Tag Archives: PhD

Build-up period to David Foster Wallace archive visit #3 .01

Trying to post anything at the moment is like attempting to wade through treacle, as my Mac is constantly beach-balling for no apparent reason – the swine started playing up the very day I upgraded OS to El Capitan, and has never been the same since. I’m in the middle of upgrading its RAM, and have been through endless screen freezes, Safe Boots, Recovery Boots, and have stripped back all unnecessary apps and stuff, emptying the trash along the way.


I should be plotting a chapter on Brief Interviews with Hideous Men for my PhD thesis, but how do you do that when all drafts are stuck inside the machine that’s not working properly? And no, I don’t have access to another computer. And yes, I do back up regularly.

So, for light relief I go into my phone to check what’s going down on Goodreads. @EmWatson’s #OurSharedShelf has chosen Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman, as its April read, and Emma Watson has posted some links. One of which is an article written by Moran in Esquire, titled: “12 Things About Being A Woman That Women Won’t Tell You: Except this woman (Caitlin Moran), who will.” In an attempt at cheering myself following the beach-balling hassle, I find reading the article in Russell Brand’s voice brings a touch of light relief to my situation – Moran’s and Brand’s laid-back-street-prose-style being quite similar in many respects.


Moran’s point 6 of 12 is Fear, reproduced here in its entirety because it’s quite short:

We’re scared. We don’t want to mention it, because it’s kind of a bummer, chat-wise, and we’d really like to talk about stuff that makes us happy, like look at our daughters — and we can’t help but think, “Which one of us? And when?” We walk down the street at night with our keys clutched between our fingers, as a weapon. We move in packs — because it’s safer. We talk to each other for hours on the phone — to share knowledge. But we don’t want to go on about it to you, because that would be morbid. We just feel anxious. We’re scared. Given the figures, we can’t sometimes help but feel we’re just… waiting for the bad thing to come. Because that would be a realistic thing to think, and we like to be prepared. Awfully, horribly, fearfully prepared.

Note the absence of the word that this fear is based upon: rape. Rape is alluded to, but never mentioned. It is mentioned elsewhere in the article, but here it is not. This is an interesting approach in that it makes Moran’s point 6 seem unnecessarily passive in tone – “waiting for the bad thing to come.” Is that an accurate view of all women? I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s not, for there are women who take more of an aggressive stance where rape is concerned. In spite of how it is written, point 6 motions towards a feeling that “rape culture” is really and truly embedded in contemporary Western culture (for anyone who’s interested, Laurie Penny discusses rape discourse and rape culture in the New Statesman).


Anecdotally, every woman I’ve ever met and with whom I’ve discussed the topic of rape has expressed that they have to consider their actions and/or dress on a daily basis. And when you’re doing that, and so are your friends, and so is your mother, and so on, it’s appropriate for fear to become the primary emotion, which strikes me as extremely unhealthy.

#11 The Wallace Archive (A Research Visit amidst Personal Musings) – a temporary break with blog convention (well this one) as I conduct research at The Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX

s.i.g.n. (acronym)…

sign that being an electrical socket is not all that easy after all (look at their tortured little faces). and the lower socket appears to have weight issues…

Day Eleven:

picture the scene. alarm goes off at 5:30am – sister has to be on campus to prepare for a class by 7:30am. hit snooze, then hit it again. sister shouts through, “campus not open ’til 10 – go back to sleep.” ok. lying there thinking – wish i could go back to sleep. sister shouts again at 9:45am, “are you getting up?” yes, yes i am. protein shake, coffee, and off we go.

deposit some snickerdoodle cookies at the ransom center reception (2nd floor), with the caveat that eating them is not obligatory and that they can trash them if they wish – i mean, a brit cooking snickerdoodles for texans – the impudence. assured that said cookies will indeed be enjoyed by the library reading room team, i saunter in and take my usual seat. one day last week someone else sat in the seat for a half day session, but other than that my behind has been parked in the same exact chair the whole time in the reading room – changing seating position willy-nilly, on some sort of ad-hoc, devil-may-care, reckless descent into the hell of spontaneity is not my idea of fun.

