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    Sobriquet 38.32

    Thursday, January 31, 2008
    I initially thought today was going to be a bust, sleeping in until nearly noon, screwing around for a few hours, then promptly falling asleep again until early evening. For a second straight day, though, I managed to read an article without having much trouble focusing my attention and I wrote a bit more in the Age of Iron section of the Coetzee chapter. This was, of course, a nice turn of events, transforming what could have been a lousy day into a fairly decent one. Again, as it is getting late, I will skip a discussion of the articles, leaving that for another day. I will, however, say that either I am developing a tolerance for literary criticism all of a sudden or I have encountered two particularly strong pieces recently. Either way, I do feel like I have managed to continue making progress despite a rather heavy sense of stagnation...I suppose that's what working on a dissertation while working at, you know, work will do to a person. Ah, c'est la vie...

    For tomorrow: Read another article. Anything beyond that will be a nice little bonus.

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    ____________________________________________
    Since it is after one in the morning, I am going to keep this extremely brief. I am almost finished with the essay I planned to read today and, luckily, though I waited until the late night hours to begin, I have moved through my reading with little difficulty. I will, of course, provide a more in-depth discussion later, when I'm not as exhausted as I am at the moment. Now, though, I just want to finish reading and go to bed for the night.

    Also, I want to express my thanks to the indefatigable Minxy, Larissa, Literary Chica, Ielle Palmer, and Pastor Jon for their kind comments and the rest of my friends, family, and other readers for the support and well-wishes they have provided me with on this project so far. I keep going, in part, because you've all helped me realize I can.

    Merci!

    For tomorrow: Work on planning out the final few pages on Age of Iron and, if possible, try to get a bit of writing done. Reading an extra essay would be a splendid bonus.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 30, 2008
    It's currently 6:26 AM...This is why I'm here now:

    Well, here's an odd thing: My power went out tonight or, rather, everyone within what seems to be a few blocks radius's power went out around 10:30 or 10:35. I was reading the article I'd abandoned yesterday and, suddenly, a flicker off, then a flicker on, then a flicker off, then a flicker on. . .this repeated for a few cycles before finally plunging us into darkness. I think this constitutes a legitimate reason not to finish today's reading. At any rate, I am typing this in Microsoft Word, draining the battery of my laptop as I go. I suppose I am lucky, though: my alarm clock is part of my fully-charged cell phone, the temperature is mild by most anyone's standards, and I have recently taken up candle making, so I do have some light.

    I will write this entry here tonight and post it whenever I have access to electricity again. I did return to a more productive form, writing another solid page or two of the dissertation this afternoon, though I found reading criticism to be about as appealing as, well, reading criticism. So, I procrastinated and, when I did finally get down to reading, the power went out. I will, however, try to read the article by candlelight, if only to cultivate something of an "old school" (i.e. Oxford in the Middle Ages) atmosphere of reading by the flicker of plasma. . .it's too bad, though, that I'm not reading Dracula. Now that would be good candlelight reading methinks.

    I do plan to stay awake a bit later than I want to, though not only for the sake of reading. I'm also not too keen on falling asleep only to be woken up by a bunch of lights and appliances turning on all at once.

    For tomorrow: Read another article.

    P.S. I did get through the article, but not with candles. I cheated and used a camping lantern...

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 29, 2008
    Wow. Today was a horrible day in terms of productivity. I had hoped, coming off of a light weekend, that I would have been able to get quite a bit done.

    I didn't.

    As usual, waking up prior to seven in the morning took a bit of a toll on me and I felt sleepy all day. I spent some time after school playing chess at the coffee shop with Josh (losing, naturally) before heading home to promptly fall asleep for a few hours. When I did wake up, I found that I procrastinated far more than I have in quite some time, realizing as the minutes became hours that I wasn't going to get much completed at all. Finally, I did manage to read through most of an article, but as I grew increasingly tired, my mind kept wandering and I started the article several times before deciding that, given its length and complexity, I wasn't going to be able to do it the justice I felt it deserved.

    In the end, I decided to read a brief--and I mean really brief--essay the Literary Chica sent me a while back from the New York Times. I won't summarize it here since you can simply read it for yourself, but I will say that it pretty much captures the essence of the current critical debates surrounding Coetzee and is well worth reading, especially for readers unfamiliar with the author's work. And, yes, I took notes, so I technically did what I set out to do today. . .but only in the most pathetically literal of ways. And I am disappointed with myself for that reason. I do not want a few days' relaxation to snowball into the sort of unproductive periods I find so easy to fall into and so hard to climb out of. Ugh.

    Tomorrow looks like it may shape up to be a peculiar day, so I do not know how realistic it will be for me to get any writing done (though I would like to try). In any case. . .

