Feeling Furious

Reading Kate Zambreno‘s latest brilliant book ( and I don’t use the word brilliant very often) HEROINES I am incensed, furious, livid, at what was (and maybe still is) considered an acceptable attitude towards women’s writing of the modernist era.
I can’t put the damn book down – my PhD – the submission of which is fast approaching, imminent in fact! – sits neglected as I devour Zambreno’s deliciously constructed text.

“He writes I imagine, in the tradition of neurotic men who treat women as objects but are forgiven for their insight and sensitivity, in the tradition of falling in love and into beautiful girls. The entire history of Western literature is dominated by absolute pricks, I realize, pricks that can’t get hard but yet ejaculate with such eloquent language, Beckett was a prick with Lucia Joyce (poor Lucia), Scott Fitzgerald was a prick and how does she get revenge? She is always the minor writer.”

Kate Zambreno, Heroines (2013) p. 228.

The only problem being? Now I want to read EVERYTHING she mentions – all of it – the novels, the biographies, the letters, the diaries, the scraps – THE EVIDENCE of the silenced/othered.

I like to think my own heroine, Rebecca West, survived and was artistically successful because she dumped that pompous narcissist H. G. Wells , who tried his damnedest to control her, squirrelling her and their son off to the wilds of Wales and Norfolk to keep her out of sight and away from her career … just in time!

It’s made me more aware of myself as a female, as a writer, as a fractured identity than anything else I have ever read – it speaks to women in the here and now. Claim yourselves! She seems to be saying. Don’t be negated – don’t be sanitised by male expectations!

This author is inspirational.

In other news – 

Meet Hilda!

We don't all need to be size 0 to look HOT!
We don’t all need to be size 0 to look HOT!

On a more frivolous note – a friend sent me a link to this cheeky little bit of lighthearted fluff … leaving the whole hyper sexualised/objectifications of the female body thing aside for now it’s good to know a fat girl can rock the Pin-up world!

After all I keep saying it so it must be true  FAT is a feminist issue!

Zaftig /zäftig/ adjective: (of a woman) Having a full, rounded figure; plump. Yep – and baby I am not giving up cake for no man!



So I am perhaps a little slow on uploading a post about the fabulous World Book Night event (it was yesterday ) but I did enjoy feeling very philanthropic as I handed out the books.

I chose to gift mine to pub goers. I opted for Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, because it was one I had read and enjoyed and had already given away; a clear sign I wanted to get other people to read it.
I could have gone highbrow and taken on Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca but what a foosty old book that is to try and foist onto unsuspecting folks.The aim of the evening is to get non book readers to read .. now that is harder than you think and perhaps a little patronising. The website even gives you handy hints for targeting ‘non-book readers’ but I found the tone implied a level of condescension that I didn’t quite hold with – so I went for people who looked friendly!

This year the books all have numbers and the idea is to trace how far a book will travel as it is passed from hand to hand to hand … I imagine that folks will stop registering them after a while but here’s hoping one of the books I gave away will reach the other side of the world! 🙂

It was also the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death! So in honour of the bard each novel had a sonnet attached to it – Esme’s sonnet was no 63!

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Sonnet 63

Against my love shall be as I am now,
With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

Progress on the revisions has been slow – hence the lack of blog posts – but I am still daily on Blipfoto so if you fancy dropping by and saying ‘hello’ feel free.

Reading Between the Lines

… is a skill that we really should develop and hone as academics but is something I find difficult. I need to read every word in context and then usually twice (with particularly difficult concepts) in order to even begin to grasp the basics.

This means I am a very slow academic. Things take a long time to ‘happen’ as my nose is often buried far too deeply in a book to notice that time is flashing past and I haven’t written a word. It’s exacerbated by the fact that every time I read one thing I am exposed to numerous other ‘essential’ sources that have thus far eluded me … which ensures I often end up on an erogenous  erroneous book hunt ( Oh look … we are right back full circle to my good old friend Procrastination). My strap line should really read – the more I learn the less I seem to know! Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing – as is being intelligent enough to know how little intelligence you actually hold … I am beginning to wish I was born ignorant and blissful. I was most certainly conceived in blissful ignorance but that is a whole other blog post! 

