Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Carigueya, Seu Marsupiale Americanum Masculum. Or, The Anatomy of a Male Opossum: In a Letter to Dr Edward Tyson, from Mr William Cowper, Chirurgeon, and Fellow of the Royal Society, London. To Which are Premised Some Further Observations on the Opossum; And a New Division of Terrestrial Brute Animals, Particularly of Those That Have Their Feet Formed Like Hands. Where an Account is Given of Some Animals Not Yet Described by Edward Tyson, M. D. Fellow of the College of Physicians and of the Royal Society. London: 1698.

As seen on the Mulberry from my study window this evening. And yes, it has feet formed remarkably like hands. And a strange, joker-ish smile. It was rather small, though not a baby, and surprisingly cute (I learned later that the fur is remarkably soft, they never stay in one place for more than three days, and they eat mice and cockroaches and are generally good for the environment).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fantasy Desk

I've just finished installing a shiny white desk, faded red kilim and knock-off Jielde desk lamp in my milk-colored study. The desk is a simple white parson's table, 5 feet long. I bought it unfinished and disassembled, painted it and nearly destroyed my shoulders and knuckles putting it together (you try screwing sixteen three-inch screws into two thick pieces of solid birch).

But sometimes I like to dream. And on Friday afternoons, after I have packed up my laptop, the three or four books I'll need over the weekend, and filled my bag with file folders crammed with student papers and various articles and drafts of things-in-progress, shut off the light and driven home, I like to pour myself a cup of tea and lick the ebay window. I don't really know what else to call it- "browsing" is too noncommittal. So I've chosen to anglicize the French idiom for window shopping- leche vitrine, or "window licking."

During a recent mid-century modern furniture foray, I came upon this graceful, utterly useful 6 foot desk. It is smooth and polished and slopes, like a piano. It has storage and lots of table space and it is Very Long. It is a desk to dream about. It is also $7500. Sometimes Ebay is like a decorative arts museum.

Edward Wormley Desk on Ebay

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.