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Archive for March 2010


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“I was thinking about my father the other day, today…” his father says on the phone. The job at the corn oil plant, the insufficiency, the boredom, the drink, and “other problems.” “It wasn’t my mother’s fault. It might have seemed so but it wasn’t.” It is amazing, nearly uncanny, how well his father seems to know him, despite it all.

He has a strange sense, a dawning sense, that his father thinks that he is just like his grandfather, more like his grandfather than his father is himself, which opens in him unanswerable problems but also a well of strange delight. After all the fear, after the implicitly potential violence and the hard hurt of soft disappointment, now he is his father’s father, all of a sudden, just right now. It is an odd think to feel, given the place that his grandfather has always played in the whispered familial mythology. “He was incredibly intelligent. His brother told me that he was twice as smart as him. And then janitorial work, and drink…” But he doesn’t know who this brother was – didn’t even know that his grandfather had a brother.

More than a decade ago, some hobbyist wrote a book about the Canadian RAF (later RCAF) pilots of Lancaster bombers during the second world war. His grandfather featured as a sort of Everypilot in the last chapter. “On the ground, he was Buck and he was good times. But in the air, he was always and only Captain xxxxx. All business in the air….”

His daughter is going on a fieldtrip to the RAF museum north of Brent Cross on Monday. He very much wanted to go, cannot go because he has to teach Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year. What would it be to tell his own daughter that yes, this is the plane that your great-grandfather flew. He bombed bridges and cities while seated in the cockpit of just this. He knows that she would be fascinated by this; he is tempted to cancel his fucking seminar.

When he was a boy, and his father parlayed a job interview in London into a family vacation, the two of them visited the museum, way the fuck up the Northern Line, while his mother writhed with food poisoning that came of eating egg salad at the cafe in Hyde Park. They saw a Lancaster Bomber, his grandfather’s plane, and when they came back to the borrowed flat in Knightsbridge, cricket was on the TV.

He suspects, yes, that he would have made an excellent pilot of a Lancaster bomber. His youthful hesitancy has blossomed into an adult nihilism and rage, and he has never cared about himself in the sense that would make fear of death in the air a problem.

Tomorrow he will co-teach an MA seminar, and his co-teaching partner will leave thinking “Christ, he is one thing at the pub, another thing when the game is on….”

The insufficiency of the comparison is not lost on him.

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March 10, 2010 at 3:33 am

odi et amo

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Jesus, man. I don’t mean to complain, but the job + parenting etc takes up about all of my time. And then I get nice writing opportunities on top of that. Which leads me to be still here at my computer, five and a half hours before I have to teach tomorrow.

Here’s something from Michael Chabon’s wikipedia page:

In 2000, Chabon told The New York Times that he kept a strict schedule, writing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, Sunday through Thursday. He tries to write 1,000 words a day. Commenting on the rigidity of his routine, Chabon said, “There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they’re big, and they have a lot of words in them…. The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life.”

OK. Well I wrote 1,000 words tonight, a review for the best place that I’ve ever had the chance to review for, between 1:30 AM and 4:30 AM. That’s not all that “structured,” is it? Structure goes to shit when you try to do so many things at once. Anyway, it’s reasonably good, what I’ve done, if slightly symptomatic of me and my current situation…

I am complaining about nothing, I know, but look, I am complaining nonetheless. Hopefully you will see it on Sunday, if you read the review sections that I read…


I have set the alarm for 8 AM. That’s 3.5 hours away. Luckily (but bad-daddishly) I fell asleep watching Sleeping Beauty with my daughter tonight, as did she. Hard to calculate how the 2.5 hours of sleep I got then factor now….


I like writing reviews. In a sense it’s my native form. I’ve always affiliated myself with Big Time Reviewers rather than Good Academics. As an undergraduate, I read the NYRB and the LRB religiously, and avoided academic monographs altogether. I got into the business the wrong way and that has made all the difference.


I am quickly becoming a contemporaryist rather than a modernist. The former is better to be, but only in certain respects, than the latter.


An argument yesterday about, among other things, my method. I don’t read the criticism first. I think, write, and check the criticism later. This is not an officially-sanctioned Best Practice.


Compulsion to take reviews, even of underwhelming books, in the direction of the Big Broad Point. Explain the underwhelmingness, render it Significantly Symptomatic of Some Facet of the Times. Fear of being myself underwhelming. Fear of Failing to Make a Case for this or that in the course of writing anything.


Fear of sounding like Sontag’s journals. Delight in sounding like Sontag’s journals.


Now wondering if I should just stay up rather than sleep. Remember the “dance marathon” at school in 1992 or so? Boozeless all night, until dawn, can you imagine? In that gym, that on Thursdays I cleared every week of bingo tables and chairs? Everything illuminates itself, whether you want it to or not…. Life is polar, meaning with poles, and ending sooner than we thought. Perhaps much sooner, if we keep this up.

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March 4, 2010 at 5:34 am

Posted in complaint