    For tomorrow: Read today's aborted essay, plus at least one additional paper...OR, read the aborted essay and get some writing done.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 27, 2008
    Although today was largely spent wrapping up an incredibly enjoyable weekend, I did manage to locate and copy a few articles at the library this afternoon/evening as I had planned to do. Furthermore, I reviewed Margert Scanlen's "Incriminating Documents: Nechaev and Dostoyevsky in J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg," a study of, among other things, the relationship of history to fiction. Clearly-written and convincingly-argued, Scanlen's essay also provides an excellent close reading of Coetzee's novel, paying particular attention to the troubling affinities between terrorists and writers, pathos and creation, and author and text.

    For tomorrow: Read another article. Write a bit if I'm not too tired. Otherwise, transcribe a bit more.

    Work Cited

    Scanlan, Margaret. "Incriminating Documents: Nechaev and Dostoyevsky in J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg." Philological Quarterly 76.4 (1997): 463-477.

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    ____________________________________________
    Well, it's ten to five, so this is going to have to be brief. I decided to give myself a light day, spending time with some good friends and, after that, staying up till four talking about religion with Minxy and Danesh...a truly wonderful time, really. Still, I did get some transcription done as I planned, so I'm in good shape, both in terms of work and in regards to stress.

    For tomorrow: Keep on trucking; get some library work done and, time permitting, perhaps tackle a bit more transcription.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, January 26, 2008
    Well, it's nearly one in the morning and I have been writing all evening, so I will keep this entry shorter than perhaps I might otherwise have liked it to be. Today was an exceptionally productive day, actually. Despite a somewhat slow start (I napped a bit after school), I managed not only to write a few more pages but to rearrange and rework a few of the passages I wasn't as satisfied with as well. I'm still not 100% comfortable with what I have written, but as I mover further down the road, I am able to look back at what I have done and see that some of it is more than satisfactory, which is a really invigorating feeling.

    I would also like to thank the Chronicle of Higher Education for providing a link to Sobriquet Magazine and welcome any new readers to the site.

    On a personal note, several folks have asked me what it feels like to hit thirty. My response, perhaps not surprisingly, has been the standard "it feels the same to be as old as I am today as it felt to be as old as I was yesterday," but I am beginning to think that quite a bit of the significance we place on these so-called "milestone birthdays" is really necessary in an odd way. Basically, it occurred to me that when I tell someone "I am thirty," he or she will think of the various connotations being in one's thirties generally implies in our culture. And being in one's thirties, of course, carries a vastly different set of assumptions for others than being in one's twenties. An element of youth, whether rightfully dismissed or not, that had been integral to the conception of the twenty-something is conspicuously absent in the image of the thirty-something. For better or for worse, we associate settling down (in all its various meanings), finding a career, and, essentially, adulthood with the thirties while it seems the twenties are frequently viewed as free-spirited, exciting years of exploration and personal growth. Now, obviously, most of us know that these stereotypes are just that, a set of assumptions, but there remains a certain regard for those assumptions that is not nearly as fluid as many of us would like. Otherwise we would not pay attention to these supposed milestones. Playfully calling someone "over the hill" at forty, even in its implicit mocking of the concept, still reinforces the stereotypes to an extent. This is what I imagine will be the difference, and it may well be subtle, but it is a difference nonetheless: when I say how old I am, people will no longer think of me as a twenty-something, whatever their conception of a twenty-something is and, perhaps, I will respond to this by acting thirty-something, whatever that may mean. Perhaps subtle shifts in perception will work their way into my being and, accordingly, inspire changes in me. Who knows? I don't feel any different now, having never really thought very much of the celebration of birthdays or the marking of holidays, but something's there.

    When we hear the words "pre-teen," "teenager," "twenty-something" and "thirty-something," we do carry different images in mind. The signifiers, quite obviously, correspond to our individual signifieds and our perception of those signifieds, in turn, will influence our behavior. 'Tis only human. So, do we fight against arbitrary markers of age or do we embrace them? I mean, just with the above nomenclature in mind, I have heard people stereotype pre-teens as going to bed early, teenagers as having braces and pimples, twenty-somethings as heavy drinkers, and thirty-somethings as going bald or falling victim to the tug of gravity...so the prejudices exist whether we want to acknowledge them or not, whether or not we even believe them. Sure, there are people in their fifties with braces and people balding at fifteen, but I think most folks would regard those as exceptional cases. But who would be surprised by a kid of thirteen tugging on a retainer or a man of thirty-five staring at his hairline in a mirror? The prejudices are there. And that, at thirty, is what comes to mind: ageism. Just how difficult will it be not to internalize the ideas of others?

    All I can say, though, is thank you to my family and to Torgeir, Elizabeth, Trang, Minxy, Literary Chica, Nathalie, Jon, Manny, Josh, Ed, Beth, Evan, Eric, Christina, Murray, Naomi, Grace, Sima, Jo-Jo, Nicki, and Luis for making today special. I am tremendously lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. If this is what thirty is, I'm not complaining one bit.

