1. A huge thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I am amazed again and again by how sensitive and insightful you all are. Every comment made me feel better in some way and helped to calm me down. While I will definitely go to the doctor this week and get checked out, I am in a much better place about it now.
2. Back to reviews next week too, I hope, as I’ve been reading some wonderful books, all of them taking me to very different places. I’ve been reading Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace, about the adulterous diary of a Victorian wife, The Chaperone (Laura Moriarty) about an uptight Kansas housewife who takes on the chore of chaperoning a young Louise Brooks around New York, and Reading Lolita in Tehran (Aziz Nafisi) about a private reading group organised under the repressive Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s. All very different in their way, and yet all concerned with the excessive restraint of female sexuality. I’ll have plenty to say about that, I imagine.
3. Advance warning that the following week or possibly the one after, will be French Reading Week on this blog. I’ve had several new French novels in translation arrive for review, and I’ve been loving the Beauvoir. Also hoping to bring in a new biography of Voltaire and a memoir by Gully Wells, The House in France. I thought it would be fun to put them all together.
4. I just can’t wait for teaching time to end and exams to begin. I’ve had more students this term than I’ve ever had in an Easter term before and am now officially tired of study support. I’ve got one student in particular who talks a great deal in order, I feel sure, not to hear what I am saying. She has no idea that she does this. I like the student and do not wish to resort to howling ‘Shut up and listen!’ but it may end up that way. I foresee much burning of lavender oil and taking of deep breaths.
5. Another student posed a difficult problem a few weeks back by her partisan approval of one particular theorist. When I asked her point blank she said, yes, she agreed with everything he said and thought he was right. I said that in a month’s time, when her degree was over, she could think what she wanted. But a helpful approach to the exams would be to keep an open mind and challenge whatever she read. Once again I bump into the problems that come with absolute judgements. Learning, development, and intellectual honesty come with accepting that hardly anything is ever black and white, that doubt is sanity. I saw a comment on a blog that disturbed me last week, referring to a woman who had a small and ultimately unimportant quirk of vanity. ‘We judged her harshly and we were right to do so,’ the commenter wrote. Ouch. And no. There is always another perspective, another side to the matter, layers barely guessed at below the surface, and we do well to attend to them. Give me ambiguity any day and its uncertainties.
6. What’s everyone reading next week? I’ve just finished three books so can pick up some new ones. At the front of the queue: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan, and The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany, this latter for the Slaves.