So I am trying to read a little and write a lot, changing the old habit of reading oodles and writing in a panic! I have even changed my Facebook profile to a KEEP CALM AND KEEP WRITING notice … a good warning to those near and dear that I am in deed in the throws of giving birth to yet another piece of research.

Matters are never helped by libraries not holding books in stock. I am fortunate in that my institution is very generous to its grad students and we are allowed to order directly for the library (though it has to have approval), which can really cut out the middle man. I have already ordered up one set of books which prove to be a great help to my research and I have another on its way – though sadly it won’t arrive in time for this section but hopefully it will for the revisions later on. I understand the logistics in housing library collections, especially when it comes to specialist subjects but it can be frustrating to say the least to have to rely on inter-library loans and research trips. This week I found myself a victim of the distant learners curse. A library book I had out on loan was recalled, with all the sinister usual threats of heavy daily fines. I had to have it back in the library before 5 pm on Wednesday. Dutiful as I am I did as requested. Thursday morning I got another email informing me that a long awaited book from the British library was now available and I should collect it immediately, as it would need to be returned before the Christmas vacation and was also subject to immediate recall. I had little choice but to jump back in the car and complete yet another 40 mile round trip to collect said book! Again this inconvenience is ameliorated by the fact I don’t have to pay for Inter-library loans, and many grad students at other universities do, so I guess it is a small price to pay for such a service.

However this has caused a knock on effect – in that I now have book shelves groaning under the weight of books I have bought because they can be obtained cheaper in the internet than it costs me in petrol to get them from the library! Whoops!

I BLAME THE GOVERNMENT – because that’s what student’s do right?

I am also trying desperately trying to overcome the mental challenge of loathing Mondays – it is ridiculous really as I don’t have ‘weekends’ in the normal sense as I work to my own schedule and my partner works shifts, so why it should still loom ominously one each week is beyond me …

I know what will cure it – a bit of book therapy .. now where is that link for Abebooks … I am going on a book hunt! I guess I can always buy more shelves …

The Night Owl

Things that have change during the course of my academic life are innumerable but one thing that I have noticed that has been quite drastic is my body clock.

I couldn't put it better myself!

I have never been a ‘morning person’ as such but since I have been studying this has become ridiculously exacerbated! As I had fairly young children at home when I started out almost ten years ago I found the only quiet time I had to work was when the small things were in bed – usually this meant I got some peace from about 9pm onwards (they went to bed about seven but the nonsense never ended until gone nine!) 

I would use their time in school to do the lectures, tutorials, the library trips etc,  then when I should have been consolidating my days efforts I would be cooking, cleaning and organising two children for school the next day; meaning that come deadline time I was pulling almost constant one nighters ( which resulted in great marks on the papers and not so great black bags under my eyes).

This situation could have ended some time ago as now both my children are teens and you would think that their growing self-sufficiency would equal a growing amount of time for me to indulge my latest research whims work. But alas, no! The manuals do not tell you that children become more demanding of your attention the older they get. They also hold you to account more; they store up missed football matches, school recitals and days out  and write them down in the Catalogue of Motherly Guilt, which they will pull out at any opportunity that will see a benefit for them and be torture for you!

Emotionally they become less secure. Once their whole world revolved around getting a decent night’s sleep, but the complications that come with the teen years seem unfathomable and endless. Peer relationships, school pressures, exams, girl/boyfriends you name it you need to be there to steer them past all the pitfalls, and when they eventually fall into one of the pits, to pull them out!  It takes its toll on a mother who is a sole parent and an academic (without the perks of a salary and a finishing time!)

YUP - Calvin - you and me both!

My internal body clock is well and truly FCUk’d these days – I am at my most alert when everyone else seems to be winding down!

A Plan was concocted!

As a consequence the only real peace I get is after 9 am in the morning when they leave for school, and then again – much later than the 9pm watershed of their childhoods – late at night. And try as I might I cannot seem to take advantage of the early mornings. So I have devised a plan that works for me and was inspired by a novelist, who was featured on Sky Arts ‘The Book Show’. She wrote all her novels sat in bed!  I was awestruck! (I cannot remember her name – she didn’t write ‘my sort of books’ so she was consigned to the space in my head that is entitled ‘not interested enough to pursue’ )

It got me to thinking!

Am I alone in wanting this duvet cover?