    For tomorrow: Perhaps a bit of transcription or reading. Keep it light.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, January 24, 2008
    I'm going to have to keep tonight's entry fairly brief because I have a few things I need to get done for class tomorrow and I do want to get to bed at a reasonable hour. In any case, I did get another piece of the dissertation written and hope to wrap up the bit on Age of Iron shortly, which will be nice. I've actually been enjoying working with the book lately, but it will be nice to shift my focus from South Africa to Russia, if only to give myself a bit of variety. Plus, there's always that nice feeling of having completed something to look forward to.

    In addition to the bit of writing I worked my way through, I read Graham Pechey's "The Post-Apartheid Sublime: Rediscovering the Extraordinary," which deals with several texts other than The Master of Petersburg in addition to Coetzee's 1994 novel. As I am beginning to suspect is true of most of the articles dealing with the novel, Pechey's essay again seeks to identify issues relevant to South Africa in the novelist's fictional Russia. Elsewhere, however, the article provides an insightful consideration of the confessional mode of writing. Furthermore, Pechey's analysis moves fluidly from topic to topic in eminently readable prose, which was delightful.

    For tomorrow: Try to read a bit more. Write if there's time.

    Work Cited

    Pechey, Graham. "The Post-Apartheid Sublime: Rediscovering the Extraordinary." Writing South Africa. Eds. Derek Attridge and Rosemary Jolly. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 57-74.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 23, 2008
    I took a break from writing today, largely because I had to wake up early for work and spend the morning and early afternoon on campus before having a chance to sit down and get anything done. In any case, I did read two brief essays on The Master of Petersburg, or, rather, one brief essay and one review. I have been curious to see how critics respond to the novel, especially since the book takes place in nineteenth century tsarist Russia as opposed to, say, a thinly-veiled twentieth century South Africa. I am even more curious to see how they handle the fact that, after Disgrace, Coetzee's fictional characters accompany him to Australia.

    As is so often the case, the two critics I encountered today sought to somehow explain how Coetzee's increasingly un-South African settings are, in fact, representations of South Africa. There seems to be a definite tendency among Coetzee scholars to dwell on the specifically South African aspects of the author's fiction while ignoring some very significant universal themes. I am guessing that this is one of the reasons for dearth of articles on The Master of Petersburg.

    I suppose that one of the flaws of literary criticism--or, at least, one of the lingering effects of the poststructuralist hyper-politicization of all cultural production--is the reluctance of many critics to shake off the temptation to read politics into a given text. I anticipate the discourse enveloping the The Master of Petersburg to put this surmise to the test and, oddly, I am driven to read critical writing for precisely this reason.

    In any case, I read Gary Adelman's "Stalking Stavrogin: J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg and the Writing of The Possessed" and Bert Beynen's review of the novel and, despite my somewhat jaundiced response to the respective authors' 'South Africanization' of the text, I found both essays to be well-written, thoughtful pieces of criticism. In the former, Adelman argues that "J. M. Coetzee's situation as a South African writer living under a repressive regime must have contributed to the genesis of The Master of Petersburg," while also addressing the far more interesting ways the novel creates a counter-historical narrative to rival 'official' history (351). Additionally, Adelman proceeds with a solid close reading of the text, analyzing the dark, often perverse path the fictionalized Dostoyevsky embarks upon in order to find the inspiration he requires to begin writing The Possessed. Here, as elsewhere in the canon of Coetzee scholarship, the process of writing takes center stage in a discussion of literary authority. The difference, in the criticism surrounding The Master of Petersburg, however, is the increasingly bleak, almost (dare I use a charged word?) evil form the life of a writer can take.

    In his review of the novel, Beynen asks "what will [Coetzee] be writing about now that the old South Africa is no more?" (447). Although he opens the review with a brief discussion of the possibility that Coetzee chose to use "Petersburg" (not, Beynen emphasizes, "Saint Petersburg") in the title of the novel to evoke the "conservative" South African town of Pietersburg--thereby drawing parallels between the two societies--Beynen joins Adelman in emphasizing the text's concern with writing fiction. In the end, the reviewer concludes--again, like Adelman--that Coetzee's novel challenges 'official' history (whether it be South African or Russian) by offering a case for the re-creation of reality through the process of fiction-writing.

    I also worked on my bibliography, so today was not a waste.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more about Age of Iron or, at the very least, read another essay or two.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008
    Well, today sucked. I woke up bright and early only to realize that it was a bit brighter and a bit earlier than I thought it would be, so I went back to bed for a few hours. When I woke up the second time, I felt fairly confident that I would get some work done since I'd had such a productive day on Monday.

    Nope.

    I sat around for what felt like hours before I began a series of what would amount to false starts for the paragraph. When I finally began writing, it was slow and painful (though the pain may have been the result of too many grossly frosted Pop Tarts and diet Mountain Dews) and when I finished the one paragraph I was able to get through, I really wasn't very satisfied with the quality of the writing or the piece's relation to what directly precedes it in my dissertation. I discovered that some of the ideas I'd thought were central to Elizabeth Curren's philosophy were not as explicitly expressed in Age of Iron as I had come to believe, leaving me with a considerably shorter section than I'd anticipated.

