On Reading for Pleasure and Writing What You Think

1. I am still reading The Black Insider very slowly, and I have little new to report on that front except that I have added The House of Hunger, by the same author, to my list, as well as Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Times. I am also reading, strictly for pleasure, the criticism and historical documents related to Heart of Darkness that is included in the Norton Critical Edition of that novella. The selection of historical and other contextualizing documents is really quite good.

I am teaching this book, so it does not count as Reading for Pleasure. I am not writing anything about it, and I do not need to read any more criticism on it to do an adequate job at teaching it, but I have grown addicted to Conrad – so much so that, for example, I want to see the long version of Apocalypse Now. Therefore criticism on Heart of Darkness now qualifies as Reading for Pleasure (otherwise it would be Overpreparing One Class to Procrastinate Preparing for Others).

2. In News of the Generation Gap (if reading a flame war is a pleasure) my mother, an older white lady who voted for Edwards by absentee ballot before he left the race, reported Monday night that she now favors Obama. What she said of the Clintons: “I am tired of that whole generation, and I really think it is time to move ahead.” Hah! That is what my students said also, in a class where most people are about sixty years younger than my mother.

3. Finally, to read for pleasure and illumination, there is WoC PhD’s excellent post on Fidel, and then there is this post and comments thread. Says the writer: [As I graded, commented, drafted letters of recommendation, and rewrote abstracts,] “I really thought if I spent two weeks not writing anything that was false I could overcome my problems with writer’s block.

I had writer’s block for seven years. During that time I only wrote one new scholarly piece, although I did publish an edited volume and some journalistic pieces, some non-refereed pieces, some short stories and some poems. My writer’s block started before tenure and I only made tenure because of what I already had in the “pipelines.” It was very nerve wracking to be told time and again that I just needed to be more self-disciplined (I have always been, very), that I lacked confidence (I do not), or that I “feared success” (I do not). I did not know why I had writer’s block until I discussed it one evening with a man who wanted to take me out.

I had said I was not interested but he had said just please have one cup of coffee or one drink, one time. I said all right, but the topic of conversation must be my writer’s block and you must help me with it. He said fine. I described my problem to him. He listened, thought for a while, and then said, “You must start choosing the projects you believe in.C’était vrai. La neta.

Axé.

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10 Comments

Filed under Bibliography, News

10 responses to “On Reading for Pleasure and Writing What You Think

  1. I read the short biography about Marechera that your link pointed to. Here is what the foremost expert on Marechera, Flora Veit-Wild, says about Marechera’s “fleeing” to Botswana:

    “Marechera went into hiding for a while after his expulsion from the University of Rhodesia in 1973. In 1974 he went to Oxford to take up his scholarship. Whether he went there via Botswana I do not know. It is possible; but I don’t think that he “fled” to Botswana.”

  2. Your friend was wise about writing about things you believe in.

  3. Undine – yes. And it’s funny – I say in the post that I didn’t have a confidence problem but that was because I was at the time told I lacked the confidence to work on what I was working on. In reality I lacked the confidence (or vision) to fly in the face of standard advice and drop it for what I really wanted.

    This is why I don’t believe the Boicean type advice (it’s inconsequential writing anyway, it’s just work, just get it done). Why, that doesn’t even work for me re grading papers! I get confused and blocked if I din’t believe in the assignment (to some degree, anyway) in the first place, and if I don’t feel I can (to a reasonable degree) stand by the grading system.

    Jennifer – is the connection escaping from that in which one does not believe / in which one has no self or no access to self / etc. ?

  4. Oh, the point I was trying to make was that he fled very little, however many of the reviews on Marechera these days have taken to saying that he “fled to Botswana”.

    But yeah, in general terms, he did not feel responsible to act in accordance with social systems that he felt were not authentic.

  5. AHA – I get it, not fleeing.

  6. Nice video.

    I wrote something about The Black Insider on my blog. Ah. I do not hear from my supervisors. Academia is so layed back.

  7. The thing about the reports about Marechera on the web — which often emanate from Zimbabwe or Africa — is that they have an “oral history” component to their writing. That means that at least some of what is said may have been distorted — e.g., hearsay reported as fact. This is due to the nature of oral history, which is also a form of entertainment.

  8. One more Vallejo parallel (although not necessarily a meaningful one) – much rumor and “oral history” surrounding his biography.

  9. Right. The oral history aspect is not a bad thing, but I think that researchers need to be aware of how that works, so that they do not incorporate the hearsay into their research if they can help it.

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