readingredhead: (Fear for Courage)
1. I have never much liked summers -- I like order and structure and school too much-- but this summer has been the best summer, and while it will not get me to reconsider my general hierarchy of the seasons, it will at least remind me that summer is not just that thing you do to fix your brain after semesters.

This summer has been a LONG one. I got out of classes in the end of April and had finished my last seminar paper more than a week before my birthday: I have had nearly four months of summer, and that is rather a lot. Thankfully, the time was punctuated by visitors, travel, summer school, good books, dinner parties, and falling in love. (Yes, love.) Visitors and travel are harder to integrate into the semester schedule, and I am so happy that I got to see so many people and places I love and care about this summer, because that's part of what keeps me going when things take a turn for the worst. But good books and dinner parties and being in love are not just summer things, they are LIFE things, and my life works in semesters and these things are only bound to make this upcoming semester even more worth it.

2. Today is the first day of my second year of graduate school. This semester's coursework will be particularly demanding -- I'm taking two seminars adjacent to my interests with professors who are fairly intense and with whom I want to work closely in the future, not to mention reading Ulysses for my third class and TAing for a fourth -- but I am looking forward to being back in a scheduled environment again. (See above regarding my general dislike of summers.) I am also looking forward to taking notes in the beautiful Moleskine notebooks I have acquired for this purpose, because I deserve nice things and the material conditions of my scholarship DO influence the quality of mental work I find myself capable of doing (or just motivated to do).

3. This is an awesome enough thing to get its own number on the list: sometime in October/November, I will be moving in with [personal profile] oliviacirce! In addition to being a generally wonderful person who cares about houses being homes, she happens to live in what may be the best apartment in all of Columbia's grad student housing. My new bedroom will have windows that get actual sunlight! The kitchen has counter space! There is a breakfast nook! And since she's in Columbia housing, I can do a simple room-to-room transfer and let Columbia sort out all the logistical details of transferring to another lease, etc. I'll still have to do a move in October, which I had wanted to avoid initially...but I will literally be moving AROUND THE CORNER from my current abode. You don't even have to cross a street to walk from my current apartment to my future apartment. I can easily put up with Gabi for 2 months if I know I get a home at the end of them.

4. So [personal profile] oliviacirce's habits are rubbing off on me a bit already, because the final item on today's post is a mixtape. I started pulling these songs together about a year ago, when I had just moved to New York and mostly knew no one and the work was hard (though it never stopped being worthwhile). I needed something to remind me that it was okay to be down sometimes if I knew how to pull myself back up, and so a lot of the tracks come from a place of doubt and uncertainty and hope that things will get better, rather than from a place of solid acceptance of this fact. The playlist kept growing and changing to suit my needs throughout the past academic year -- the first incarnation was titled "Don't Be Down," a later one was titled "Me vs. the Seminar Papers (Don't Give Up)." But in the end, "Anti-Entropy" is the title that stuck. This mix is for all the days I felt like the world just wasn't working right, but soldiered on and fought my way through, and came out on the other side knowing the things that I hadn't quite believed before, but wanted to believe: I am strong, I am loved, and as long as I don't give up, things will always get better.

Anti-Entropy - track list & download link )
readingredhead: (Library)
I mentioned in my last post that I've been reading Dorothy Sayers for the first time (and kicking myself throughout, because HOW have I never read Sayers before?). I started with Strong Poison about two weeks ago at the recommendation of [personal profile] ladyvivien and was smitten with Harriet Vane almost as instantly as Lord Peter was, but as much as I enjoyed that novel and Have His Carcase, my feelings for those two novels combined don't even come close to my feelings for Gaudy Night, which I just finished yesterday and which I can't stop thinking about. The following discussion will probably only be interesting to those who have already read the novel, and will contain spoilers up to it, so don't read it if you haven't read the novels! (Also, I still haven't gotten hold of Busman's Honeymoon, so if the two people who have actually read Sayers start commenting, don't spoil anything past Gaudy Night for me!)

Placet. )
readingredhead: (Muse)
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I live in a city that is vibrant and alive, that keeps on growing and changing but never grows old, with more to it than I could possibly discover in a lifetime (though that won't keep me from trying), littered with great cafes and independent bookstores, somewhere that's cold in the winter and hot in the summer and beautiful always.

I share a home with a person -- nay, people -- I love, who love and support me in all my endeavors, not unquestioningly (because sometimes I come up with schemes that need to be questioned, even if only so that I can refine them to the point where they will actually work) but untiringly, because they know that I will do the exact same for them.

