About a year and a half ago, I posted here that I thought Alias Grace was a pretty dreadful novel - won't embarrass myself by going into details. Thanks, if you read that post, for not reaching into the screen and administering a short sharp smack, because, obviously, I was completely and grotesquely wrong. Sorry, MA. I reread it in June in order to teach it again, and this time it was terrific. All I can come up with to account for how much I disliked it the first time around is that I had an undiagnosed case of masterpiece fatigue hanging over from the previous few months' reading.
About the time I reread AG I also read Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, and enjoyed that a lot too. I actually jotted down a few pages of notes towards an article hanging off these two books and Saturday, and/or maybe Enduring Love, thinking about how contemporary novelists write about what people do when they work, and making a case for the strengths of historical fiction as a legitimate mode of thinking about history (pace E.L. Doctorow but contra I.C., whose intervention in that topic made me so angry I've resolved never to openly discuss it in any forum where I don't have the luxury of an editor for my own protection.) And then I found that the Atwood / Frazier / historical fiction cluster is already the subject of a couple of good, interesting published articles. So my notes went to the bottom of the drawer, along with the essay about hats in Elizabeth Gaskell's books that I've been "writing" since 1998 and the essay on pharmaceuticals in modern American novels that I've been "writing" for two years longer than that, an essay teasing out the implications of the seance chapters in Possession, and along with abandoned thesis chapters and a year's worth of writing about Hitchcock films that led me up a blind alley. Things go into this drawer, and so far, they don't come out.
As everyone who does it occasionally must, I seriously wonder what the point of producing academic criticism is. Every project is fun for a while. That's a point, possibly. But then, does anyone ever read what you've written? And if they do, why aren't they reading a novel instead? The idiotic exercise of totting up "rank" and "impact" for all your publications is enough to make you really not want to write them, also.
Well, it was good to have another go at Alias Grace. I would like to try writing a novel of my own: I've been thinking about a sort of autobiographical one which takes for narrative material only some of the different jobs I've had in my life. If you've been reading this blog for a while you've had most of the high points already. Before what I'm doing now nearly all my jobs had something to do with dress, and even though my working life hasn't been all that long, many of them were in positions or and organisations that are obsolete or have otherwise failed to survive into the present. This seems like enough to get started.
Anyway, Statuary Friday! I made this in the last Life Drawing session for the term, on Wednesday night. It was very good fun.