Archive for December, 2007

Ring out the old…

This is my 100th post, a nice round number with which to end the year. 

For the moment, anyway, if you plug the words beagles in literature into Google, the top hit is the link to this post

Chicago was fine.  Flights, no problems.  Interviews went well, I think; I enjoyed them, by and large, and the post-interview self-reproaches (“why did I say that?  why didn’t I say this?”) have been pretty minimal.  Trying to be at peace with the well-known fact that even a really good, essentially irreproachable interview doesn’t necessarily translate into a campus visit and/or a job.  I enjoyed talking with my roommate and seeing my good friend who was there.  Spent a brief but delightful time at the Art Institute; highlight was the new Sargent acquisition Mrs. Paul Escudier, a bequest of the late Brooks McCormick.  (Not this one; it’s a portrait of the same woman standing in a darkish room, next to a bright window covered by white curtains, standing next to an upholstered blue-green chair that faintly catches the light coming in.  A feeble description but a delicious picture.) 

I am really tired today.  It’s all that interview effervescence.  I am effervesced out. 

On deck for this week: finishing up the rest of my fall grades (due Jan. 3), preparing for the January-term classes that begin January 2 (!), and reading another box of manuscripts.  Hard to believe I will be teaching again in a couple of days.  It will be a busy five weeks leading up to the AWP conference.  

Oh, and making plane reservations for AWP.  Let’s not forget that little detail.

A very happy New Year to all!

Windy city blues

Usually, when I take a trip, there’s a stage commencing up to 48 hours beforehand during which I feel I’d give anything not to have to go.  I become focused on small tasks around the house which, if I were staying, I’d happily ignore for another few days, but which I become convinced have to be done before I go.  If Stubb and the Snork Maiden are staying behind, I become deeply concerned about such minutiae as whether they’ll have enough milk or clean socks until I get back (never mind that Stubb is just as likely to do the grocery shopping and the laundry as I am). 

I leave Thursday for Chicago, and that basic trip anxiety is providing the bassline in my mind underneath all the other songs on the station:

  • “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane [Hope I Get Where I’m Goin’]” 
  • “Try to Remember [the Phone Charger, Toothbrush, Interview Shoes, etc.]”
  • “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do [Wear the Same Outfit to All My Interviews]”
  • “Don’t Be Cruel [and Ask Me Questions I’m Not Prepared For]”
  • “The Thrill is Gone”

I will be sharing a room with a writer I met at one of the summer conferences.  She’s in a different genre, though it’s possible we might be interviewing for one or more of the same jobs since two of my interviews are for open-genre positions.  We haven’t swapped all that info yet.  I am, though, looking forward to seeing her and catching up.

I’ll get to see at least one good friend that I know of, which is something to look forward to.  And I’ll probably go to the Art Institute during my free afternoon.  Other than that, I’ll try to ace the interviews and keep my feet warm.  If you’re traveling, safe travels.  If not, hope you are cozy at home!

The night before Christmas

Here’s wishing all my friends who celebrate Christmas a very happy day.  And a very happy day to the rest of us, too, while we’re at it.

I got in all my 2YC grades.  Still have some NCC grading left to do, but grades are due after break and I need to be focusing on interview preparation now.  (And housecleaning.)

Stubb and I will be watching the antepenultimate episode of Rome tonight (“Prig that he is, Octavian puts his mom and sister under house arrest, exiles Antony to Egypt, and cuts Agrippa a break” —M. Giant).  Can’t believe it’s almost over.

The five red herrings

Nobody asked me, but the five-book meme has been bopping around for a week or so since Absurdist Paradise released it into the blogosphere, and I’m tagging myself.  Five books that I came to love this year, and just for the heck of it, snippets of the authors’ reflections on the books and the writing of them:

  1. Lionel Shriver, The Post-Birthday World.  From a BookPage interview with the authorShriver suggests that there exist many kinds of love, one not better than another. “We use this very broad term, but the truth is that the feelings that you have for individual people are like tiny one-of-a-kind works of art,” she muses.
  2. Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind.  From an interview with Jess DeCourcy at Small Spiral Notebook: “I think whenever you’re writing a novel you’re existing in two different realities. Which reminds me of something Margaret Atwood said: When you’re writing you’re not living, and when you’re living you’re not writing, and there is always that tension.”
  3. Colm Tóibín, The Master.  From the interview: “The novel space is a pure space. I’m nobody once I go into that room. I’m not gay, I’m not bald, I’m not Irish. I’m not anybody. I’m nobody. I’m the guy telling the story, and the only person that matters is the person reading that story, the target. It’s to get that person to feel what I’m trying to dramatize.”
  4. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Via Accio Quote! (isn’t that a great name?), from a Today Show interview with Meredith Vieira.  “I’m very proud of the fact that as we went into this book many, many readers believed that it was a real possibility that Harry would die. Proud, not because that means that I’ve got people in tenterhooks, proud because it means that the books are imbued with a sense of genuine mortality. It was felt to be a possibility that the hero would die. And that’s what I was aiming for, that you really felt that anyone was up for grabs.  And because that’s how– how it would be, you know?  If you’ve got a character like that who’s determined to kill– Voldemort I’m talking about, of course, not Harry– then that’s how it would be.  No one– no one’s safe.  It could come to anyone.”
  5. David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts.  From a New York Times article about the Schulz children’s displeasure with the book: “He was a complicated artist who had an inner life and embedded that inner life on the page,” Mr. Michaelis said in an interview. “His anxieties and fears brought him Lucy and the characters in ‘Peanuts.’ A normal person couldn’t have done it,” he said.