I teach mostly-interesting subjects to mostly-interested people at a university that invests in its professors as teachers (not just as researchers) and in its students as people (not just as brains), where my colleagues range on the spectrum from "not my type of person but likeable enough" to "brain crush for life."

I write fiction -- maybe not a lot, and maybe not very well, but it's a part of my life I make time for, and I am rewarded for the time I put in, even if only in the form of having a release from academic writing.

I am part of something big, something that matters, and even on the bad days (because the bad days don't just go away after the last page of the story's been written), I can remember this and know that for today, this belonging is reward enough.
readingredhead: (Professor)
Or, Candace discusses "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" in a rather disjointed fashion, because this is necessary.

At this point, SPOILERS really goes without saying. )
readingredhead: (Default)
All I really want out of life is for a real-life romance to coincide with an academic one. Preferably we discover Austen's lost letters together, a la A. S. Byatt's Possession. Or maybe a surviving draft of First Impressions, I'm not really picky. I just want something that makes me feel love as much as I think it, and think it as much as I feel it. And I want it sooner than I'm ever likely to get it.

(Perhaps the things the conduct books have to say about imaginative engagement, romance novels, and women's delicate sensibilities are truer than I give them credit for -- it is dangerous to read them and expect them to come true.)
readingredhead: (Library)
I don't have the time to do this justice, but better something short than nothing at all.

When I got back from Paris, I heard from a friend that one of my old Berkeley professors had passed away. Her name was Janet Adelman, and she was amazing. I took 45A with her, and spent a semester finding new literary love in strange places, from Chaucer to Spenser to -- wait for it -- Milton. Yes, this is the woman who first introduced me to Paradise Lost and started me off on something so much larger than her, or me, or probably even Milton himself.

She was fiery. She was old, and it wasn't like she was trying to hide it: she wore her white hair long, and dressed with an eclectic fashion only allowed to those who are conscious of their own age and milking it for all its worth (when I picture her now, she's wearing crazy-awesome robelike garments that no one in the universe should be allowed to pull off, and yet she does).

She was old but she showed you that didn't really mean much. She wasn't that quivering Victorian grandmother who blushed at the slightest sign of indecency. She was a dyed-in-the-wool feminist and considering dates and ages she was probably a part of the second-wave feminism of the 60s and 70s, and also part of the resurgence of psychoanalytic theory in English departments/studies at the time. She gave a powerful reading of Satan's sense of indebtedness to God that shifted into anger and the desire to destroy, all based on (vaguely feminist) psychoanalysis. And she made a powerful argument for Milton as a feminist (though I'm not entirely sure how much modern critics would agree). In fact, rather than being angry with these old works by men who wrote in a time when pretty much only men wrote, she took them and combed them through for signs of understanding of women and an attempt to fairly portray them. She might have been a feminist but she never got righteously angry about it, at least not in the classroom.

But it wasn't just in the classroom where she mattered. I still remember the first time I went to visit her in office hours. I wasn't really liking Chaucer and not quite sure what to say, but I walked in, sat down, and said something lame like, "So. Chaucer." To which she responded, "Oh, not him yet, I still don't know you!" When I came back from spring break after Rick broke up with me and went to her office hours again she asked me how break had gone and I mumbled something before starting in on Spenser, which was greatly preferable to a discussion of my own emotional unrest. And yet a month or so later it came up in our office hours discussion and she told me she'd thought that something was wrong back then, but that she knew I was dealing with it and that I could always come to her with problems.

She wrote me one of the letters of recommendation that got me here, studying abroad in London. The last time I saw her -- at least, the last time I really remember -- was when I walked by her office and picked up that letter. She hadn't sealed it yet when I arrived -- she wanted me to read it over first -- and though I don't remember exactly what it said now, I just remember that it reinforced my feeling that she really somehow understood. She was such a gift.

Janet Adelman is not a woman that I, or anyone, will easily forget. But me especially. She continues to make it into my fiction, lending sometimes her name and sometimes her appearance to a series of benevolent grandmotherly figures who nonetheless know when to shove their children out into the world and help them face it. She is the kind witch of my Printer's Tale who gives Noelle shelter and asks no questions until the time is right -- with her robes and her long white hair and her kind and deep brown eyes. She is a figure of power. And though I'm sad to know that she's gone, I'm full of a certainty that "gone" isn't really too final, and that somewhere out there she's arguing feminism with Milton (and winning).
readingredhead: (Library)
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5. Procrastination/angst at procrastination. As in, "Jeez Candace, you're already stressed out about that presentation you have to give tomorrow, but instead of getting your ass in gear you're posting a stupid LJ entry? Not cool, self. Not cool."