that being said, i get on with the matter at hand. today is the day where i am forced to laugh the most whilst picking my way through the torturously small handwriting that is inscribed on pads, loose leaf, journals, etc. although much of what wallace wrote about was disturbing, unsettling, lonely, and a whole host of other adjectives that i need not list, there is so much humour in his works. today’s particular treat was reading the pieces about stecyk in the pale king. on my scribbled notes of yellow paper, in my scrawliest handwriting i’ve actually written: ‘stecyk (just plain funny!). i have two more full days of research left. tomorrow should see me complete my list of containers/boxes, and so the last day is a kind of bonus day where i can revisit materials and take sharper pictures (did them on the ipad for the first day and a half and the quality is awful – iphone much better). i may even throw a couple of wildcards in there – wallace’s own annotated books from his personal library.

talking of humour, the funniest moment of the day came whilst wistfully staring out of a window facing the courtyard out front of the ransom center. a young guy was walking a diagonal line across the courtyard when something fell out of a tree from a great height right in front of him, almost hitting him i might add. it looked like a branch or something, but no sooner had it hit the ground than the thing went scuttling off from the scene. said guy kind of did a swerve thing without really slowing his stride, and maintained an almost androidish calm – no hysterics, no jumping, gasping, or any other stuff one might expect. the thing turned out to be a squirrel. looks like it chose the wrong branch to bear down with its weight. so there you go. that’s a first for me, but now we know that squirrels can, and do, fall out of trees. who knew? and after scuttling away (under one of the heavy set concrete benches dotted around the areas of segregated florae) it actually behaved in a way that if you’d been watching it, as i was, you’d have thought it was embarrassed about what had just happened – more embarrassed than the terminator it almost fell atop of.

oh, and the ziploc bag of cookies – almost all gone as i headed on out of there…

#10 The Wallace Archive (A Research Visit amidst Personal Musings) – a temporary break with blog convention (well this one) as I conduct research at The Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX

sign your name across my heart… (q. terence trent d’arby (sp.))

sign of expanding horizons…

Day Ten:

(faster ever run over 3.14 miles y/day – just forgot to mention on #9)

back to business at the archive. a new person at the reception desk this morning. whilst printing out my blue slip and getting a locker key for my belongings, three-letter gendered pronoun must have clocked that all my requests for materials are from wallace’s archive, and proceeds to offer me some advice in a very nice ‘you may already know this, but…’ manner. now, what three-letter gendered pronoun tells me about is most interesting – mainly to broaden my scope and take in the connected archives from the likes of wallace’s agent, editor, publishing house(s). and guess what – three-letter gendered pronoun knows three-letter gendered pronoun’s stuff because what i end up concentrating on for the rest of the day is very helpful indeed. letters to and fro his agent and editor, rationales for certain subject matters, characters, plot development, all fascinating, and all stuff that i would probably have missed out on had i not had that chance encounter with said three-letter gendered pronoun. the reason for my using ‘three-letter gendered pronoun’ is that i’m not convinced that woman/girl does this person justice. at what age do you become a woman/girl? and here we are talking about a highly educated person, with excellent inter-personal skills to boot, who is way younger than i. so there’s the quandary – woman sounds offensive, but so does girl. what to do?

no stopping for chai latte until nearer the end of the day – sister collecting me a little earlier as she has a video call to make to a client. bitterly cold outside the ransom. head straight for cvs on guadalupe for emergency bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) – cookie disaster last night is preying on my mind and will not rest until it is resolved (baking powder used as no baking soda in the pantry at my sister’s, and cookies came out the texture of biscotti – devastated). 99c seems like a bargain, so i trot next door to medici for the chai. strike up a conversation with a couple of two-letter gendered pronouns (same issue as before) who work there – serious beard envy going on in my head as I’m talking with them. amazingly serious examples of well looked-after facial hair. am v impressed.

early arrival back home, start on dinner, a yotam ottolenghi recipe for black pepper tofu – delicious. recipe states 5tbsp of coarsely crushed black peppercorns to be added, but I’ve never managed more than 2tbsp – and that burns, what with the 4 hot green peppers in there (recipe calls for 8 – maybe i’m too soft). finish the meal with a kulfi from out of the freezer and then it’s cookie time. dough prepared and rested for 40 minutes in the refrigerator. shaped into walnut sized balls. rolled in cinnamon and sugar. baked for 13 minutes. come out perfect. can rest tonight.

