Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Book Envy

I've been buying up new books. Not just any new books, mind you, but new books written by old grad school classmates of mine. It is kind of scary to know that friends from grad school already have their books out. The one I am thinking of, which came out in June, is spectacular. It has a gorgeous (color) cover, a beautiful, catchy two-part title (I thought we weren't allowed to do that anymore!), and six elegant chapters.

This is the first time I am actually able to see the progress from dissertation to book, and it's still kind of magical, despite me constantly prodding and pricking myself with reminders about how difficult it was for this scholar to get the dissertation written, to get a job, to get fellowships, to finish the book, and to get a great second job. I saw this person struggle from the first: I remember when she presented a version of a chapter at our bi-weekly reading group, and how tough everyone was on her. I remember her telling me about the first time our adviser made her cry, and I remember thinking of her words the first time our adviser made me cry (a rite of passage).

I remember watching her wrestle with finishing her dissertation and looking for a job, and I remember when she returned to our reading group several years later, in the middle of a tenure track job, already moving on to the next one. At that meeting, she shared a draft of her book's introduction, which was freshly written, experimental and very messy. I believe our adviser told her to scrap the whole thing and she laughingly agreed. All of this is to say that I saw her struggle. I saw how difficult this project was, and I saw how hard she worked. I saw her skip lunch for an entire year on fellowship just to get more time to write and revise. And now ironically there is this beautiful, transparent book glittering away all on its own, which makes us forget all about the struggle. Sprezzatura indeed, and book author (if you are reading this or if someone points you to this) I congratulate you.

{Coincidentally, but not related at all to this particular book, what does it take to get mentioned in the acknowledgments section of a book by a friend, adviser, colleague or former graduate student peer? I'm not disappointed that I haven't been acknowledged yet, but some of my friends have, and they haven't contributed any more to the discussion, or commented on any more drafts than I have. We've all run the discussion seminar at one point in our time as graduate students. So what do I have to do to get mentioned? Be nicer? Be meaner? Be further along in my career and more published? I'm just saying.}

I began this post planning to write about how much I envy this scholar her beautiful book and beautiful job, but in writing it I've realized that I don't. I'm proud of her and I'm glad I got to see how hard and painful and stressful and long the whole process is. Lunch, adieu.


Pantagruelle said...

It sounds from your post though that this other scholar was at least several years ahead of you in the program, right? So perhaps it's not a matter of envy, but of time?

I submitted by book proposal last week, by the way, but only to one of four publishers on my list (each of whom want it in a different format, of course!), but now that it's out there, I'm envious of people like you who have whole chapters freshly written! I've still got so far to go, like two whole theory chapters. Yikes.

I hope that you're finding time to work on your book now that you're over the hump of the first year. That first year is always a write-off for writing anyway, right? That's what really makes me think that it's a matter of time, just as much as it's a matter of effort and skipping lunch. The brain and soul need nutrition and inspiration too, don't they?

muse said...

Good point, P- she got her doctorate 5 years before I did, so it is definitely also a matter of time.

I'm still sitting on my book proposal. Partly because teaching and service have stolen a lot of my time and all I have time to do right now is get articles sent out; also partly because I want to be able to send them the whole ms immediately if they like the proposal and sample chapter. But the plan is still to send it out in January, just to my very top choice (long shot for a first book).

Do let me know when you hear (and you will!)