Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Master of Monterey

I am reading a novel called The Master of Monterey by Lawrence Coates, whom I know from grad school. It's a great magical/realist/historical story about the seizure of Monterey by a U.S. Navy ship in 1842. Jones mistakenly thought the U.S. was at war with Mexico, and the conquest lasted three days. There's a plaque in Monterey commemorating this event, so I'll have to look for it. It's a comic episode in history and even funnier in the novel, which also manages to be a powerful attack on colonialism, manifest destiny, etc. Now's as good a time as any to make fun of American delusions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Milton Hatoum

A nice piece about Brazilian novelist Milton Hatoum in the NYT today. I met him almost four years ago (!!) when he was the DLCL's first Writer in Residence. He's a great writer and an incredibly warm, big-hearted human being. Trev and I took him on a tour of the coast, where Trev explained the social networking of Argentine ants using diagrams in the sand, and a whale graciously showed up. I think / hope Milton is coming to Stanford again in spring as the Tinker Professor in the Center for Latin American Studies. He was supposed to come last year but didn't make it. Lúcia Sá, a former DLCL professor and also a lovely person, is quoted in the article also.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I joined PETA this week after seeing veal calves and their huts while driving through Petaluma. It was surreal--the grass so green, the huts so white, the black-and-white calves so luminous. Of course. They do not get dirty because they don't move.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On bailing out and sneaking back in

Bitch Ph.D. has a really interesting discussion going on why people choose to leave academia. It sure brings back memories. I can't pinpoint when I first started thinking about leaving, but even before finishing my dissertation--from the beginning of grad school, really--I was doing a lot of non-academic things in my spare time and wondering why everyone else was going to conferences or reading lit-crit for fun. I had zero instinct for networking; I figured doing good work would be enough to get me noticed, and I didn't do more than was required. I thought I was a visual artist, joined an artists' critique group, and tried to figure out how to work that into my career. I decided to quit for sure after my third failed foray through the MLA job market. After making calls and finding out I was not invited for on-campus interviews (for two third-tier job prospects), I decided to end it. I hung up the phone, cried, then danced around the apartment, happier than I'd ever felt in my life.

I still envy people in tenure-track jobs, in that they have tangible accomplishments to show for all their hard work. But I don't envy the work itself, or the pressure to perform, which doesn't go away once you have tenure. I can't stand 99% of academic writing, and I don't want to do any more of it myself. I do love teaching, and am grateful that I can teach here at Stanford, where the students are uniformly wonderful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jay Fliegelman

A fond and baffled farewell to a brilliant Americanist, about whom there will still be stories.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Vacation blogging

I am slowly coming back from vacation. What to write about?

I have only seen bears in the wild twice, both times crossing the highway in front of our car. The first time was about four years ago on our way back from Lava Beds. A ginger-colored cub ran along the highway ahead of our car for several seconds. I lunged forward to grab the camera (I was the passenger) and the seatbelt of my old Corolla stopped me. And held me. I sat there with splayed fingers, camera just out of reach, till the cub veered off into the woods. The second time was last week, as we were driving out of Sequoia National Park. An adult black bear, as big as our Honda Fit, waddled across the road and down an embankment. Again, I reached for the camera, which I got hold of, but did not manage to get out of the case in time. Lessons learned: bears are on the road, not in meadows; they show up on your way out of places.