#9 The Wallace Archive (A Research Visit amidst Personal Musings) – a temporary break with blog convention (well this one) as I conduct research at The Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX (Weekend Format)

sunday: still informal, still casual…


moms and dads say aww…

old europe parked in a lot…

back to nature…

a perfect way to endeth a sunny, all-american weekend…

normal service resumes in the am…

#6 The Wallace Archive (A Research Visit amidst Personal Musings) – a temporary break with blog convention (well this one) as I conduct research at The Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX

a sign that i can instagram…

Day Six:

and it’s cold again. trust a brit to keep making a fuss about the weather. in the reading room i pick up from where i’d left off the night before, and after feeling buoyed by what i’d been reading in ‘big red son,’ the next six containers have very little to offer me – but that’s not to say that they are not interesting. my left eye was partially blood-shot this morning when i woke up.

the scope of wallace’s intellect comes into sharp focus today, not that i wasn’t aware of how remarkable a talent he was, as i jump from containers covering his fiction to containers where he is reviewing books about math (or maths – depending on your preference), to a container where he is offering a feminist critique of a work of fiction, to in-depth reporting about what appears to be amateur tennis – and then i hit upon several containers to do with accounting and the studies he made in accounting as a way of researching the pale king. i’ll pause here for a moment. now, it occurs to me from just glancing at the containers and their contents that we’re in a very different world here, i mean, notebook upon notebook and test paper upon test paper, and personal scrawlings on what appear to be legal pads, and articles on finance and accounting printed from the internet, and sums and formulas and revisions to sums and formulas. and invariably i groan as I’m faced with stuff that i have no interest in whatsoever – dry, soulless, depressing, archaic (but only if one views the present monetary system as archaic, something i’d happily argue if anyone were interested, which most people tend not to be, speaking from experience, eyes glazing over when you first mention the old ‘money as fallacy’ line, which i’m inclined to think sounds pretty interesting, and something worth at least five minutes of someone’s time, i mean, five minutes to discuss the origins of our (Western-postindustrial?) monetary system, a system where everything costs something (but where, in fact, everything need not cost ‘something’ if you actually stop to think about it), water, electricity, rocket/arugula, an egg, maize, paper, silence, a piece of rock, a house, a bean, a ferrari, you get the picture; a system that monetarizes every imaginable thing you can think of (and please don’t say – “the internet, that’s free, that’s a great liberating force that spits in the eye of your dumb-ass theory” – not that i’m hubristic enough to actually think of this as a theory – because let’s say for example that you don’t ‘pay’ for an internet connection, let’s say you piggy-back on someone else’s connection, with or without their consent, and let’s assume that you find everything you want without ever having to input your credit card details, so on the face of it i’m talking nonsense, no? what about the hardware that you use, the bits and pieces of planned obsolescence – are they lying around on the ground? and what about the silent assault on your psyche, in monetary terms, where the day before you’ve typed in a search term or been looking for something in particular, then when you next go online there are all manner of banners and pop-ups that refer to what is was you were doing the day before? and what happens when you can no longer trust in yourself to commit the time and effort to actually finding out a piece of information without ‘googling’ it (and remember the piece from a few days ago where ‘infantilisation’ and ‘google’ kind of went hand in hand)? when you are walking around (skip ahead a few years/decades) with little inclination to actually do anything for yourself, in terms of thinking, what cost the endless hours online, where companies are paying money to let you use ‘free’ wifi in order to find out as much about you as possible, where you walk, where you pause when you pass a shop window that catches your eye, where you spend the bulk of your time, and then finally, how they can turn all that information into you reaching into your purse/wallet for that card). i mean, does a chicken turn round and hold its wing out to the farmer after laying an egg? does the bird pay taxes on its worm consumption? does an ear of corn cost $€¥£ (specify your own amounts here – use other denominations if you wish) when it’s a seed, or when it germinates, or when it’s an infant plant busy in the midst of furious cell differentiation, or when it’s ripened, or when it’s been left to rot in the field for whatever reason – is the cost stable – how so – what are the influencing factors – humans, you say – so does everything cost money – or is that something we fail to problematise as a mode of thought? how is it that if inflation works how it is meant to work that we still have ‘everything for a dollar/pound’ shops and can still purchase things for a cent/penny (and i’m talking currencies that have not faced devaluation like the old italian lira of the late 80s, or the old Greek currency circa 1980 (sorry, can’t remember name – thinking drachma but don’t want to say it for fear of sounding stupid)? whatever!

