Back with Bullets

1. Well, I did it. I managed to write the essay despite starting it so very close to the deadline. I know a lot of people find a deadline energising, but I find it oppressive and dispiriting. If I’ve only got three or four days for 5,000 words, I think, what’s the point? I was so close to abandoning the whole idea. But then I decided to knuckle down to it, and the process was smoother than I’d anticipated. So I wrote it and hated it, as you do, but my posse of readers actually returned very encouraging feedback. Maybe I am finally learning how to write biography.

2. When I resurfaced after a mere week away from the internet, there were almost 300 posts in my feed reader. You’ve all been very busy, haven’t you? Yesterday I read through most of them, and commented on some of them, but I’m still not caught up with my emails. It’s amazing. No way would I put pen to paper and write this many letters, but email holds this false promise of ease and concision. In fact, I probably write more than I would long hand. Between the emails and the blog reading, I am forced to come to the conclusion that my virtual life has got out of hand. How on earth does one prune it, though? I like chatting to all my peeps.

3. I’ve been reading a lot of crime fiction lately because it seems to suit the winter months to my mind. I finally read Elizabeth George – in particular: Payment in Blood, and found it to be excellent. Really fine classic crime, with lots of character development, a twisty plot and a satisfyingly surprise conclusion. I also read my first Louise Penny. It happened to be A Trick of the Light, which is book 7 in the series. I am not normally bothered about reading things in order, and I fell foul of my practice here, as the novel spent a great deal of time talking about events that took place in a previous book. To begin with, I felt the endless series of short, faux-dramatic sentences would get on my nerves. But once I’d settled into the style, I did enjoy it. She has very good observations and is generous with them.

4. My reading project for December is very odd for me and probably doomed to failure but I want to give it a go nevertheless. I’d like to read three chunksters this month: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (with Stefanie if she’s up for it), Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (for Caroline’s Dickens in December) and Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (with Danielle if she can squeeze it in alongside Camilla!). I don’t think I can possibly read one after another, so I’ll have to read at least two simultaneously if not the whole three. I do wonder what on earth I will post about all month. Best of 2012 lists can’t stretch that far. Anyone got any good memes?

5. In the wake of the Leverson enquiry into the conduct of the press, the question now is how any form of reliable self-regulation might be put into practice. Given that the police and the politicians all turned out to be complicit in the phone-tapping scandal, ordinary forms of law enforcement are looking a little dodgy. I wondered whether regulation of the press couldn’t be a kind of jury service for English teachers? You could take a team of a dozen and assign them to the tabloids for a week, and they could pick to their hearts content at the appallingly emotive argumentation, the lack of evidence-based facts, the fallacious causality, and so on. I’m so tickled by the idea of all those dreadful stories about Z-list celebrities being returned to their authors with ‘Please come and see me to discuss this’ scrawled across the bottom.
6. Talking of new job opportunities for the 21st century, I was Christmas shopping in John Lewis yesterday (along with half the population of Cambridge) and waiting in the queue to pay when I noticed a harassed employee running up and down the line, directing customers to a till when one became free. This was an entirely unnecessary task. We were in full view of the tills and could all see perfectly clearly when a bag-laden shopper moved away, business conducted. Yet the unexpected cabaret being put on by this poor lady, who seemed utterly fraught with anxiety about us all making reasonable progress towards purchase certainly calmed and quietened the queue. I realised then that we were all outsourcing our frustration. She was doing the impatience so that we didn’t have to. What a thought! Would it be possible to use this technique elsewhere, I wondered? Like in examination halls, or virtual forums? It might be so much better to hand the negativity over to trained personnel rather than letting it get out of control with ordinary individuals.

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24 thoughts on “Back with Bullets

  1. Glad your essay is done and it turned out well. Glad to have you back too, I missed you :) Would love to read Wolf Hall with you! I won’t be able to start it until later in the month though because I have a library book with no renewals and a hold queue I have to read. After that though, bring it on! Also, about outsourcing negativity, have you ever read Lois Lowry’s The Giver? It will make you change your mind about the outsourcing :)

    • I haven’t read The Giver… ooh, will have to see what you mean now! I must let you know that I have begun Wolf Hall, but never fear, it is not a quick read and I will be taking my time over it. Plus reading two other huge books alongside it, so I doubt I’ll be far in before you catch up! Yay! Can’t wait to hear what you think of it!!

  2. I’m glad as well that your essay went well. I’m not sure how much timelines bother me. It really depends.
    What was the essay about, an aspect of de Beauvoir’s work, her life, a whole mini-bio?
    Oh the virtual life. … I will change mine as of next year for different reasons. It might even involve an extended blogging break.
    A month of reading crime is an idea that tempts me at the moment. Knowin me I might turn it into an event. :) And what about reducing the virtual time? Ha! Caught!

