Monday, 23 August 2010

recipe for a busy summer

1 grad student
2 dissertation chapters
1 visiting english boyfriend
1 packet of "engagement" seasoning
1 diamond ring
1 arcade fire concert
1 trip to the national gallery
1 trip to the art gallery of ontario
1 trip to the royal ontario museum
2 trips to the cottage
1 half-abandoned marathon training programme
lots and lots of books

take 1 grad student and mix with 2 dissertation chapters. it is important to note that the chapters should be near completion, but not quite. if completed, when mixed in, the grad student will explode. stir gently over 2 months. cover and put in a shady location. preferrably a basement or the secret corner of a library. "feed" liberally with coffee (as you would a fruit cake). after the first month, add 1 trip to the cottage. re-cover.

after about 2 months, uncover, and stir in 1 visiting english boyfriend. at the time of adding the english boyfriend, be sure to include the packet of seasoning labelled "engagement". after the seasoning has been mixed in, add the diamond ring. in the mixing, be gentle; if you don't the grad student will, again, explode. sprinkle in some of the half-abandoned marathon training programme.

after the addition of the diamond ring and the half-abandoned marathon training programme, stir in 1 trip to the cottage, the trip to the royal ontario museum, the arcade fire concert, and the trip to the art gallery of ontario. after the dish has been thoroughly mixed, add the trip to the national gallery. check to ensure that the 1 visiting english boyfriend has been thoroughly distributed.

prior to covering and baking in hot, canadian summer weather, ensure that the top has been garnished with lots and lots of books, to taste.

*i promise more frequent updating :)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

le consummer

yesterday, after a particularly glum, grey day, i bought myself this dress on line to cheer myself up. in and of itself, that seems a fairly innocuous confession. there are probably nuns out there who have a longer list of sins to worry about. for me, however, while the action was incredibly satisfying in the moment, it's ultimately a disappointment as it only further reinforced the identity of an overconsumer that, for the past few months, i've been trying to escape.

i'm uncomfortable with why i shop. i don't like that sometimes the only way i feel i can allay anxiety, depression, or insecurity, or the only i way i can assert an identity is to buy something. lately, it has actually made me feel physically ill. i was in a shop with a friend the other day, at her insistence ("you must not get much of an opportunity to shop," she said, "living out in the country. let's go and check out a few shops and see what's about." well-meaning, but misguided.), and felt completely uninterested in buying anything. it was similar to that feeling you get when you've eaten your fill and the sight of food makes you feel uncomfortable. there was no emotion there whatsoever.

monday, however, there was lots of emotion about, and i'm disappointed that i turned to my comforting consumer identity to deal with it. in order to quiet anxieties i have about the amount of dissertation work i have to do this summer, i imagined myself keeping cool in this navy blue le sac dress from american apparel, while hunched over my laptop, industriously typing away. all of a sudden the dress seemed integral to my academic success. it was a talisman of the new productive me that would take up residence in my life this summer, and in no way reference the not-so-productive me who had been living in my life earlier that day.

while i don't think i'll ever be one of those people who completely foregoes shopping as a form of pleasure, i would like to be less dependent on consumer practices for identifying who i am, and for healing myself. at the moment however, i feel incapable of doing so, and that dependency is galling.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

oh, baby!

being able to combine errand-running, a visit to brighton, good coffee, and work on my dissertation into one afternoon has made me very, very happy. i discovered a couple of months ago, after a visit to the optometrist to have my eyes tested, that i needed glasses (the curse of the phd student, i'm afraid). for a long time, i avoided even thinking about getting glasses. i was content to struggle along, half-blind, and not be inconvenienced by some awkward, unflattering metal/plastic/resin concoction perched on my nose and tucked behind my ears.

then the headaches started. and the eye tiredness. and the bloodshot left eye in particular, and the forces that rule the world of me decreed glasses necessary. i hunted out a pair i really like in brighton, ensured they were covered under my medical plan, and very resourcefully came to town today to, as the english are fond of saying, get that sorted.

i'm sitting in a great little café in the north laines, working away on a chapter draft and sipping a latté waiting for a phone call from the eyeglasses place to tell me to come and pick up my new specs (incidentally, what a great shop. the proprietor sent me on my way after i paid for my glasses with a cheery wave and a punny "see you soon", which he followed with a giggle.) and i'm surrounded not by like-minded studious macbook toting kin, but by chatty and fatigued women about my age, toting babies. i don't have a baby. i don't have one of those incredibly expensive push chairs containing a screaming pink thing in a funny hat and tiny, little shoes. i am currently the only woman in the café, other than the chick who brought my my latté, who isn't bouncing a bundle of joy on my knee.

i've thought about bouncing my bound copy of short detective story photocopies on my knee but i don't think the effect would be the same. bouncing my latté would probably get me chucked out on the sidewalk. as would squealing until someone came along and burped me.

i always find it a little unsettling when i'm confronted with others who embody in some way a path i could have taken, but didn't. in the face of all this noisy, new life, my decision to stay in school, write a book, and become a doctor seems selfish. but it also seems sane. a book manuscript is not a person, and i'm not for one minute suggesting the fulfillment it provides should replace the fulfillment that these women around me no doubt feel, however, i do have to say, i'm still happy with my choice in life.

even if it has left me with the eyesight of an 80 year-old granny.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

reading light

sussex sunset

may's textual experiments

just as it's going to be the summer of tall due to my two new pairs of summer sandals that both happen to be platform-y, so too will it be the summer of forsyte, due to the three volume penguin edition of john galsworthy's the forsyte saga that i picked up while on a weekend getaway to chichester and arundel in the spring. the forsyte saga has always been literature on the periphery of my consciousness. i've never had cause to read it -- it has never figured in any of my academic work, and i've never been overwhelmed by a bridget jones-esque reaction to the male lead in a tv adaptation -- and until discovering the pristine, almost untouched volumes in the shelf of kim's bookshop in arundel, it hadn't made it on to my list of shit i must read.

i started the first volume this weekend, while on the way to visit the country estate house in petworth, and i'm not 100% sold on galsworthy's prose. the character of old joylon has figured prominently in the opening chapters of the first book of the first volume, and he's not endearing, unless it's in that conservative-old-man-looking-back-on-his-missed-opportunities-and-realizing-money-doesn't-make-you-happy kind of way. i'm attracted to the character of irene, his niece by marriage, who seems to be one of those women you can only find in victorian and edwardian literature: a woman, created by a man, who exists within the constraints of gender ideology, but who at the same time transcends them. old joylon's determined eldest daughter june also captures my interest, but overall, i'm finding it slow going.

at the same time that i'm beginning my summer saga, i'm also reading the last gervaise fen mystery novel by edmund crispin that is currently available, buried for pleasure, and looking forward to reading some bret easton ellis for the first time.