silence. I have wanted to sit down and post something, but there have been hurdles far too great, including my generally pissy mood and not having a computer in the bedroom I am current lodging. (The room was donated by an incredibly generous friend, but involves living out of a suitcase that I can't fully open, one that I reach down into as my morning mystery fun: whatever comes out goes on.) Plus, I have been wrestling this dull sense that I have absolutely nothing valuable or entertaining to say (and forget about original). The blog authorities say that unless you have something interesting to say, just bloody well keep your posts to yourself and read theirs instead. This exclamation hasn't really stopped me. It's been more about me being unsettled, hiding in a carrel, often hungry, and overwhelmed by or at least unhealthily interested in a form of self-pity only interrupted by a handful of friends, red wine, card games, Strictly Come Dancing, riding my bike fast down hills, and buying or coveting pretty Autumn wear.

I have been rewriting my introduction. This was a curious exercise in working my methodological limitations into important insights, and, as ever, trying to be respectful to the greats without getting caught up too much in their games. It's also hard to get the balance between accuracy (where those theories actually came from) and neatness (how they can be used to complement your work). But I quite like how it turned out. It will need another go at the end, of course.

I have also been working on a journal article and a chapter for a book. I wrote them a fair while back, but have had to deal with the reviewers' comments, a complication which appears mild from a distance. I am trying to work out what I think of the style of reviewers' comments. On the one hand (the bigger, robust hand), I often feel hugely relieved and grateful that someone can take another look at my work and see all those things that you can't see when you're up against the bricks. On the wussbag hand, there are almost always a couple of remarks that I think could be expressed in a more neutral way than they are. These are remarks that suggest to me that the reviewer was trying very hard to be constructive and then, as if burdened by a thankless task, just had to give a quick kick while no one was looking. These kicks are presented in this wonderfully poetic language, comments like, 'This writer seems beguiled by her topic' or 'For someone who is concerned with criticising X, she should have realised that her paper was awash with X'. But they tend to go back to the sorts of encouragement they started out with. This is the sandwich approach to feedback. I am not sure how thick the critical filling can be before the pieces of bread crumble. Going on how academics are socalised, I suspect we writers can stomach a full slab of spam in there so long as there is at least some bread slapped on each end. If I ever have the opportunity, I wonder if I will be able to resist slipping a poetic barb in the spam. After all, it's probably the only way reviewers get to have fun. Hmmm...(and 'Hmmm...' to beating my sandwich metaphor to death).

Speaking of careers, there's a lot of talk about it amongst the DPhilers in their final months or year. I've got to say, the academic hopefuls are dropping off. People aren't getting enough bread, it seems. Every week I seem to hear at least a couple of people define their end goal to be 'public policy'. They will probably do it too, whatever it is. But I sometimes wonder whether Oxford gives you a somewhat unrealistic or inflated sense of your ability and context to contribute to the world once you have left. It also suggests through various ways (like being able to organise charity events so easily here) that you will be able to leap frog to the top of these amazing government and non-government organisations and find love. Maybe it turns out like this. I will have to study where these people go and let you know. I will probably spot one of their faces on a coin one day, while I hand over the last of my change to the supermarket assistant before getting back on my bike to ride to my home on the top of a hill, just in time to watch a dance show. I shouldn't write like this. I don't even really mean it. I warned you that there was a general pissy mood going on. I have to start another chapter tomorrow.