Thursday, January 12, 2006

"What's that?"

- what Paris Hilton replied when she was asked if she reads blogs.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Oh that chapter 2

I'm writing chapter 2 of my dissertation on James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and there's a New Yorker review of his recently collected works.

Much of the review quotes Agee's writing, which may go to show that there's little substitute for his own words. Beauty, in other words, makes for unlucky dissertation writers.

As for chapter 1, it's heartening to know that American imperialism, as evidenced by events seventy years ago, is still broiling strong. Someone at a conference claimed that talking about the British Empire had no U.S. equivalent, and I quietly reminded her about Haiti.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


The graduate school tells me to go pick up my travel award check.

"I'd like to pick up my Vilas check," I say.
"Sure," the admin assistant says.
Someone emerges from an office. She looks me over. "Are you an international student?"
"We haven't processed them. International students are processed separately."
"Oh," I say. She goes back into her office.
The admin assistant looks at me sweetly. "I didn't know you were an international student. Your English is so good."
"I come from Canada. We also speak English there."
She looks at me blankly.

On the writing life

1. To write is to write against life itself.

2. To write is to write against the conditions in one's life that prevent the act of writing.

2.1 We always live in conditions that are not conducive to writing. For us to even begin writing, certain conditions must be met.

3. To desire writing is to desire the conditions in one's life that make writing possible.

3.1 The will to write is the will to change our lives, to wish for conditions within that will allow us to write in the first place.

4. There never is (and never was) a perfect moment to write: when one writes one is not doing something else. To recognize our constantly bound position--that something is always weighing us down at any given moment--is to recognize that there is no absolute difference between a moment that prevents writing and a moment that enables writing.

5. Writing seems a compellingly simple act. unlike, say, many other technologically complex arts, the act of putting pen to paper is a simple goal that our brains can grasp. We can easily grasp writing as a symbol that serves as a call to arms towards which we can change the conditions of our lives.

6. The writing life, therefore, is something more serious than we often take it to mean: rather deride the romanticized notion of the writer as one who has unlimited time to write, we should take our desire for this ideal as a call to change our own lives, to both realize the weight of our bonds and to realize that we can write with them on, because we will never throw them off completely.