    Still, given the longer-than-expected sections I've already written (the segment on the novel, in fact, already exceeds the length I had hoped it would be by about 50%), I am in pretty good shape. Plus, as I wrestled with what I wanted to say today, I made a few minor alterations to the outline and imagine the section on Age of Iron will actually have a somewhat stronger conclusion than I'd envisioned a few weeks ago.

    In any case, I also moved forward in my preparations for the next section of the chapter, which was a nice feeling (you know, that whole "I'm not stagnated" thing). So, not surprisingly, after reading the forty plus articles and book chapters published on Age of Iron, I was a bit frightened to look up The Master of Petersburg in the MLA database this evening. Happily, there were about 17 articles listed, several of which I have already read because they also deal with Age of Iron. The number was further reduced by the pleasing fact that some of the papers were written in languages like Italian and German, neither of which I am capable of reading at anything approaching an academic level (I do know, for instance, several swear words in both languages). So, even if I read an essay a day, the ordeal of preparing to write about The Master of Petersburg should be much less time-consuming that that of Age of Iron.

    Feel free to play either Blur's "Song 2" or the Rock-A-Teen's 1959 "Woo Hoo" to get a sense of my response to this delightful discovery.

    For tomorrow: Read an article. If I have the time or energy, read another article or try to write a bit.

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    ____________________________________________
    It's a bit after one and I want to get to bed relatively early tonight, so I will not write too, too much this evening. What I can and will say, however, is that today was a remarkably productive day for me, having written over three pages of the dissertation.

    I did struggle a bit with ennui again and ended up driving around the Southern Tier, looking for something, anything interesting to do. This is the weirdest thing I've experienced since beginning the dissertation: not knowing what to do when not working on the blasted thing. 'Tis peculiar.

    One other thing I have been thinking about on and off since I started this blog project is just how tremendously boring it must be to read. I've toyed with the idea of adding little features or occasional reviews to make it a teensy bit more entertaining, but I realized that I want this to be as accurate a record of my experience writing a dissertation as possible--and it is, in many ways, a boring, tedious, monotonous undertaking. I think that if this blog is to have any value for people other than myself, it should show, to the best of my ability, the real-time process of putting a dissertation together, even if that means repeating the same things day-in and day-out. Somehow, I think that the accumulation of such entries may be the most informative aspect of the whole ordeal.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 20, 2008
    So, this sleeping at night thing is really working out for me. Although I procrastinated for a few hours after waking up, I still managed to get a couple of pages written. Again, I have to admit, I found the outline helpful. I remain resistant to using longer, more intricate outlines, though, having learned that overly complicated outlines can be restrictive. In any case, I am not as fond of today's work as I was of yesterday's, but I am beginning to realize that one cannot have uniformly good days writing something as long as a 250-300 page behemoth of a paper. One must simply keep going, chugging on down the line, swatting away the swarm of doubts buzzing around his or her head all the while. But, man, those little fuckers can sting.

    As I suspected, resuming work (and by "work," I mean actual, paid employment) has gotten me back on a more reasonable schedule. Now, rather than frantically scramble to get work done all night, I can work while there's still daylight, leaving myself a few hours in the late afternoon and evening to pursue other interests. Not surprisingly, this has done wonders for my mood and I feel a bit more positive about what I have been doing.

    So I'm going to keep doing it and wish you all a good night.

    For tomorrow: Write some more. I think I may begin re-reading Elizabeth Costello to refresh my memory before I write that section and I'd like to work my way through some of the critical writing on The Master of Petersburg, but I think I will focus on writing for the time being and give myself a chance to relax a bit. So, yeah. Another page or two of writing would be great.

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    ____________________________________________
    Okay, so I actually slept like a normal person last night. This morning (and it was actually morning in my own time zone, too), I got out of bed and decided to write another page or so of the dissertation instead of procrastinating or returning to bed as I had been doing most days. By starting early, I managed to finish writing by half past noon, giving myself essentially an entire day to enjoy myself.

    Of course, by now I have forgotten what it is like to have spare time and thus spent a significant portion of the afternoon telling myself not to get any additional work done, trying to remember just how badly I had been longing for a work-free afternoon. But how to fill it? I contemplated driving to Cooperstown, to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it would have closed by the time I got into town. I considered going to see a play in Syracuse, but didn't really feel like spending the money. I thought about visiting an art museum in Rochester, but it wasn't open on Saturdays.

    And the restlessness ate at me.

    I kept thinking to myself: there's always Wal*Mart, which, sadly, seems to be the hangout for quite a few people. Figuring that the restlessness I felt might eventually burn a hole in my pocket, I resisted the urge to buy expensive things for which I have no real need and, after a short drive to Painted Post, returned home to watch television, play computer games, gab with friends and family on the phone, make candles, knit, screw around on the internet, and otherwise loaf around in a way I have not done in well over a month.

