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It’s Thursday, which is normally a reasonably calm day around here–or was, until that turned into the day always set for Greg’s surgeries.

This Thursday is not too bad, so far, although I got up late and I may still stumble on something.  It happens all the time.

Some things are more or less solved, or solved-ish:  my mother’s body has finally been returned to Connecticut, and we’ll have a service for her on Tuesday of next week.  It will be a simple service at the grave, because next week is Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, so doing anything else seems to be prohibited by all kinds of things, including the priest’s schedule.

At any rate, it’s been done, and then Greg will have the second surgery on Thursday of next week and then…I don’t know.  Maybe things will calm down a little.

I wonder sometimes what my books would sound like if I wasn’t always writing them in the middle of this kind of thing.  Living in the middle of nonstop catastrophic chaos has to have some effect on my writing, I’m just not sure what.

I know it has some effect on my teaching, not the least of which is an increasing inability to maintain my patience in the face of “students” who don’t want to study.  Or at least don’t want to study English.

This term, the big issue is “what it means to me.”  I ask them “what is the central point of A Doll’s House” and I get “to me, the central point is that we don’t know how to celebrate the holidays any more, we’re too concerned about money.”

That was a real answer to a real quiz question.  I’m not making it up.

But what gets me in those encounters is not that a student would come up with something like that, but that all the students will look at me with shocked surprise when I say that I don’t care what Ibsen “means to them,” I only care what he actually means.

In the meantime, I am plowing my way through Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia, and a more depressing book I don’t think I’ve ever read.

Maybe because James is an Australian, he’s hit on a lot of figures in the history of ideas–and in history–that I didn’t know about, and it’s absolutely incredible how many of them were either totalitarians themselves or apologists for totalitarianism. 

It’s fun to watch him beat the crap out of Jean-Paul Sartre–Sartre deserved to have the crap beat out of him long ago–but I’m not sure it makes up for the mountainous pile of feces that seems to constitute everybody’s behavior.

Everybody, that is, but a small group of people, most of whom are dead, and a large percentage of whom were murdered–dissident Russians, dissident Germans, almost all the Jews.

It’s a good book, anyway, and good for reading in bursts between teaching class or chasing down funeral arrangements or giving Greg another round of eye drops.

But I think, when I’m done, I’m going to go look for something cheerful.

Written by janeh

April 14th, 2011 at 10:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Fluctuations'

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  1. I read that after Mique recommended the author. It does get rather depressing when you realize how many of them died as suicides or murder victims or having failed due to the machinations of others. And it was depressing in another way that I hadn’t heard of a lot of those people. But I read it – mostly in smallish chunks – and I’m glad I did.

    I’m playing with my new – well, first – Kindle and downloading all kinds of cheap and free stuff. I don’t know how much of it I’ll get through, though. Life is a bit hectic, but I still find time to fiddle around with my computer music files and other toys when I should be doing something else.

    I’m sure there’s some platitude about working in chaos; life is what happens when you make plans, or something else with the general idea that everyone lives in chaos and you just need to use it because that’s what life is. But I can’t think of quite the right platitude.

    Find something cheerful. Re-read some Charlotte McLeod or something. Or Wodehouse.


    14 Apr 11 at 1:44 pm

  2. Well, perhaps if everyone who told you what it means to them were assigned “The Cold Equations” as a disciplinary measure? (Save extracts from ATLAS SHRUGGED for the repeat offenders.)

    DO NOT read “Cold Equations” when you’re in need of cheering up, though. Might try Georgette Heyer–BLACK SHEEP, DEVIL’S CUB, UNKNOWN AJAX or–best choice for cheerful–THE RELUCTANT WIDOW. Poyntz Tyler would also be high on the list: A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS, TAKE IT EASY, BUT TAKE IT and FITZWILLY. (One book, three printings, three titles.)


    14 Apr 11 at 6:30 pm

  3. I’ve got my eye on Cold Comfort Farm or Three Men in a Boat to re-read after my chaos subsides.



    14 Apr 11 at 10:22 pm

  4. I’ve always thought that I could never write a Burke family history because I’d be accused of plagiarising “Cold Comfort Farm”. Wot larks! :-)


    15 Apr 11 at 3:12 am

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