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Friday, March 13, 2015

Setting them up, knocking them down

Hey, I think I actually feel like I got enough done today. This may be simply because I've lowered my expectations of what "enough" is, but it may also be because I spent a little longer working productively: about five hours instead of four--and the day may come when I manage to work six hours before I hit the wall.

I have a feeling a few days of allowing my brain to go fallow also helped. I honestly can't remember whether I spent one or two days doing essentially nothing, but I know I spent yesterday mostly working on stuff for/from other people: I proofread the poetry for our literary journal; I provided feedback on about the fourth go-round of revisions on an article by my Portuguese friend and her colleagues (very cool stuff, looking at the connection between actual wolf populations in Portugal and how wolves are depicted in Portuguese literature: she's a biologist by training, looking at literature, for a journal about anthropology: triple fusion of disciplines)--and I took a look at some material Paul had given me when we met for dinner the other night. It was wonderfully refreshing to get out of my own head for a while. Even though I'm reading all sorts of critical material, I'm still doing the synthesizing and writing, and it was great to step back and observe others doing that heavy lifting.

Today was also an experiment in yet another rhythm for the work: I had coffee at Dunkin Donuts (I like their coffee better than anyone else's in town), and I was surprised that I actually got caught up in the work there, kept working long after my extra-large coffee was finished. However, once I got to a good place to pause, I went to the town library to keep working.

That is something I never thought I'd say. As long as I can remember, I have had a real problem with working in libraries. When I was researching for my dissertation, I did have to spend a significant amount of time in the New York Public Library, the research branch (the "library with the lions"), and since that is not a circulating collection, I had to sit there and work my way through my stacks of requested materials--but I usually ended up making mountains of photocopies so I could take the material home with me and read it there. And that was the only time--prior to today--that I've actually spent time in a library, working. My usual MO has been to run in, grab the material I need, check it out, and disappear with it into the bat cave. I only spent those hours in the NYPL because it was the only way I could get my mitts on a lot of the material.

But today, for some reason, I thought I'd give it a whirl. The town library here is lovely: spacious, sunny, nice wooden tables and comfortable chairs, lots of outlets (electronic devices, for the charging of)--even a teeny tiny place where one can get a cup of coffee from a machine. (Don't know if I'll try that out, but maybe.) And it was lovely to work there. The only slight annoyance was that, apparently there is going to be some kind of band performance at some point soon, so for a while, I had to listen to the drum set and electric guitar, futzing around (sound check? who knows), but it didn't go on for long, and the rest of the time the only thing I had to screen out from time to time was the voice of the librarian at the help desk as he took phone calls or talked to library patrons.

In any event, I liked it well enough that I may very well continue to add that into the mix of places where I work. The more I can vary the routine, the happier I'll be, I think.

As for the work itself, I did notice, with some measure of amusement, that just as bad papers require a lot more commentary than good ones, "bad" critical articles require longer "annotations" than "good" ones. I'm not talking about whether I agree with the stance of the critic; I'm talking about the strength of the argument. I read one critical essay today that annoyed me no end. (I wonder if Le Guin has read it, and if so, how irritated she was.) The authors very carefully ignored significant evidence in the novel that would invalidate their argument and simultaneously mashed up the context of other parts so it looked like the evidence backed them up, whereas, in context, the evidence at least calls their conclusions into question, if it doesn't undermine their argument entirely. And there were several flat out errors--rather egregious ones. I have to admit, it was fun to point all that out to students and essentially say, "This is an excellent model of what NOT to do, and here's why." I wish I'd been on some kind of jury for that publication: I'd have lambasted them in no uncertain terms.

Whoof. Nice to get worked up from time to time--and to feel intelligent about it. (Under which heading, see also Tonia's e-mail to the English department in response to a request for ideas about actions the academic senate should take in response to fiats issued by the Board of Trustees, in blatant disregard of even a pretense of shared governance.) (Diagram that phrase, I dare you.)

And now it's time to call a halt to the work portion of the day. I need to back up my files (I should do that every day, actually), but then c'est tout; c'est finis.

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