    • Caroline, thank you! The essay was about Beauvoir in love, focusing mostly on her life with Sartre and the affair with Nelson Algren. I’ll post a link when it’s out next summer. We will miss you if you have a break, but I quite understand. I’m still struggling to post and read blogs while I’m in the middle of Xmas prep, but here I am online and answering comments when I should really be ordering Xmas gifts! So it is hard to stay away! :)

  3. Wolf Hall…I still haven’t finished it in spite of having been reading it for…blushes… over a year and a half…this is the push I need to read the end. It’s excellent – it’s just that I need clear space to devote to it. You will never do anything else, this month, other than read! What a glorious thought.

    • Tricia – how nice of you to comment here! I’ve only just begun Wolf Hall (on about page 25!) but I can see that it is wonderfully written and definitely a book that needs to be taken slowly. How I wish I could just read this month…. instead I am sucked as usual into Xmas madness, sigh! Still, January is a great reading month for finishing all those books begun optimistically before the festive season!

  4. Virtual life does get out of hand when you are away for even a week–I’ve had the same experience of late. I feel so totally out of the loop and behind in things–reading, writing and even keeping up in my own blog, so I can sympathize (and I, too, am trying hard to catch up). I think I may have to use your bullet blog style myself–very handy for taking care of the business of catching up. I think I am reading poor Camilla alongside of Cashelmara to be honest! :) It may be an easy one for you to read alongside one or the both of your other reading selections this month–very easy to fall into and pick up and set aside as you need to! For me Camilla is going to carry over well into 2013 I fear. I have Wolf Hall on my reading list (the list I said I wouldn’t make but am now making…) for next year, so I will be interested to see how you get on with it. It sounds as though it is one you can easily get involved with. So glad you liked the Elizabeth George–she is one of my favorite mystery writers and I’ve read all her Lynley books save the most recent which I am waiting to come out in paper (later this month). I think her later books have gotten somewhat unwieldy, but her earlier books are marvelous. Glad to hear you finished your essay–I don’t do well under pressure either. Oh, and sorry for the long comment–I guess this is part of my own catching up! :)

    • Lol! It’s lovely to catch up, and I just wish December was a bit less frantic as a month. Today I had to take my son to the dentist on a bit of an emergency trip to get his teeth cleaned (I realised how badly they needed doing!), so having taken him in this morning, picked him up this afternoon, brought him home, taken him to the appointment then driven him back to his girlfriend’s house on the other side of Cambridge, I have got precisely nothing done all day!! Sigh. It wouldn’t matter if my to-do list weren’t enormous…. Still, I guess lots of bloggers are going through the same thing and so will sympathise! I’m not at all surprised that Camilla will extend into 2013, it’s huge. So glad you are enjoying Cashelmara, and although I’ve only read a few pages, I think it will be fun and just as you say, easy to read alongside the others. Looking forward so much to hearing more of what you think about it – later on, when life is a bit less chaotic! :)

  5. 1. Well done on the Essay!
    4. Three chunksters? Shew, you’re brave.
    6. Great example. I fear that school psychologists are the receivers of the school’s negative energy. Bring on the holiday.

    • Pete, oh poor you! I’ll bet you do have to soak up a lot of beta elements this time of year. I send a big hug. As for three chunksters, well, I reserve the right to change my mind or postpone one if necessary! :) And thank you for your kind thoughts – I was so happy to get it written.

    • I have only read the opening chapters, but I am very much enjoying Wolf Hall. The quality of the writing is excellent. I’ll certainly give you a proper update in a bit!

  6. Congrats on finishing your essay!

    I laughed out loud for like thirty seconds about your last bullet point. You British and your orderly queueing habits! Americans do not queue nearly as well (but we have other gifts), and sometimes it is useful to have a person directing traffic. We get unruly. Maybe your shop was run by Americans.

    • Ha, well, perhaps it is! On the whole Brits love to queue and we do it very politely (with death stares at people who try to jump ahead). I wonder how I would fare in a country where people did not queue tidily? It really is so ingrained, you know, it would probably be a bit upsetting. But as you say, every country has inbred advantages too! We could often do with some American positive thought over here.

  7. Good job with the essay! I like the idea of reading a bunch of chunksters; sometimes the only thing to do is dig deep into long, satisfying books. At least one hopes they are satisfying! I’m in the middle of Camilla myself, and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable.

    • I didn’t realise you were reading Camilla too! I will so look forward to reading yours and Danielle’s review. I tend to think 500 pages is the top limit for a book, but this year I’ve certainly read more longer books that usual, and something about winter and those dark nights makes me keen to give it a go!

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