    So, I let the restlessness gnaw, and it subsided. Now, as the snow swirls in the cone of yellowish light cast by the street lamp outside my window, I can at least say to myself that I had a day--one, single day--to relax and smile and build a SimCity empire...

    Anyway, check this out: the outline actually helped me. I mean, I knew that working on a normal person's schedule would give me time to relax, but I really did not expect the outline to have such a positive impact on my work. There was something strangely reassuring about seeing a blueprint for the section as I wrote it. Again, I am learning that imposing structure upon myself works wonders for quashing my anxieties.

    Weird.

    Since I am really tired (at 12:53 no less!) and writing poorly, I will call it a night and, unless I do another crossword or two before bed, hit the hay.

    For tomorrow: Write a bit more.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, January 19, 2008
    Just as I anticipated, I did not get much done today. I did finish The Master of Petersburg, but my main goal for the day was to forswear napping and keep myself awake, which I have done for almost nineteen hours at this point. I hope that now I can get myself accustomed to feeling sleepy early enough to get a good eight or nine hours of sleep most nights.

    Anyway, I'm going to crash now, as I have been longing to do.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 18, 2008
    Although it is relatively early still, and while I am not feeling very tired, I want to at least attempt to get myself in bed at a time that makes sense for a person with the schedule I have this semester. So I will keep this brief.

    I did get another page written, but I am keenly aware of an increasing vehemence growing inside me with which I want to stomp around yelling "I hate this!" I've said all this before, so I will not repeat myself at length, but it's hard not to think about the 250-300 pages I need to write in addition to what I have already done and when that thought crosses my mind (as it does with quite a bit of regularity), I get really, really frustrated.

    In fact, the only reason I wrote anything today was because I wanted so desperately not to write anything. I figure that each welling up of frustration, each swell of anxiety, represents a challenge. This challenge--either I push past the negative feelings and frustration or I don't, really, amounts to the entire struggle to write this dissertation. If I accept the challenge and push through, I'm a bit closer to the end; if I don't, I make it easier to turn away from the work again. So I wrote another page because I hate quitting more than almost anything.

    And the funny thing was, after I had written the page, I thought to myself "wow, I have some free time now...this ain't so bad."

    (But between you and me, it was bad).

    I also read more of The Master of Petersburg.

    For tomorrow: Since it looks like tomorrow will be an exceedingly long day, and since I imagine I will be very tired, I won't assign any writing, but I will try to finish The Master of Petersburg before going to bed for the night.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, January 17, 2008
    I'm really struggling to readjust to the sort of schedule that includes daylight (not that an upstate New York winter really offers much of that to begin with) and could not fall asleep until close to four or four-thirty last night. After work, I took a nap that lasted deep into the evening...so, needless to say, I did not get a whole lot done until quite late in the night. I did read a couple of chapters in The Master of Petersburg and, despite a strong desire not to do so, I reviewed my notes again, preparing to write the next little section of the dissertation. As I read over my notes, I realized that, for whatever reason, I'd assumed I would have to do a good deal more planning than it seems I will actually have to do. I don't know why it seemed so huge last night, but today I saw that I could just glance over the general outline, skim over some notes until I locate the bits I want to use, and go from there...again, I think I must have let my stress get the better of me.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit, if possible, focusing on the very beginning, basic section "intro" and, as usual, read another twenty pages in the novel.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 15, 2008
    I woke up this morning (I say "morning" because it was morning in the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones) and fought the temptation to go back to bed all day. In fact, I fought several different, equally compelling, forces: the aforementioned desire to succumb to sweet, sweet slumber; an overwhelming urge not to do any work; and, strangely, the desire to just go ahead and start writing the next section of my chapter.

    The underlying issue, I think, is the fact that I detest writing outlines with such passion that negative energy wells up inside me at an astounding pace every time I remember that I need to do one. Outlines, for me, have almost always been extraneous, tedious wastes of time and energy. In grade school, for instance, I would write an essay before writing the outline because it was easier that way. As I got older, I began to see the value of outlines, at least as a way to think on paper, but I still found that I had already plotted out my papers-to-be in my mind, and found arranging my ideas with Roman numerals and lowercase letters did next to nothing to make my paper any better. So I struggled with that much of the afternoon, procrastinating, driving around, cleaning, and doing pretty much anything but write an outline. Fortunately, to quell my anxieties (stemming from the fact that I'd not done much work), I read a few more chapters in The Master of Petersburg and plan to finish it on Friday.

    Still, I'd promised myself that I would plan things out in outline form, and I did. Eventually. I suppose it helped a bit, but I only wrote maybe a page worth of stuff. I should probably spend some time picking out examples and selecting quotations before I write the stupid thing, but I loathe doing so. I mean, I realize that irrigating a field requires that one dig little channels for the water before unleashing the flood, but still...what boring, idiotic, mind-numbing work!

