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.

6 comments:

Ink said...

I'm so happy to read your post. Was thinking/worrying about you. I do remember how bleak and hermitesque I turned when working seriously on the diss., and it seemed like it had to happen. Not that you're bleak. You're pissy. But I was bleak AND pissy. Part of the process, methinks. Anyway, good that you're carrying on and doing the work, which is all that stands between you and being done. So keep on keeping on, dear AH!

And you're so right about reviewing...I never know just how seriously to take the complaints or the praise. And this is because I write reviews, too, and it's very hard, if not impossible, to write an objective review. We all have our preferences re: topic coverage and expected style, and it's difficult to write around those, if that make sense.

Anyway, sending you a cyberhug and congrats for your good work ethic and production of pages! Woohoo!

droid said...

I'm glad you are enjoying your walking tour of life's great sphincter.

Good Enough Woman said...

Great to hear from you, AH, though I'm sorry you are pissy. I hate that pissy feeling. On the other hand, I am impressed by all of your academic activity. Onward!

And hang in there.

Bavardess said...

Hey, progress is progress, even if the side effect is a pissy-ness. As for the reviews, I am the kind of person who always fixates on the spam and forgets how tasty and crusty the bread is.

LPC said...

I just wanted you to know that I tagged you on my blog today. It's an easy tag, to do with photos and folders. I thought you might like an excuse for an easy post. If you want to cheat and just post a photo, any photo, I won't hold it against you. Hey, I put one up of my on a surfboard. It's hard to get much sillier than that...

aliteralgirl said...

Reading your post, I start to think there must be something in the Oxford air. There's a lot of self-doubt, depression, pissiness, and general malaise going on in this town at the moment (and I'm far from immune myself). Maybe it's the shorter days, the movement towards a dark, cold winter; maybe it's some kind of weird negative energy in the clouds.

All I can say is, screw the blog authorities. I think the most valuable output can come when you're simply writing for yourself--not for an audience, or to capture a particular idea. Certainly it can be theraputic, anyway.

And until the clouds lift, coveting pretty Autumn wear sounds like a good idea. I'm currently spending a lot of time drooling over other girls' boots...