Whilst I can’t write in bed what I can do exceptionally well in bed (and keeping it clean) is read! I’ve been reading in bed for years! So my current situation is this – the dog wakes me usually around the 6:30 mark, I go back to bed and get re-awoken by children getting ready for school (they sort themselves out – my presence usually invites squabbles, so I stay well out the way). Once the front door slams shut ( never quietly always slammed) I crawl sluggishly  down to the kitchen and brew up a cup of tea, returning with it to my warm bed. I then reach over and read whatever current text I have on the go. I have post-its, notebook, pencils, and sticky markers on hand to facilitate note-taking as well. It seems to work for me… though I think many folks who know I am a late riser as such must think I am the laziest sod they know as I do spend all morning in bed – most days! Even the lovely delivery lady has noticed I am not an early riser and has offered to leave parcels for me rather than ring the doorbell. I declined thinking that would just make matters worse … 

The other benefit to indulging my reluctance to become alert with the dawn chorus is that I think more effectively. I am in a half dreamlike state, not fully aware of the day and all its complication – it is a liminal space in which thoughts can wander untethered to the mundane or the practical or the word processor! I have found my best ideas have emerged from this ‘slow period’ of the day. Only this morning, as aI was reading Writing For Their Lives The Modernist Women 1910-1940′ the whole purpose of my thesis suddenly became clearer, including why I had chosen to study the texts I had. It is a relatively small breakthrough but it should benefit the coherence of the work enormously.

Sometimes I think you need to work they way you work best, regardless of how unorthodox that may seem to you and others, and very much regardless what others may think …

Am I alone in being a real night owl at odds with normal society and it’s 9-5 mentality? Or are we all fighting this urge to curl up until about 10 am when they day really starts?

Book Day!!!

Today it has been a day for the postie to bring me lovely surprises.

First off the door bell rang and I opened it to discover two parcels for me. How exciting!The first was a ‘special delivery’ and contained my Tiffany chain, which had been sent off for repair after it snapped. Marvellous service – free repair and polish and packaged up in a beautiful Tiffany box complete with white ribbon. I can now wear my Tiffany key pendant again! I wear it all the time so I have missed it whilst the chain was away being repaired!

The Prize Pile

The second was a parcel of books that I won in a competition run by the blogger Little Interpretations. I have never won anything before so I am thrilled to have won this as the prize was BOOKS! And you can never have too many books! I am particularly looking forward to the autobiography Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay, who is a wonderful writer and is also partly responsible for me winning the prize ( I submitted a review of Kay to the blog for the competition). After the first batch of books went missing, Marie kindly offered to source replacements – and it was those that arrived today. The blog itself is a fabulous for anyone (like me) who can’t get enough of books! So THANK YOU MARIE. 

The Research Pile

A little later in the afternoon I took delivery of my amazon order. All related to my thesis so I feel justified, but also all look like interesting reads. Lost Voices of the Edwardians is snippets from real people, a recorded social history compiled from letters, journals and other personal writings. A nice one to dip in and out of when I am needing a dose of ‘what life was really like’ (which always helps to prevent me imposing a 21st century sensibility on an early 20th century period.)

Planning Perfection

Also in this parcel was my new 2012 Molesekine Weekly notebook planner … *SIGH*. I have missed using this perfect diary! If it’s so perfect why did you stop using it I hear you cry …. Well, my daughter bought me a lovely diary for Christmas last year so I had no need to buy a Moleskine like usual. But I am such a creature of habit that I am almost relieved to be getting near the end of the diary so I shall be able to use the Moleskine again! I am a fan of these notebooks anyway but the planner is perfect as it has a note page for each week, as well as a notes section at the back, which allows me to compile to do lists and jot down thoughts etc without having to carry around another notebook! Perfection thy name is Moleskine!

Now all that remains for me to do is read all of them! I could be a whole!

Update: My posts about mind mapping and Scrivener generated quite a little debate here and on another website I frequent so it’s good to know that the stuff I choose to share is worthwhile. I really have enjoyed getting feedback and other perspectives on these subjects. Keep them coming.

I am still enjoying Scrivener (on day 5 now so that’s pretty good going for me and new software!) and I can actually see me buying the license when the trial is finished. Sadly I haven’t quite managed to keep up the 1000 words a day effort (unless you count the blogs in which case I am over – yeah!) ! It’s a definite ‘could do better’ on that one I’m afraid! Still, as they say, tomorrow is another day!