Saturday, December 17, 2005

What I Did on My Quarter Leave

Hello Darlings,
I have missed talking to you; most likely I have lost most, if not all of my readers, but Miss Margo had to stay focused during her leave. That is not to say I totally followed through on my promise to quit the blog world while on research leave. I certainly didn't stop reading other people's blogs. And there were so many moments when I wanted to blog, but stopped myself, insisting that the only writing I could do was academic writing, which meant I often did no writing at all.

Here are the top ten things I did while on leave:

10. Did catch up reading. I never meant to be an Americanist--I'm a modernist, goddammit!--but with all of my publications on a very American poet, that's how I get read. So I spent the first month or so of leave reading twentieth century American history. Ask me anything about nativism. Quiz me on bohemian Greenwich Village.

9. Ate a lot of cottage cheese and Triscuits. It's my new favorite snack food. It's also my new favorite dinner.

8. Stayed home for days on end. Sometimes this meant I didn't bathe. Other times it meant I drew a bath, let it get cold, ran a new one, let it get cold . . .

7. Cut off my hair. I had this ridiculous idea that I'd save money while on leave by neither cutting nor coloring my hair. Obviously, the coloring part lasted about six weeks and then I couldn't live with my trashy roots. The not cutting part just made me look old and conservative, so I got a kicky, shaggy, Beck-like short cut. Speaking of Beck, anyone else enjoying his new album?

6. Worked out like a fiend. This was enabled, in part, by

5. Becoming obsessed with Seventh Heaven. It started innocently enough--it comes on at 5 everyday, and if I was still on the elliptical machine when the Gilmore Girls repeat ended I'd watch a few minutes and try to figure out who the characters were and why the parents were so obsessed with drugs and sex. And then I noticed how much this squeaky clean, and not surprisingly, hateful, judgemental, and sanctimonious family reminded me of the people I grew up with in Mormondom, and I had to watch more. And then I just plain got hooked on the melodrama. Now I do whatever I have to do to be in the gym, on my machine, tv on the Family Channel, by 5pm everyday. I've gone down two pants sizes already, and I'm only up to the third season.

4. Stayed up late; woke up late. Berated myself. Cried. Promised myself I'd go to bed earlier the next night and start an early morning writing schedule the very next day. But then I'd want to watch the Colbert Report after The Daily Show, and then I'd need to see which Will and Grace was on at 11 and then watch just long enough to see Karen, and then switch back to Comedy Central to catch a quick minute of the David Spade show or Reno 911, or Drawn Together, and then it's time to check in real quick with the midnight Will and Grace and then watch just long enough to see Karen . . .

3. Gave a paper at a conference for the first time in two years. After having been ruthlessly over-professionalized in grad school (and bankrupting myself in the process by going to conferences all over the planet) I stopped cold turkey once I got a t.t. job. Conference sessions were as boring and pretentious as I'd remembered, but I met up with old friends, enjoyed some papers, and appreciated having been forced to write something.

2. Scratched the book project I've been planning to write since grad school, decided instead to just revise my diss (which wasn't really that bad) because it would be easier and because I knew people would totally want to read it. Sketched outline of book, divided saveable writing from diss. into new chapters, struggled to come up with a new title, thought about book covers. Then, as per item number 10. did tons of background reading in 20th c. American popular culture and decided I needed to expand my diss. from one figure to a larger project about a whole literary/cultural scene. Sketched out that book, realized single-author book chapter outline would work just fine in this new, expanded book. Did more background reading, decided I didn't know what I was talking about and that what I really, really wanted to write about was the subject of the original book, the one I dumped at the beginning of the leave. Went back to it, wrote a preface and most of an introduction, sketched outline of the rest of the book, started putting juicy quotes and bibliographic info. into the various chapter holder documents I had made. And, ultimately,

1. FELL IN LOVE WITH MY PROJECT. You know how you can shop a concept for a book--at cocktail parties, in departmental reviews, in your diary, on the Works in Progress section of your CV, etc., but until you start writing it, you feel a little apologetic about it and think maybe it's dumb? But how, once you start actually writing and letting your thoughts happen for real it starts to take shape and pull your mind around and synchronize all the courses you've ever taught and all the areas of your doctoral exams, and all the theory that most makes sense to you and starts to become a for real book, one that you would love to read and are completely astonished and excited that you get to write? Yeah, that's what happened. It's my new drug, it's what I think about when I'm driving, showering, doing the dishes, it's what I sneak back in to look at after the 2nd commercial break of the 2nd episode of Will and Grace, what I mess around with until way too late at night/early in the morning.

So that's it, kids. I don't know if I'm back per se, but for now, at least I'm caught up.


Blogger What Now? said...

Wow, sounds like a fabulous and amazingly productive quarter off. I'm glad you're back blogging, but I'm glad that your time away was so rich.

Don't you think that the mom on Seventh Heaven was a repressed, and therefore bitchy, woman? For some reason, I became obsessed with the first season of it, but she was so horrible that I couldn't keep up with the show.

5:13 PM  
Blogger La Lecturess said...

Welcome back! We've missed you--but what a fantastic quarter it sounds like it's been.

Do you have any new outfits or personae for when you're working on this particular project?

6:02 PM  
Blogger Margo, darling said...

What Now, the mom is definitely bitchy, but I don't know if it's because she's repressed so much as because she's spoiled. Did you see the episode where her widowed dad came to town with a new girlfriend and she wouldn't leave her room? I think that's first season. Season 2 had an episode all about THE EVILS OF MARIJUANA where she revealed herself to be a reformed sinner: she confessed to her husband (in an effort to get him to be nicer to the children, all of whom he assumed were depraved drug addicts) that she, too, had smoked up in her youth. But, as always happens on that show, somebody got hit by a car (it's their ONLY plot device--kids have a party? dog gets hit by a car. Mom storms out of church in a huff? Mary runs into the street after her and gets hit by a car.) Luckily, when God smote her friend she learned a very special lesson.

Alas, L.L, I've been writing in sweats, not only because I'm not doing to much bathing, but also because it's so cold! But I'm going to do a very special post, right this minute, featuring the boots I just bought for next quarter, which hopefully exemplify my rested and relaxed teaching persona.

11:52 PM  
Blogger What Now? said...

I do remember the Evils of Marijuana post! Ah yes, youthful indiscretion immediately followed by death and destruction. Seriously, that show could be an 18th-century seduction novel. As I said to my students earlier this term as we were reading Charlotte Temple: If you go to a party that your parents wouldn't approve of, you will obviously get pregnant and die, an outcast from society, all alone across the ocean; it's absolutely inevitable.

What I thought was interesting about the mom was her defensiveness about being a stay-at-home mom. She would get on her soapbox and loudly proclaim that she was doing God's work, but she would be very bitter and pissy about it. In a way that could have been interesting if handled with nuance, but of course it wasn't.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Margo, darling said...

Yes, yes. Mostly the mom gets defensive because her kids absolutely do NOT respect her at all. I can't believe how they get away with talking in sarcastic voices and rolling their eyes at her. My mother would have slapped my face if I looked at or talked to her like that. Even her husband is condescending about what she does or does not do as a SAHM, as the mormon bloggers call them. And you're right that the show might have done something with that, but in-depth character development doesn't seem to be the show's forte. Actually, like you, my mom tells me she stopped watching the show b/c the mother was so hateful. GF just hates her because she has a huge mouth and enormous teeth.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Adriana Velez said...

Yay, welcome back!

I looooove 7th Heaven, by the way.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the material w/ the Black church and pastor is halfway decent. And I love the episode where they face off against the five neighbor kids w/ the themes from "Xena" playing.


6:36 PM  

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