    So, I guess that's what I will try to do tomorrow and/or Thursday: go through my notes again, find the passages I want to work with again, arrange them again, and hopefully end up with a well-written paper. Part of the difficulty I am having, too, probably originates in the growing sense of I want this blanking thing done now! that has been growing in me these past few years. There's something about being thirty (or, almost thirty) and still being a student that irks me. I mean, there's nothing wrong with going to school at any age, really, but I am plum tuckered out from spending all but one of the past twenty-five years in school. So, when I see the outline adding another day or two to the writing process standing between me and finished!, I can't help but buck a bit, writhing in the throes of immature I doan wanna! But I will try to push through the damn thing, knowing now more than ever before that I will need to build breaks into my schedule. After I finish the section on Age of Iron, I think, I should take more than a day or two off. Maybe give myself a week filled with day trips, junk food, and prodigal spending habits? We'll see.

    But that's how I am today.

    For tomorrow: Read another twenty pages in The Master of Petersburg and try, just try to get some more planning done for the second part of the chapter.

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    ____________________________________________
    It's nice to be getting ready for bed at 1:45 when I'd been going to bed at three or four in the morning the past few weeks. I really hate waking up at six in the morning, but it does help regulate my schedule considerably. In any case, I did not expect to get a whole lot done today since it was my first day teaching at a new school, in a new town, with new students, and new material, but I managed to get some reading done during my downtime on campus and, despite a enjoying a nap that took up most of the afternoon, I did read a few more chapters in The Master of Petersburg. I also wrote two more pages of the dissertation, making today, by far, the most productive day I've had in quite a while. So, um, yay for me, or something.

    I am happy to report that the first section (of two) on Age of Iron is done. I'm not terribly fond of it, to tell the truth, but I think it serves its purpose in introducing the second, more important, section of the piece on the novel. If anything, I think I have learned that I will need to do some additional pre-writing for each mini-section. I really felt myself floundering at times with the first bit, even though the section came out more or less tolerably. I think that if I spend some time tomorrow ironing out a detailed outline, this section should go more smoothly than the last.

    The same old fears have been plaguing me, too. The big one, now, is that what I am writing is not good enough to be a dissertation. Not that I have any real idea of what would be judged "good enough," but I always worry that my work is substandard in some way. Again, I suspect that once my adviser takes a look at what I have done, once she gives me her impressions, I should have a better idea about where I stand. Until I get enough written to be worth reading, though, I suppose I will have to wrestle with the doubts. In any case, I reason, even if this first section is not my strongest work, I can rewrite it, tweak it, or otherwise rework it to fit with the pages that follow but, if anything, it marks the beginning of the dissertation, a crucial step I had been terrified of taking for as long as I can remember. So, I guess, something good has already come of the experience and, with my new approach to planning, it may have more than one positive result. We'll see.

    For tomorrow: Read another twenty pages or so in The Master of Petersburg, work on planning the next mini-section of the dissertation, and get the work I need to do for Wednesday's classes finished.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, January 14, 2008
    Today was a productive--though frustratingly long--day. I spent another four or five hours working on the second syllabus, effectively wiping myself out for the rest of the day. I did manage to read some more of The Master of Petersburg and write another page of the dissertation, but I am really not liking what I have been writing, or how I have been writing. I am hoping that with the new semester starting, the external structure I will be working within will help me shape my dissertation schedule in such a way as to enable me to have longer writing sessions. Despite the fact that the handful of people who have read what I have written thus far have only had nice things to say about the chapter-in-progress, I hate it. I suppose that once my adviser takes a look at it and either approves or disapproves of what I have done thus far, I will know whether or not I should, in fact, hate what I have written. But that's how I feel about it at the moment. I think I'm doing what I should be doing, but I struggle with doubts constantly as I write this thing. Which is why I would rather write 3 or 4 or 5 pages in one day, take a few days' break from the effort to read or whatnot, and resume again...sort of like how a starting pitcher needs rest between starts...

    For tomorrow: Yeah...tomorrow's gonna be packed, so I do not expect to get much done. If I cannot find the time or energy to write any more, I would at least like to get some bibliographical work taken care of. I would also like to read another two chapters in The Master of Petersburg.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 13, 2008
    Okay, I am really tired. I just spent something like five hours writing and tweaking the first of the two syllabi I have to prepare for Monday. I hadn't anticipated spending this much time on it, but I think it came out nicely.

    In terms of my own work, I wrote another page of the dissertation and read some more of The Master of Petersburg, so I am more or less content with my progress. There's actually quite a bit that I would like to say about both the writing process and the novel, but I am too tired to form a cogent sentence, let alone a readable narrative.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more of the dissertation and read another twenty pages in the novel. Write up the second syllabus. Print the syllabi. Attempt to sleep.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, January 12, 2008
    Since I am up considerably later than I would like to be, I will keep this entry extremely brief. Although I spent the early part of today acquainting myself with my new place of employment, the afternoon sleeping, and the evening knitting a scarf while watching Silence of the Lambs with Minxy, I did manage to get the twenty pages of reading done that I had hoped to get through today in The Master of Petersburg. I would have liked to have written a bit more in the dissertation, but I did not want to force myself to do so while sleepy. I do, however, plan to make a bit of progress this weekend.

