Excuse me, but did anyone else see in the Newspaper of Record today an article about books that have been written and published (on paper, mind you) from cobbled together blog entries? And that people are calling them "blooks"? Why not call them books? I ask you.
Virtually the whole day stretches out before me as a possible theater for changes, great and small. Will my attempts to return to The Book remain a series of forced, semi-artificial acts (transcribing notes, translating files, fiddling with punctuation and topic sentences), punctuated by the kinds of events that make a Radical feel like she has really accomplished something (for example, going to the supermarket)? Or will I cross the line into Real Writing, productive hours that result in Pages that can be Printed Out? Pages that are ready for my audience (“Mr. De Mille, I am ready for my close up!”)
Only time will tell. On top of re-tackling the opus, I have to prepare to return to teaching like the rest of you, something I have not done in close to two years. The closest I can come to imagining this, as a reality, is in the form of a variety of anxiety dreams that are particular to academics. No, not the underwear one. The ones in which:
1. I have to take an exam, usually in math or science, with the knowledge that I have not attended the class all term and will probably fail.
2. I am getting ready to graduate, but realize to my horror that I have not signed up for enough credits in my final term and will have to explain to my parents why I am not marching with my class. My parents, God love it!
3. I have come to the point of graduation and realized that I have failed to complete sufficient credits in – you guessed it! – math and science to meet the distributional requirements.
4. I am desperately trying to go to a class I have been cutting, but cannot find it: nevertheless, I wander a maze of complex halls, unable to find the right classroom, but sure that it is right around the corner. Eventually I realize I am hopelessly lost and the class is almost over anyway, and I wander out of the building with sinking heart.
By the way, this last dream – which, like all the others is one in which I am dealing with Fear of Failure for reasons that probably have directly to do with The Belated Book and my reasons for putting it aside for so long -- is a reflection of real life experiences. Not only did I cut a fair number of classes as an undergraduate, but the buildings at nearby Oligarch University, my alma pater, are gothic and labyrinthine, having been built by ambitious captains of industry to resemble the old European universities. Compared to the neat, rectangular brick squares of Zenith University (built by tidy little ministers on a budget) they are a horror show of interlinked passageways, towers, and peculiar numbering. One monstrosity I took many classes in had two halves, since an older building had had a second glued on to it at a later time, and the floors on each half were numbered differently. Therefore, thanks to the generosity of Donor #2 and the ineptitude of Architect #2, you could pass horizontally through a door and suddenly find yourself facing a new set of room numbers altogether. But some buildings were just designed peculiarly from the get-go. The other day, I went to look up an Oligarch American Studies colleague for lunch, got into an elevator to get to the second floor, and suddenly found myself in a dormitory.
You’ll notice that I have no anxiety dreams about showing up in class with no lecture, or trying to teach but having no words come out of my mouth when I speak. This confirms my belief that it is not teaching I am concerned about.
Nevertheless preparations for the classroom must be made: syllabi drawn up, books ordered, reserve librarians to wrestle to the ground and berate into violating copyright law. Yesterday was the pleasant task of buying back to school clothes: two pairs of Levis 501’s, pre-faded and preshrunk; four black tee shirts from Banana Republic; and a pair of waterproof cowboy boots – brown Durango ropers, to be precise, for wading to work in the driving rain and snow. If you can think of anything else I need, just leave it in a comment.