Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Clapping Baptists

A small anecdote about Life in the South.

A friend of mine here was dating a local boy this past fall. One evening, as they walked along a relatively quiet downtown street, they stopped to kiss.

A large white van drove by and the people inside of it made a loud noise clapping their hands together sharply: "Smack! smack! smack!" The people in the van stared straight ahead but continued to rap their disapproving palms together, jolting my friend and her local boy out of their embrace.

My friend asked the local boy what on earth had happened.

"Oh, they're probably just ______ Baptists," he replied. (She couldn't remember what kind of Baptists he said they were).

Welcome to the South. Where your romantic moments might once in a while be disrupted by Clapping Baptists.

Job Candidates

I haven't been posting very frequently because we are inundated with visiting job candidates this semester. Two searches, and we are hoping to hire two of each, so really four searches.

It's interesting sitting on the other side. Not so long ago I was a job candidate, trying not to appear nervous fielding questions, trying to precariously balance professional expertise with deference and modesty and passionate interest, when all I could think about was how desperately I needed a job.

So far we've had three candidates visit. They've all been brilliant. They are all talented and professional and generous and all of them had the most amazing letters of recommendation from the top scholars in their fields, possibly the top scholars in THE ENTIRE WORLD. In a word, I was jealous.

And I know it's silly because they are coming here because (I think) they want a job here. And I already have a job here.

But I'm still struggling with getting my own work done let alone getting it published, and I'm still struggling with a department in flux that seems to be losing and gaining people right and left, and I'm coming down with a cold and missing people who are all over the world anywhere but here, so forgive me if I'm not thrilled that the next few job candidates got articles published in Representations as graduate students.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Best Kind of Motivation

So today I was just sitting on my ass, drinking tea and reading the Sunday Times, when I decided to check my e-mail.

And in it was a message from a scholar I'll call Primary Influence, with whom I correspond rather less frequently than I'd like. It should be more frequently, and that is my fault-- she's incredibly warm and inspiring and has always taken an interest in my work.

She wanted to know where my Quixotic Old Warrior article was being published, so that she could cite it in a book chapter that explores many of the same issues.

This prompted me to spend the next five hours fine-tuning the piece to send out again this week. I'd done some work on it last semester and then basically put it aside, too fearful to take it out and risk rejection yet again. But suddenly my lost enthusiasm and focus returned with this lovely e-mail.

And so I wrote back to her right away. And for the rest of the afternoon, we e-mailed back and forth as I edited The Don, polishing his armor and readying him for battle once more.

I've got to get it published, otherwise I'll be footnoted in three pieces before any of my own work is out! I mean, I guess she could just footnote the dissertation, but it would be so cool if my first important piece were footnoted in Primary Influence's Next Great Book. Then I wouldn't have to hem and haw as much when people asked me how my work differed from hers (this was what Dream Job That Got Away asked me at my MLA interview two years ago).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


First day back! It's a very jolly department. The sun is out. It's a bit chilly compared to the apocalyptic weather we've been having (trees in bloom, crocuses and daffodils up. Yes, spring comes early to the South. No, not this early).

In between classes. Two sections of writing and one big Shakespeare, this semester. Shakespeare went well, even though I was nervous. When the students introduced themselves, I discovered they were a very sophisticated bunch. At least 10 had just returned from a semester abroad in London, Dijon, Paris, Rome. They are also the best dressed group of students I've seen on this all too preppy campus. After class, a student in a mod all black ensemble complete with booties and maroon dyed hair came up and complimented me on my Katherine Hepburn widelegged trousers. Apparently she has the same pair. I don't know whether to be flattered or intimidated. Hopefully my knowledge of Renaissance scholarship will make up for the fact that my students have surpassed me sartorially.

Off to teach a writing course organized around fairy tales.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bonne Annee

Some Highlights of my vacation in Montreal:

New Years Eve. I made another Pear tarte tatin, wore my red silk Marc Jacobs dress ($31.95 on Ebay!), played celebrity heads, got deliciously tipsy on Asti and Rum Toddies, and got kissed.

Wandering through Chinatown and discovering a tiny interactive art gallery.

The “brainball” game in said interactive art gallery: two players sit opposite one another across a table. They affix metal sensors to their foreheads and attempt to beat one another at being relaxed and lowering their brain activity. On the table, a little ball moves back and forth across a track, scoring a goal on the opponent’s side if and only if you manage to relax your mind enough to let it go. Another exhibit was a little bar rigged up with a cup on a conveyor belt programmed to fix a drink based on one’s brainwave function. Apparently I was thinking too much because the minute I attached the sensors to my forehead the cup made a beeline for the Cointreau.

Julie Taymor’s “Magic Flute” live from the Met on a movie screen for the first time in broadcast history.

St. Viateur bagels, coffee from Little Italy, Marche Jean Talon, tagines, tea, Truffaut and von Sternberg, a cuddly cat, Sleeping In, Reading all afternoon, abundant freudian slips and a crazy man with long shaggy hair wearing a mink coat, gesticulating with an umbrella and shouting at the top of his lungs on New Year’s Day.