4. My future. This is a broad heading, including career, place of residence, love life, economic standing, graduate school applications, ability to become a published writer, etc.

3. Writing. Technically this is part of both #4 and #1 but I think it deserves its own category since it's something I do so frequently.

2. My friends and family. I spend a lot of time hanging out with them, talking to them, worrying for them, hearing their drama, etc. and so they're a pretty loud and rowdy set of voice in my head.

1. Books. I suppose this counts as cheating because I'm including both books as read for school and books as read for fun under one heading, but considering that I spend most of my time (free or otherwise) with stories, it makes sense that they'd be high up there on the list.
readingredhead: (Earth)
“Your people do have the idea of being ‘just good friends?’”

He gave her a sidewise look. “For so high and honorable an estate,” Roshaun said, “‘just’ seems a poor modifier to choose.”

--Wizards at War by Diane Duane
readingredhead: (Talk)
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Happiness -- the kind that overwhelms the whole body and spreads to others, because if it's not contagious, it doesn't count;

Empathy -- fellow-feeling, to understand the pain and joy of another and through that understanding to destroy true "other"-ness;

Ingenuity -- a searching mind that transforms the lives of others by seeing an old world through new eyes;

Passion -- the spark that lights the fire and ignites a burning;

Determination -- without which desires would quickly burn away;

Faith -- the candle lit by a blind man against the darkness;

Love.
readingredhead: (Light)
I want to go to Berkeley for grad school. Not just because in the new US News & World Report rankings they are the best English grad school in the country. Not just because, according to the same rankings, they are the 2nd best in the nation for 17th-20th century British literature, my general area of concentration. But because I love Berkeley. I love walking down Bancroft in the morning and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge arise out of a misty bay, the sunlight hitting it just right. I love the silence of Doe Library right before finals. I love the faux-Greco-Roman facade of Wheeler Hall, all columns and flourishes and pristine whiteness. I love the scattered coffee shops, the late winter rains, the late summer sunshine, the way that on a good day just walking onto campus makes me feel like part of something bigger, better, and more beautiful than any one person could be.

But I'm afraid. Because the last time I wanted something this much, I didn't get it. And although I'm glad I didn't, I can't bring myself to imagine that I'd be glad not getting this. This is not like Stanford. This is something that I've lived long enough to know that I want. And people think I'm silly for thinking about this so early but I'm just trying to do everything I can to get from where I am to where I want to be.
readingredhead: (Stranger)
Someone to come up and hug me from behind, to whisper "I love you" into my ear before kissing the skin where the shoulder and neck meet--

Simple kisses that make me giddy--

Someone waiting for me when I get out of the shower with a warm towel and a warmer embrace--

Passion--

Tenderness--

Support for all my hopes and dreams--

A challenge, a fight, a struggle, but one that I win every day and that enriches every breath I take--

A little bit of a fairytale, in the Disney sense of the word--

Someone to read aloud to me until I fall asleep--

Someone who'll understand the way that well-written romance makes me feel--

Someone to talk out the hardest of my problems with--

Someone to share the largest of my successes with--

Someone to simply fall asleep with at the end of the day--

Someone to spoon up next to and feel utterly safe with--

Something that no one can break, or bend, or take away--

A partner, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, not to be parted by death or by anything lesser or greater--

A part of my soul, my other half--

Someone to dance in the rain with--

Comfort--

Excitement--

Adventure--

You hear me? I'm waiting.
readingredhead: (Default)
Overall, I think this vacation has been good for me. I've needed some rest and I've needed some time to be at home. Frankly, I haven't missed my family so much since I left to go to Berkeley for the first time a year and a half ago. And I didn't realize that I missed them until Mom opened the door when I came home and I ran into her arms. It's been good to be back.

Perhaps the only problem with being back home is that I've got more time to myself than I'm used to -- and when I have time like that, I spend it thinking. And thinking, especially hard thinking, especially about my future, is usually not the greatest idea. But it helps to write about the things that are clattering around my brain, so here they are.

1.       Attending graduate school

a.       feels like the right thing to do

b.      will add six more years of school

                                                               i.      and I don’t know where I want to spend those six years

                                                             ii.      that I will have to pay for if my chosen school can’t pay for me

c.       will give me a education I feel like I have to do something with

                                                               i.      and I don’t need a Ph.D. to write or teach high school

1.       so why am I going to pay for six years of grad school?