and then after all the accounting stuff there’s a container that has an envelope inside, with a PO Box address on it, and the stuff inside the container, which used to be in the envelope, which was delivered to said PO Box, addressed to our mr wallace, well this stuff is bizarre with a capital b. i’m talking oedipa maas, the whole tristero, thurn and taxis, muted horn, w.a.s.t.e., type-conspiracy-kinda-stuff-that’s-kinda-cool-but-also-freakishly-weird-and-troublesome-when-you-think-about-it. recently, i drew a muted horn symbol on a post box, just for fun.

mlk boulevard, freezing cold, literally, home to sister’s house, walk buffy, absolutely horrible walk with freezing wind whipping my face for most of it. watch in cold blood original (60s film? – just to let you know that i am italicising all film/book titles, but this american typewriter font just looks the same when i do – maybe i should use underscore instead – just about to do, by the way). sense the capote theme? good film, very interesting. makes me think about some of the stuff i’m reading at the moment about how rhetoric is used in the present day. take for instance ‘rape’ as rhetoric. now, i’m fully aware how delicate an issue this is, but bear with me and keep in mind that i’m talking here about the rhetoric, not the actual real-life act of. just how many films/tv shows do you watch where rape is deployed in some form or other? look at that, a rhetorical question to start us off! okay, since departing britain i sat on a plane for around 10 hours (mentioned previously, remember – sitting next to jason bourne guy?) and got to watch (silently, via other passengers’ screens) iron man 3. nothing you could straight out say fits with our discussion of rhetoric, but i’d stop and consider pepper pots’ torture scene where iron man is tied up and guy pearce’s character is ‘injecting’ her with the stuff that’ll make her invincible, allegedly, but also highly volatile in a chemical compound sense. iron man looks tortured as the ‘weak’ woman is treated as an object. okay, maybe just my vivid and hyper-sensitive imagination. then there’s jennifer aniston’s performance in the miller’s film. she’s a sexy stripper/erotic dancer type (not convinced). now, remember i don’t have a complete sense of contextualisation here because i couldn’t here what was going on, but, Jenny does a sexy (?) dance thing (forced to, or not, i do not know) for what look like drug dealers, mean looking drug dealers. there appears to be an element of threat because no sooner does she finish than a kind of rumpus/ruckus ensues, with the millers high-tailing it out of there. so, could we at least agree that with a near naked woman dancing in the way she does for some dubious characters, whom she is more than happy to inflict violence upon before fleeing their presence, that there is at least the tiniest hint of sexual violence that is being alluded to – albeit in a light-hearted comedy setting? then the blind side. not much here, i’ll admit, but cast your minds back to bullock searching for her adopted son (football player guy). she confronts some guys on the street. watch their faces and mannerisms. she’s a piece of meat to them. she’s an object, a sexual object at that – note the language. it’s subtle, i’ll grant you, but it’s there. then watch her reaction as she returns to her car before setting off. she is aware of what that encounter was – affluent white woman in poor, black neighbourhood (piling on the stereotypes for added effect are the film-makers here), just a few chance remarks away from the threat of sexual violence. come on, bear with me if you are particularly sceptical about my approach.

the following night it’s thor as a racing driver. different type of rhetoric here. woman as sexual object, tick! woman facing the threat of sexual violence, no! then the don jon film. same as the driving one, i suspect, but contains plenty of porn images, but these seem to be here as a way of opening the debate on the use of porn, and the whole film seems intelligent in its questioning of contemporary lifestyles/relationships/issues.

capote is the next film. nothing much to report other than a brief moment where one of the clutter killers admits that he deterred his partner in crime from sexually violating the family’s 16(?) year old daughter after their bungled attempts at robbery. the night after is the in cold blood film i mentioned a few paragraphs back. now here’s where we get to the crux of the matter. young girl lies on her bed after hearing her father, mother, and brother being shot. felon 1 enters her room and touches her in an aggressively sexual manner. this is the 1950s. we have some context about the girl. she’s 16ish. she’s into horses. she loves her family. she’s portrayed as very innocent through her language/actions. she’s a virgin, for what it’s worth. he will rape her given the chance. the only thing that prevents this from happening are felon 2’s sensibilities – but then he shoots her dead.