    For tomorrow: I would like to get a bit more writing taken care of, another twenty pages of reading completed, and a syllabus hammered out for each of my classes.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 11, 2008
    Well, I wrote another few paragraphs, roughly as much text as I produced yesterday. The anxiety that had besieged me yesterday morning returned this afternoon as I thought about picking up where I left off. I have trouble trying not to think about the size of the whole project (you know, looking at a couple of pages as a whopping one percent of the dissertation), which can be daunting. All the predictable internal menaces have arrived: the wondering if I have enough material to make this thing work, the fear that I have not yet prepared enough material, the doubts about the quality of my writing. . .and the litany continues, ad naseum.

    The one thing I have been trying to keep at the forefront of my mind the past two days is that I must approach this anxiety not as an adversary that will prevent me from working but as something I must confront face-to-face and address reasonably. I cannot help but think of cognitive-behavioral therapy for individuals suffering from a phobia as the best model for me to follow. Just as an arachnophobic person must allow spiders to crawl around his or her skin, accepting the onslaught of terror until it subsides, so must I face the doubts and fears I have regarding the dissertation, accept them as a part of me, welcome the occasional flood of anxiety, and move on, one damn step at a time.

    Still, even if it does suck, there's always the backspace key.

    I also read a good deal more of The Master of Petersburg and think I may bring it into my discussion of Coetzee's work. I have not quite finished the twenty pages I hope to get through, but I will finish it this evening before bed, as a sort of treat before what promises to be a long night of tossing and turning. I start my new job tomorrow and have to wake up quite a bit earlier than I have become accustomed to this past month. In other words, the time I am normally beginning to fall asleep must now become the time I wake up in the morning, give or take and hour or two...It's going to feel like jet-lag for the next few days, I'm sure.

    I also want to thank those of you who have been leaving supportive comments or who have sent me encouraging emails. It really does mean a great deal to me to have the friends that I do and I am grateful for your kind words.

    For tomorrow: Since the day is going to be packed, just try to read a bit more in the novel and, if I'm not too tired, try to squeeze out a few more words.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, January 10, 2008
    I woke up this morning with a tremendous amount of anxiety. I mean, usually, when I wake up it takes me a few minutes to assess the situation. There are those first few moments when, in that liminal not-quite-awake, not-quite-asleep state, I basically look at the time and try to figure out whether or not I can go back to sleep. Usually the only anxiety I feel at that point stems from the occasional realization of "oh, shit, I need to get dressed and off to work!" Today, though, the anxiety was already approaching the high water mark when my lead-heavy lids reluctantly admitted daylight. "Shit," I thought to myself, "I've got to start writing the dissertation today."

    And I did.

    Eventually.

    First, though, I sat in front of the computer screen, paging through notes, trying to figure out where, exactly, I should begin. It took me a few hours to finally produce a first paragraph, writing and rewriting the same sentences over and over, trying vainly to find an arrangement with which I felt comfortable. When I finished, capitalizing on the teensy-weensy bit of confidence the completion of a paragraph fleetingly provides, I called loved ones and asked if hey, would'ja mind if I read somethin' to ya?

    By the time I finished the second paragraph, I realized that I was tired, but in a better position than I had been in earlier in the day. I mean, there it was: the beginning, the first three-hundredth or so of my doctoral dissertation. So I decided to call the day a success, having pushed through the wall and put some words on paper (or, more properly, pressing a bunch of keys that resulted in binary code being stored on my hard drive which, through the miracle of modern-day technology, could be translated into a little over a page of 12-point Times New Roman text).

    I used to have the somewhat arbitrary goal of writing five pages a day which, I think, stems from the fact that I would routinely write roughly that much in a day while I was an undergraduate. Having found that I rarely wrote more than seven pages in a given day, five struck me as a reasonable daily target throughout grad school but, as I progressed further in my studies, I found that I often wrote less. I don't know if it is the sense of having burnt myself out or if I have somehow developed a style of critical writing that requires more time to produce, but I was pretty wiped after that page-plus today. So I stopped, happy that the first step, even if it turns out to be a false one, has been taken.

    I spent the rest of the day watching Seinfeld and knitting the scarf I have been working on. As with the candle-making, I have attempted to pick up knitting so that, after I finish my dissertation, I can have something other than a sprawling pile of academic writing to show for my time. Plus, it relaxes me. And may well result in something that will keep my pretty little neck warm...

    I also read a few chapters of The Master of Petersburg. Since I did not write as many pages as I would ideally have written, I thought I could be productive by reading the novel, which, of course, is really interesting. So far, I like it a good deal more than Age of Iron and, depending on where the story takes me, I would not be surprised if it ends up standing beside Disgrace, Elizabeth Costello, and Slow Man as one of my favorite Coetzee novels. We'll see.