2.       Teaching

a.       as a college professor

                                                               i.      is one of the only interesting things you can do with a Ph.D. in English

                                                             ii.      would not be that interesting after a long enough while

                                                            iii.      pays better than high school

b.      in a high school

                                                               i.      does not require a Ph.D.

                                                             ii.      entails hellish amounts of work for abysmal pay

                                                            iii.      seems likely to be strangely rewarding

3.       Nonprofits

a.       are very fun and do fantastic things for the world

b.      will make me absolutely no money

4.       Writing

a.       is what I’ve always wanted to do

b.      will make me absolutely no money

                                                               i.      unless I sell out and become

1.       a “literary” writer

2.       the next Stephenie Meyer

                                                             ii.      unless I’m the one person in a million who’s any good at it

1.       and I can’t believe I’m that person

5.       Love

a.       hurts

                                                               i.      a lot

                                                             ii.      and yet I still want it

b.      can be an inconvenience

                                                               i.      especially if I have a career plan to follow

                                                             ii.      until I figure out how to be independent and dependent simultaneously

c.       had better not let me down

                                                               i.      again

                                                             ii.      because the next time, I’ll take it personal



readingredhead: (Stars)
My grandmother just informed me that she doesn't like to read fantasy and would prefer a romance where the girl ends up with the rich man and they live happily ever after any day.

I'm not sure if she gets the ridiculousness of this statement.

I also find it amusing because the story I'm working on right now is "fantasy" in both of these aspects -- it contains elements of the fantastic, the supernatural, the unexpected, but at its heart, it's really a romance in which the girl will end up with the rich man in the end and live happily ever after. Of course it's more original than that sounds but the concepts are the same.

Lately I've been thinking about the differences between a love story and a romance. It seems to me that everyone who falls in love gets to have a love story. But a romance is something bigger and more complicated. A romance is when the obstacles to love are so great, and yet are eventually overcome by a passion so strong, that the story is relevant to everyone and not just the lovers.

I've also often thought about how the most interesting part of a love story, to other people, is the "getting together" part. The "meet-cute," to steal a term from romantic comedy screenwriters. And usually that only takes up a couple of sentences. Once two people are securely in love, they're the only ones to whom their being in love is really, truly interesting. We don't want to read about a relationship unless it's undergoing problems, changes, or upheavals. But we don't want to live relationships during these uneasy stages. Because while reading, we don't mind the unease of others, but our own is another story altogether.

...aaaaaand this is just me not writing my novel, so I'm going to stop now. Only I'm first going to mention that I love it so much that it's hard for me not to go back and re-read stuff I've written, because it's so good. Now I don't say this to be immodest because it's not really that good at all, but it's the first time I've felt good about writing a longer piece while still writing it. Usually I have to have discarded it and picked it up months/years later before I like it. This one, I still like, and I have a premonition I will like it even after I finish!
readingredhead: (Stranger)
Ohmigod so I just finished the best book written in the English language (see previous post for more unnecessary squeeing). And seriously, Julie has outdone herself here. The end of the book had me crying because I was so happy. Now, I cry a lot for books, especially good ones. In fact, my current favorite book of all time, The Wizard's Dilemma, has earned that distinction at least in part because of its consistent ability to bring me to tears. But those are oh-my-god-the-main-character's-mother-is-dying-and-there's-nothing-she-can-do-about-it tears. Very different from nothing-could-possibly-be-so-joyful, true-love-requited, heart-so-full-to-bursting tears. The former are cathartic, it's true, but I am just now learning that the latter are absolutely delicious. It's like the feel of being so in love with someone that you can't help but shed tears of amazement and glory and wonder that the world has chosen to present you with something so perfect as this.

My friends aren't the only ones who remind me that true love exists. I get those reminders from fiction, especially Julie's fiction, on a regular basis. But there's nothing quite like the first read through a marvelous story. It is its own kind of first love--the intensity, the drama, the potential for deep heartache, the unfathomable reward awaiting those who triumph.

I am so brimming with words and with smiles, with unself-conscious giggles that escape me at the strangest moments, with an overflowing gratitude for the existence of love in this universe. I need to do, to be, to create. I need to sing a new song and dance like I actually know how (or like I don't know how and don't care). I need to spin around under the stars and absorb the wonder of the universe.

And, most of all, I need to write. Because if writing can do all of this, can there be any calling higher?

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