the next night we watch de niro and pfeiffer in the family. pfeiffer must be raped before being killed, according to the laws of mafia life, with regard to betrayal/ratting. she isn’t, but there’s the whole lying on the ground while the fat, ugly, sweating hitman unzips his trousers and moves towards her. then there’s the daughter, 16 or 17, beautiful in the conventional sense, recently ‘given’ her virginity to the man she loves, being chased down the street by an old, wrinkly, but nevertheless deadly hitman, after issuing the profanity ‘f*** me,’ to which the hitman says, ‘thank you,’ before beginning the chase. it is made explicit that if he catches her he will indeed rape her before he kills her, otherwise he’d pick up any number of weapons that the mafiosi brought with them to the scene and just gun her down from afar.

then we go to the cinema, ipic at the domain, to watch american hustle. nothing overt here, but there are two subtle moments, one involving amy adams and the other involving jennifer lawrence. both of the moments i’m thinking of position these two women (there must only be three women with major roles in the entire film – notice the lack of women in films in general and the roles they are confined to, in general, that is) in scenes where it is implied that the man, if he so chooses to, will take the woman by force, sexually.

what else? taken, where the good girl/virgin is saved (and only because of her virginity) whilst her best friend/the whore who has not preserved her virginity (like a jam?) (whore is not my term, by the way) is forced into sexual slavery and then is killed by overdose. the original girl with a dragon tattoo – obligatory, and sick as you like, rape scene. evil dead – rape by tree root if my memory serves me correctly (jesus, i can only have been around 10 years old watching this – sick, older brothers of my friends making us watch it. what does that say about a person?). once upon a time in america with a young de niro – rapes the woman he ‘loves’ and idolises in a car. sigourney weaver (sp.) suffers an alien-rape and gives birth (did i remember that right?) irreversible, an unforgiving and protracted rape scene. kill bill – thurman paralysed on the hospital bed, being licked. you get the picture, and if you don’t you really should pay more attention.

so anyway, what does any of this mean? it means that there is a rhetoric that is used in all forms of popular culture, and has been for quite some time, where a woman is made to question every decision/action before embarking on such actions, or indeed coming to such decisions. you’ve heard it/seen it. the woman who jogs and who has to consider which route to take for safety. the woman who is walking home alone, possibly in the dark and possibly in a deserted location. the woman who drives home and runs out of petrol/gas. the woman who has to make the split-second decision to take the taxi/cab or see it taken by someone else – get into a cab driven by goodness knows who, or walk the streets alone. i’ve personally heard such things from high-ranking business persons, university professors, armed forces personnel, dainty women, not so dainty women, old women, young women, conventionally pretty women, not so conventionally pretty women, heavy women, not so heavy women. so, what’s my point, i hear you ask? well, harking back to an episode of newsnight, bbc2 in britain, shown on or around the 30th june 2013, paxman interviews a woman mp and a journalist. the mp has received twitter abuse and is aware of the misogyny that exists on sights such as reddit. twitter abuse here means tweets threatening her with rape. the journalist once tweeted something about the dress she wore in a session at the house of commons – something cleavage related. she wants something done about the culture of misogyny, and threats of rape, sexual abuse that are prominent in 2013 (there are those who believe a woman should be raped for suggesting that jane eyre be put on the new £10 note – honestly, those threats are real). he dismisses her claims by stating that man has an intrinsic fear of castration, “but you don’t hear us calling for castration to be an item of debate” (this is not an actual quote, i’m working from memory, but that’s pretty close to what he said). the woman gave a forceful reply, then a bit of back and forth before paxman closes the piece with an amused look on his face. my question would be: how many men have ever walked down the street with the fear of castration at the forefront of their minds? and without spelling it out any further, that is what i mean by the rhetoric of rape, and its dominance in this Western-postindustrialised society (and most probably other societies too).

