Thursday, 20 April 2006

ooh, shiny

Like Galaxy a few days ago, I feel like writing, but I'm far from sure I have anything to say that is worth your time to read (or indeed worth my time to write, since I have such an enormous pile of work that needs attention.)

I've stayed at home today in order to get on with marking, but I forgot that the heater isn't working, and it's too cold to do anything that can't be done lying curled up in a blanket on the corner of the sofa, so I've been reading novels instead. Do you want to hear what I've been reading the last few days? I'm in the middle of an Octavia Butler kick - my eyes are a bit sore from the Oankali/construct/human names flying around in Adulthood Rites, and Imago is going to be next. I reread Never Let me Go, and it was even better the second time; I finished Ali Smith's The Accidental after racing through the first half, then deliberately slowing down to savour the remainder; and I'm carefully rereading Such is Life, and some stories of Conrad's, preparatory to teaching them early in May.

The book I want to read next is Cloud Atlas (I think.) Have you read this? Will I like it?

Speaking of teaching, from next semester I will be going to Mildura once a week instead of once a fortnight. That's going to make the actual teaching much easier, and pleasanter, but I'm a bit worried about how it's going to eat into the rest of my time. I'm still damn lucky to have the job at all - I'm sure it'll be fine. If only the airplane people weren't so bossy about not letting you turn on a laptop until the plane's been flying for twenty minutes. Surely the pilots know the way there by now, and don't need their precious "navigational instruments"? It's a pity that the days of being allowed to stick your head into the cockpit are over; I would like to see what flying looks like from the front of the plane as opposed to out one of the windows.

I flatter myself that I am a relatively disciplined human being, but all the same I am prey to certain irresistible compulsions that come over me in a handful of recurring, low-stakes situations: taking baits left out by blog-trolls is one I would like to get the better of, and am making some progress with; but I can't stop myself from undoing my seatbelt in the moments between the plane stopping, the cabin crew telling everyone to leave their belts on, and light being switched off. I hear everyone else undo their belts, and I tell myself to wait because I can't stand up yet anyway, but no...the hands undo the buckles. Is this the saurian brain at work, wanting to get out of danger as soon as possible? Or is it just a Pavlovian response to stimulus?

On the subject of Pavlovisms, I can only applaud the implicit assertion of Cats' Rights to Equal Airplay, even from Sinister Behavioural Scientists, in this esteemed blogger's nom de blog, and urge anyone out there thinking of beginning a blog of her or his own to consider joining this noble cause. I have even thought up a name you can have, completely gratis: Cat's Schrodinger.

I heard yesterday that a piece I wrote a while ago about the father / daughter relation in King Lear, Hamlet, and Othello is going to be included in a collection of essays about Shakespearean tragedy. I'm pleased about that, and surprised - I was sure it'd be knocked back, mainly becasue it's just a kind of rumination on the topic, & like much of what I write it has no particular argument. It's just "look at this and this, isn't it interesting." Not that I really mind - it just makes certain kinds of conversation a bit awkward.

Something else "interesting" is Morrissey's new album - I've been listening to it repeatedly and it isn't getting any less opaque: it's strangely hard to hear the songs and their arrangements in themselves, they seem so thoroughly dependent on previous, foregone states of Morrisseydom. So the effect this album is having on me is creating a desire to listen to old stuff again instead. (Even to Kill Uncle.) Unexpectedly, really re-acquainting myself with November Spawned a Monster (the soundtrack to one of the most embarrassing episodes of my adolescence, no chance at all of me telling you any more than that) and with Every Day is Like Sunday threw a very nice sidelight onto why Kazuo Ishiguro might have elected to set Never Let Me Go in the Britain of the early 1990s rather than in a near future as would seem to suit the cloning element of the plot.

As this is developing into a rambly musing sort of post, let me finish by pointing you to this interesting post and discussion, at The View from Elsewhere, about where gender matters intersect with theorisations of blogging and accounts of the blogosphere. (Galaxy's post that I linked to up the top deals with associated topics.) If you're interested in these issues (and let's face it, most bloggers and blog-readers are) then do go read Elsewhere's post. Sometimes I feel like this is a conversation that is always flaring up in different places, but without much continuity or building upon things others have said previously, and so I don't speak out of any certainty here (Clancy's research being a key example of something the rest of us who mean to join in this debate will need to assimilate) - but Elsewhere is adding an element I haven't seen too much of before, which is thinking about the personal / political blogging divide in terms of both gender and genre, with an eye to the ways that allocations of writings into different genres may themselves be used to produce and maintain gendered rankings and valuations.