What work is

For half of Tuesday, and all of Wednesday, I was pretending I was on break already, but the fact is that I still have two exams left to give, and a lot of grading to do.  I got back into gear today and this is what I did:

  • Graded a set of final papers and a set of final exams; generated and turned in final grades for that class.
  • Wrote and submitted some materials for the conference I help organize.
  • Wrote/received emails about various crucial items, including the schedule of one of the speakers for said conference and the payroll system at New RU (specifically about how to finish setting everything up so that I get paid in January.  I am a little nervous about this, although I must say that I continue to be very impressed, not just with the administrator I deal with directly–who is a model of efficiency and aplomb–but also with pretty much every staff person I have encountered at New RU).
  • Completed the online sexual-harassment training course for New RU. 
  • Took the Snork Maiden over to 2YC to turn in grades, return a Rome DVD to the library, and hand out little packages of candy to various colleagues and cronies, most of whom had never met the Snork Maiden before.  (Of course, she became very shy, offering little more than a weak smile to most of the kindly colleagues chirping, “Nice to meet you, Snork Maiden!” Apparently we have not yet managed to inculcate “Nice to meet you, too.”
  • Did an alumni interview with an applicant to my alma mater.  (Had to take the Snork Maiden along to Starbucks for the interview–the first time I’ve ever done this.  She was fine, though, sat and read and was very unobtrusive, even when she got bored and collapsed against my shoulder.)

I also have to scoot out to NCC this evening–the first time I’ll have been there at night; the evening classes will be having exams.  I want to clear out my mailbox and pick up any late papers there, since I’ll be at 2YC all day tomorrow and they’re closed, as far as I know, during the break.  That is, their website says “most offices” are closed, but since I am still pretty new at NCC, what that means I can’t predict. 

Tomorrow: two more finals, and more grading; a faculty/staff holiday party at 2YC; a date with Stubb after my last class (not a late night, because we’ll pick the Snork Maiden up at 8:30, but time for a cheap dinner and a nice conversation, anyway).

On top of spaghetti

A couple of years ago, when I had a one-year gig at a lovely SLAC, the Snork Maiden and I used to hit the student dining center once in a while for dinner.  She’d always have some eccentric combination of things, like a bowl of cream of broccoli soup and a bowl of Lucky Charms (she was astounded by the giant cereal dispensers).  We revisited that experience today with a short visit to Local College to the East, the one with which I’ll interview in Chicago.  Exploring their website, I’d become interested in an art show they have up, and it seemed like a good excuse to go poke around the campus a bit (not, of course, going anywhere near the English department).  We ate lunch in their student dining commons–a bowl of black bean chili for me, a plate of spaghetti for her.  At one point, as we ate, I was thinking about the job search and staring abstractedly but fixedly into the Snork Maiden’s plate.  She interrupted my reverie by saying, “Do you want a bite of this?  Or are you trying to predict the future by looking at a plate of pasta?”

The latter, actually, sweetie.  But I didn’t think it was that obvious.

A change in the weather, part 2

This is so weird.  It’s Tuesday, but I’ve been home since about 2:00.  The Snork Maiden and I have made some candy for holiday handouts.  Stubb’s brother and our nephew Snufkin are coming over for dinner.  I don’t have class tomorrow.  I don’t have class tomorrow!  Though I do still have large piles of grading. 

I worked my regular morning shift in the 2YC tutoring center today, grading during the slow periods.  Something about the tutoring center makes the students collapse dependently upon us, asking us to feel their foreheads and so on.  This being exam week, there was a lot of collapsing going on.  One student was struggling through her math final, trying to finish in time to get to the airport for her flight home, and asking me what I thought she should do–should she stay and finish the final and probably miss her flight?  Or give up on the final, flunk the course and maybe catch her flight?  Meanwhile, one of the computer tutors was sitting nearby, making the remarks that would have occurred to any sensible person, but which might have been better made silently to oneself under the circumstances:

  • “Why did you book a flight for Tuesday when you had a final on Wednesday?”
  • “Why didn’t you allow more time to do the final?”
  • “Looks like you have a decision to make.”
  •  “There’s a lot of traffic to the airport this week.”
  •  “You’re probably going to miss the flight anyway.”