well, that was a long one…

#5 The Wallace Archive (A Research Visit amidst Personal Musings) – a temporary break with blog convention (well this one) as I conduct research at The Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX


sign on the dotted line…

Day Five:
no run today. not hungry for anything solid. buffy runs towards me as i open my bedroom door, but then quickly turns tail as her food bowl sounds with the pitter patter of breakfast biscuits. how disappointing to be shunned in the a.m., however, once she’s finished we wrestle with a rope she’s picked out of the back yard, but i chastise her for not pulling hard enough – she’s a big dog, 90lbs apparently, but i get more resistance from milly back home (and she’s not much more than 15lbs i’m guessing). dressed, car, drive (sister drives).
dropped off on mlk once more and this time i walk via the alley way that cuts off mlk down the side of the longhorns for christ church. heading up the stairs at the ransom, having just walked past many busts, with one particular bust of james joyce that stands out for its acute ugliness, it is time to repeat the morning ritual: collect a locker key, stow my bag away, fold my coat and deposit that too, returning to the reception desk with just my ipad, iphone, and yellow note-taking paper, ready to accept the slip that confirms that i am authorised to be in the reading room. now, all manner of regulations have been adhered to, and i’m not even in the room yet. it is to be admired the way this particular section of the harry ransom center runs itself, or let me put it another way – it is to be admired the way the people who work at the center run it so very well and with what looks like, but is certainly not, the minimum amount of effort.
blue slip in hand, i approach the desk where these slips are to be handed in and am greeted by my first name. a nice touch. the boxes that were pulled yesterday are still available and i carry one over to the table where you can place a box before extracting one container (file) at a time to work with at a desk of your choice. now this place is kitted out like a 1920s bank – heavy wooden tables, chairs with solid arms, table lights at eye-level, high ceiling, and thick-pile carpet beneath your feet. and then, in the relative quiet of the room, you are alone with your thoughts and the materials you have selected to look at. and how the time flies. some containers do not interest me much in terms of my research interests, but then again some provide unexpected pleasures.
the methodology adopted for the research visit is to follow a list written out prior to leaving home. there are certain moments across the corpus that stand out as being worthy of close attention, but what exactly did i imagine i would find amongst the archive? at this stage it is frightening to think that there may not be any kind of revelation, and would i know it if i happened upon it? what becomes evident very soon is the amount of work that has gone into wallace’s writing. not that i imagined a writer’s life to be any sort of picnic, but the amount of manuscripts that go back and forth between the author and copy editor, and the negotiations that take place between a writer who has a complete vision of how a work should be seen by the public and the editorial team who cannot possess that same vision and who have magazines/books to sell, has to be seen to be believed.
before i know it, it’s time for fresh air and lunch. i did indeed head back for a chai latte – with the coffee bar’s free wifi proving an added bonus for checking emails and stuff. then it’s back to ploughing through container after container (got through 20 containers on day one). some containers hold as little as a sheet of paper. others carry countless manuscripts and documents. i must admit that i only felt like i was getting somewhere at the very end of day one at the archive (day four of the blog), just as the lights in the room flashed to tell researchers that all materials must be returned to their boxes as that’s the end of the day. having picked up where i’d left off the day before, with the containers being mainly made up of handwritten notes, in painfully small writing, i mean a written line of writing that is barely bigger than the line it’s written on (at times), the progress for day two is good. most of what i find interesting from a research perspective comes from infinite jest and big red son, and the minor link between big red son and adult world. by the end of day two i have worked my way through 10 more containers. i leave to meet my sister on mlk boulevard and for the first time am able to walk through campus without need of a scarf.
on the way home in the car she tells me an anecdote she’s heard about two adverts causing somewhat of a scandal during the superbowl. haven’t seen them so can’t comment. we watch philip seymour hoffman (sp.) in capote, a favourite of my sister’s. reading and thinking is a tiring business, can’t stop yawning…

#4 The Wallace Archive (A Research Visit amidst Personal Musings) – a temporary break with blog convention (well this one) as I conduct research at The Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX


sign of a limited imagination (on my part – maybe i’ll instagram it for a bit of variety?)…