The discussion at Elsewhere's place reminded me of the argument Susan Sheridan makes (in Along the Faultlines), about "romance" and "realism", and gender and Australian literary culture in the 1890s. Sheridan says that in the 1890s, when certain long-lasting aspects of nationalist literary culture were being formed, the stigmatised "feminine" forms of writing - romantic, popular, affective, domestic - were denigrated on the grounds of girlyness. Valorised forms of writing (nationalist, democratic, political, vernacular) acquired a strong but suppressed association with masculinity, and thence the "sedimented common sense" notion arose that the "true" Australian literary traditon, the "good" politics and the "good" writing, was to be found among the "masculine" literary forms (one of which is the 'male romance' or adventure story - war, trade unionism etc.) Sheridan's basic proposition, that the genres and terms associated with masculinity constitute the good norms while feminine genres are correspondingly abjectified, seems to me incredibly useful and apt as a description of the emerging discourse around blogging, and it has the advantage of supplementing considerations of subject matter with emphasis on the actual literary qualities of the writing (its intertextualities, its voice, its use of language, its controlling conventions). On my castles-in-air days I wonder about the possibility of pursuing some kind of post-phd research project into just this area. Think what fun that would be! Sheridan's book also insists on the necessity of overlaying the gender binary with class and race oppositions, something I have not even begun to think about....


whitebait said...

You will soooo like Cloud Atlas!!! Well, I hope so. It is just such a gripping read and heaven for anyone who has a vague interest in science fiction, colonialism, california, english publishers, and other ... other, well, stuff. Really - and the bonus is that afterwards you might read Ghostwritten which while not quite as good at the starting and finish line has a similar structure and some shared characters. And did I mention how good number9dream is?

Yay, the mention of Butler. I'm going to dust off my copy of Dawn and re-read thanks to this reminder.

Kate said...

I'm reading Italo Calvino's 'If on a winter's night a traveller' and seeing a few parallels with 'Cloud Atlas'. If that helps. Something about the hold that narratives take and how violent and odd it is when they are disrupted.

I enjoyed 'Cloud Atlas' personally so I do hope you like it.

Lucy Tartan said...

If you both recommend it, how can I resist! I'll get a copy ASAP.

Lucy said...

I loved Cloud Atlas too. I saw David Mitchell last night at a bookstore, but sadly I'd missed the reading part and there was too much of a crowd for the signing.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Cat's Schrodinger. She's a composer, isn't she? Elena Cat's Schrodinger.

Born in Tashkent (dammit, she's Uzbeki... why oh why oh why wasn't she born in Cat-sack-stan... or the Catskilled Stadium Mountains?!?!) (LOL -- I just made that up -- very proud of m'self!!) and lives in Sydney.

And when I say she 'lives' in Sydney... Well... I haven't looked in the box recently. Maybe she doesn't exist at all. [Stop drolling your eyes!]

Chris [I need less sleep]

P.S. OHMIGOD, the word verification is an anagram of kazakhstan with my initials bunged in the midsection!!!!!! Seriously!

Gawain said...

Dear Sorrow

And to think that I have never heard of you or read anything by you until now -- and that I had to go to the literature carnival to find you! I am giving you the FATTEST LINK I can find.

I have NOT read Cloud Atlas but the title promises cream puffs in the sky... Do tell how it is.

"I was sure it'd be knocked back, mainly becasue it's just a kind of rumination on the topic, & like much of what I write it has no particular argument. It's just "look at this and this, isn't it interesting."

Well, the internet if full of arguments (usually bad ones) but good conversations do not consist of arguments -- they consist of doing just that: saying to your friend (preferrably over a cup of something): look at this, isn't this interesting? Wharton said it was like playing ball in order to keep it up (rather than to kick it into the other team's wicket). You seem to do this rather well. I am subscribig to your RSS.

best regards

cfsmtb said...

Harry's gone NUDE! Hope he doesn't catch a nasty chill.

elsewhere said...

Thanks for the mention. I'm catching up on a backlog of blogreading at the present, so coming into things a bit late here.

Something which popped into my mind when I read the bit about Sheridan & class & race is the whole dimension of manufactured/perfomative identity as a blogger...things such as class, race and gender can be fudged pretty easily in hyperspace. I mean, I could set up my own performative, unpc Ali G style blog. Even if you built an empirical aspect into your project design, you'd have a lot of problems measuring things such as the class and race positions bloggers write from, tho less so for gender I suspect. But there are interesting questions there, such as whether one blogs from a female body or a feminine subjectivity and so forth.