Fortunately, the math instructor was giving another final in a nearby classroom, so we collared her and she offered the student a pretty good deal: she could leave and take an F for now, but have the grade changed to a pass if she came in to retake the final during the first week of next term.  Considering that the student was struggling with the final anyway, this was more than generous.

I’m afraid she probably did miss her flight, though, unless it was delayed (always a possibility). 

A change in the weather

I got up this morning and was puttering around making coffee when I suddenly thought, “Oh no!  Today’s NCC exam starts at 8 instead of 8:30!”  I had about twelve seconds of panic before the succeeding realization that the NCC class always starts at 8:00 and I was right on schedule, not running behind.  

Then I almost woke up Stubb and the Snork Maiden before remembering that the Snork Maiden is now on winter break and Stubb doesn’t have to go to work today.

It’s the last Monday of the term, but it’s still Monday.

Speak softly, and carry a beagle

. . .seemed like a better title than “Random bullets of crap, Friday night edition.”

  • Schulz and Peanuts, the new biography by David Michaelis, is wonderful.  Michaelis makes explicit all sorts of fascinating connections between Schulz’s life and the comic strip he wrote and illustrated for fifty years.  Among many other examples, Michaelis proposes that the head-body-arms proportions of the children in Peanuts were suggested by Frieda Rich, a little person (Michaelis says “dwarf,” presumably because that would have been the word of the time) who was Schulz’s friend and colleague at Art Instruction Schools in Minnesota (and the character Frieda’s namesake).  She would walk over to Schulz’s desk and rest her elbows on it while they talked, much as the Peanuts kids would on the brick wall.
  • I have a nasty cold.  It was coming on when I did the interview with the University that Calls on Wednesday Before Thanksgiving, Then Takes the Rest of the Day Off, but didn’t completely blossom until afterwards, fortunately.  That interview seemed to go pretty well, though who can really tell, and besides I am mentally picking apart everything I said.  I definitely had the impression I was the first person they’d seen, so there wasn’t any of that “Thank goodness we’re having a good time with you” enthusiasm that I think I’ve seen before.  I liked them, though, and came away even more interested in their program.
  • Someone got to 2YC’s copy of season 2 of Rome before I did.  Rats.
  • Because Schulz and Peanuts is too big and heavy to carry around on teaching days, Chuck Klosterman’s newest book, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, was my commute book today.  Which explains why, despite a long day at 2YC and this nasty streaming cold, I kept laughing out loud during the commute.
  • Once again, my cell phone lit up today with the area code of one of the schools I’d applied to, and I have a fourth interview.  Going to Chicago is definitely looking worthwhile.  Because I have a bit of a disaster mentality, I have to say that I believe I’ll feel like quite the idiot if I don’t end up with a job out of these interviews, but a) we all know that’s a definite possibility, as always, and b) I’m actually feeling like that would be OK.  Not getting either of the out-of-town jobs would mean not having to decide what to do about that, and not getting either of the local jobs would mean not having to undertake a 45-mile commute.  And more to the point, I’m a week away from my last fall class and waving goodbye to the ridiculous schedule of the past four months–and hello to what seems like a saner, more sustainable teaching situation at NCC and New RU.  As a wise friend pointed out to me earlier today, even if I don’t get any of these jobs, things will still be different in the fall.  And, I think, better.
  • But man, wouldn’t it be awesome to have one job with a freaking office so that I could, like, leave a big heavy book there sometimes, and not have to turn my car into an adjunct office?  (The inside of my car is a disaster area.  It looks like the Unabomber has been living in it, drinking coffee and writing a manifesto in many drafts.)
  • My congestion and I are going to bed now.

By the pricking of my thumbs, part 3

We all know that two interviews might result in no job.  Same goes for three interviews.  But I’ll take it.  I’ve got another convention interview, and this one is for the other local college I applied to!  (As with the first local college, the University that Calls on Wednesday Before Thanksgiving, Then Takes the Rest of the Day Off, “local” means about 45 miles away, only east instead of south.)

Oh, and the 2YC library has the second season of Rome, so we won’t have to wait for Netflix to send the next disc when we’re finished with the first one.  Joy.  Although the first episode of the second season was pretty grim.  Dead Caesar (hope I didn’t give anything away there), dead…other people.  Still, I’d love to see the next episode tonight–as a treat for getting through today’s classes and in celebration of the new interview.