Day Four:
waking naturally at 6:30am is somewhat of a surprise as lately it’s been hard to get out of bed without my partner switching the lights on at home and me taking around 20-30 minutes to ‘come round,’ as it were. although it would be half-past midday for me back home so maybe i shouldn’t be too congratulatory (of myself – you know, self-congratulatory) just yet. faced with the prospect of running in the evening, following a full day of sitting on my ass looking at manuscripts, it seems a better idea to just get up, stretch, warm up, and do the run prior to heading downtown. my first steps outside reveal that the cold has not gone away, so after a few more stretches i hit the ‘run’ button on the running app and head off for what i’m expecting to be a 3 mile run.
the politeness of drivers who actually stop to let me cross the road, when i’m quite content to run round the back of their cars to save them the inconvenience, is pleasantly surprising, and in stark contrast to the attitude of (most, maybe not all) drivers back home. for their troubles they get a left-handed wave meant to convey both ‘thanks’ and ‘hey/hi’ simultaneously, and also a left-handed thumbs up to cement the feeling of appreciation and to give them an extra boost to the start of their day – whether they might need one or not. my run is good for the first half mile or so and i have to remind myself not to kick in too soon, even though this is a shorter run than the one the other day.
today’s route is pre-planned following guidance from my sister that will avoid another episode of getting lost – and i have not the time to deal with such things as i have things to do and paper to see. heading down a concrete path away from roads, i am running next to what look like farmer’s fields on one side and the back yards of houses on the other. three particularly grumpy dogs seem majorly pissed at my passing their metal fence boundary, and given the chance i fully expect that they’d happily sink their salivating jaws into my delicate flesh. as it happens, they can do nothing more than bark and growl wildly, and i resolve to run back past them on the way back to my sister’s house – i even tease them a little with some cute petting sounds.
the only thing of interest that stands out between my first pass of their fence and the second, is a scene that looks like someone has discarded carrots by the side of the road, and also by the side of a discarded xmas tree. the carrots turn out to be oranges and they’ve fallen from a tree (orange tree, of course). the dogs are waiting for me on my return (another dog further up doesn’t like the look of me either and has called ahead) and one has shoved its head through the metal railings, though that is really of little use to it, and even makes it look just plain dumb rather than the mean and menacing effect i assume it’s going for. i ignore them completely as this feels like a really fast run (for me). 3.18 miles in just under 28 minutes, averaging 8:something per mile – my fastest ever run over that or any distance. yay.
showered, vegan protein shake downed, coffee slurped, croissant demolished, and dressed in a manner that makes me look french, apparently, according to my sister – and many other people i might add as it seems a familiar comment when wearing what i’m wearing, and i am ready to be transplanted downtown on mlk boulevard. meandering through the campus grounds towards the ransom center is much like it was on Sunday, due to the weather, apart from the activity that accompanies the many students who are heading to class. i get to watch an orientation video, quite enjoyable, and then nice person after nice person help me find my way around the systems that are in place at the center.
just to bring the tone down for a few moments, it strikes me as somewhat selfish to be doing what i’m doing, kind of picking over the things that i would not be picking over unless a person’s life had ended. and it’s a weird feeling, because i won’t pretend that i’m not excited as hell to be at the archive, but someone had to die to make that possible – and that’s a sobering and uncomfortable thought to process. to use an example with which to compare my conflicting thoughts on the issue, that probably won’t make much sense to anyone as it has no obvious connection, i liken the whole thing to the misappropriation of the poor that is at the heart of the stage and film versions of les miserables (and obviously i’m not suggesting wallace was poor, i mean only to convey a sense of the misappropriation that i’m getting right now). so anyway, the story of revolution in france is a bloody one, agreed, and the poorest suffered the most, no-brainer, yet it has been misappropriated by the middle-classes and upwards as a glorious, riotous show/film which one can sing along to and enjoy and make merry – and you kind of have to ask yourself – just what is there to make merry about in this particular (or any) revolution (i happened to watch the recent film at the cinema and the majority of the audience clapped long and hard throughout the end credits – directed at whom were the claps, and to express what sentiment?)? so, just what is there to be excited about when faced with the prospect of reading materials that would have been considered to be extremely intimate to the person who wrote them? that’s about as mawkish as i’ll allow myself to get, but it’s a point worth holding onto.
i’ll start again on day five… bummed myself out there… sorry…
but just to balance out the unexpected mawkishness, a barista in a coffee bar on guadalupe gave me a chai latte free of charge because someone had ordered it and not collected it and ‘did i want it as it will only go to waste.’ so i accepted it as i’d finished my coffee and it was a pleasant surprise – so much so, i’ll probably forego the coffee tomorrow and order one of those instead. a positive human connection…

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