Hello! I’ve spent the last few months working away on my thesis and on several ‘mysterious yet to be announced’ projects, and I thought it was time for a quick update on this blog. First of all, I want to talk about how delightful it is to see all the libraries preparing to open up again after lockdown. There is very little better than a good library marching back into the world to do what it does best and so good luck librarians! You’re awesome! You change the world everyday!
I managed to get into my university library for the first time this year the other week and it was a delight. It’s been open as best as it could throughout and I did have the opportunity to visit before this, but I was being extra cautious because of family members. But the decreasing numbers of cases in my local area made me feel like I was ready and so I did. Such a delight. Honestly. It’s kind of difficult to not just grab everything off the shelves and hug them.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed was stepping outside of my normal subject area and going to some other places. My research pulls on things ranging from textual analysis through to post-humanism at the moment and so there’s a delight in following the paths that come out of this and seeing where they take me. That was a terribly convoluted metaphor but essentially I looked at new shelves and found some cool stuff.
I really loved Women, Art and Power by Linda Nochlin which is an absolutely searing collection of essays on / about art. Even though I work in creative writing and children’s literature, there’s something really interesting to me about the notion of the ‘gaze’ and how that applies to text (which is, after all, art in its own right). In a way, I think that you (ie: ‘The Reader’) expect to find something in a sentence when you encounter it and, in some senses, have to readjust that which the sentence gives you against your expectation. And, of course, that something you expect to find is coloured by your own positionality within the world and all that you embody / perform / enact within that space. There were some essays I liked a lot more than others in Nochlin’s collection (as is always the way, I think , but I valued them all immensely as provocations. By provocations, I mean text designed / desiring to have some sort of reaction within you (although, having written that, I realise that all text desires for such!). Perhaps a better way to phrase it is to describe them as ‘what if’ pieces; items which consider the possibility of the divergent, otherness of a scenario, and work to explore what they could / might / should be.
I am also immensely enjoying A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. A lot of the work that I’m reading sort of pulls on Deleuze and Guattari as this kind of talismanic reference, and there’s always interest in going back to the original source and seeing what they actually say. So far it’s a delight. I’m always in favour of theory that actually tries to push towards the edge of itself and use the telling of the theory (ie: the words on the page) in order to help make meaning. It’s quite easy to forget how the page looks and feels in favour of simply getting the words out. And whilst getting the words out is important, the texture of them is equally important. That’s a lot of italicisation in a short space, but it is intentional. The look and feel of something matters.
Related: this sort of thing always reminds me about the best book review I ever read which was in Private Eye. The reviewer had written a substantial amount, several paragraphs about this and that, and then moved onto discussing the authors love of a one line paragraph.
“For chilling effect”, they wrote, in a paragraph of its own.
(Honestly, it makes me laugh every time I think of it).
I also have some teaching coming up which will be a nice change. If you’re looking to brush up on your blogging and writing for online audiences skills, another intake of my course at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge is about to start. If you can’t make this one then there are later dates. It’s always such a pleasure to teach as it’s quite a short and intensive period – you can really see how people develop from one week to the next.
And finally, How To Be Brave is out in just under three months time! Publishing timelines are big and long things and it’s very lovely to think of my book being out on the shelves soon. I’m very grateful to the people who’ve read and reviewed already (from one reviewer to another: you rock) and I’ll put below some of the advance quotes below. You can pre-order here if you think it might be up your street.