    For tomorrow: A few more steps. Read another twenty pages of The Master of Petersburg, if I can.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 9, 2008
    Well, I'm there. The notes have been typed up, the quotations have been reviewed, and the "extra-curricular" essay I'd been wrestling with has been accepted for publication. The essay--an obituary for the late Norman Mailer--will appear in the next issue of Logos, and I will provide a link to the URL when it becomes available.

    So, by "there," I mean I'm here, on the nerve-wracking threshold of the writing process I have been putting off for more months that I would care to admit. I am nervous, understandably, but I think I am about as well-prepared as one could hope to be, having read practically everything written about Age of Iron. Today, in addition to the pre-writing I have been addressing, I received the last essay I had requested via interlibrary loan so many weeks ago and reviewed it along with a few pages in Laura Wright's excellent study of Coetzee's fiction. So, despite the nerves, I got work done (though I did have to knit a bit more of my scarf while watching Seinfeld to settle those very nerves at one point not too long ago...)

    Saikat Majumdar's essay, "The Alien Insider" examines several of Coetzee's novels and displays a tremendous familiarity with the author's work, but did not add much to my particular area of research while Wright's book remains one of the best-written, most insightful works yet published on Coetzee.

    In any case, I would be lying if I did not admit to being nervous as I near the writing process, even for what amounts to a fairly insignificant section of the dissertation. Still, like anyone preparing to take the first step on a long journey, I sense the almost symbolic import of the first step. It marks the moment when I say yes I can to the challenge before me. It's like throwing down a gauntlet; you want to be certain that you're ready to do so...

    Still, Minxy and the Literary Chica are right: Just start.

    So I will.

    On a happy note, I got a wonderful email from one of my former students today. Here's one of the most beautiful things any teacher can ever hear:

    "[Y]ou made a hit here. [Our professor] asked us what we liked and what we hated about the course. Everyone who had you as a teacher said you. I thought that would brighten your day. A lot of students found a piece of mind with you, and thought you were an awesome teacher."

    Again, this is why I am writing the dissertation, more than anything else. To have the opportunity to work with such bright young people is, by far, the greatest motivation I can find. How serendipitous to have gotten such a nice letter here at base camp, on the eve of my ascent.

    For tomorrow: Put on the crampons and make my way to the Khumbu Ice Fall.

    Works Cited

    Majumdar, Saikat. "The Alien Insider." Atenea 23.1 (2003): 21-34.

    Wright, Laura. Writing Out of All the Camps: J. M. Coetzee's Narratives of Displacement. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 8, 2008
    Well, I finished transcribing the pile of quotations I had been working on. Twenty-two pages! Single-spaced, no less. Seriously, for a section I had planned to be between five and ten pages in the dissertation, it seems absurd to have spent so much time preparing notes and such.

    I also revised the edited version of the essay I submitted. I found that I agreed with several of my editor's changes. I also came to realize that I may have written the essay in a style not wholly consistent with the publication's format. In the end, I changed quite a bit of my own work, took several suggestions I thought were really helpful, and tried to write a revision that fulfilled my editor's vision of the piece while still retaining my voice and vision.

    As a writer of sorts, I suppose that this is the sort of thing you have to do. You know, accept criticism gracefully. And I think I have. Still, it has been amazing to reflect upon the changes I found most offensive. You learn a good deal about yourself when you consider why certain phrases or word choices are sooooo important...I think it turned out nicely, though. I may, however, keep the original version as a piece to use on this website (it is, after all, not just this blog) because I rather like that version, too.

    So, I am going to call it a night.

    I will, however, direct anyone who may be interested in such things to Six Sentences, a neat little blog run by Robert McEvily. Basically, the premise is simple: you write a complete story in six sentences, no more, no less. I thought it would be a fun way to blow off some steam, so I submitted a flash fiction piece, which appeared today.

    For tomorrow: Wrap-up the pre-writing. Have some fun.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, January 7, 2008
    Well, after struggling to get myself into gear, I did manage to sit down and get a good chunk of transcription done and I should have no problem finishing up tomorrow. I would have liked to have finished today, but I'd rather not push myself to stay up later than I should, especially with the new semester beginning in less than a week.

    I also got the "edited" version of the essay I worked on over break. Initially, my response was not a positive one because my editor changed so much of my wording as to render the text more or less unrecognizable at first glance. Yes, the general structure and some of the phrasing remained mine, but I feel a bit too much was changed for me to really feel comfortable attaching my name to the text. I have to decide whether I will simply revise the revision into a more agreeable compromise or if I will request that my editor place publish the essay as a co-authored text, with the two of us sharing the byline. I mean, I am completely comfortable with the role of an editor and I usually don't make much of a fuss if something I write is altered to better suit the publication's readership, but, for whatever reason, I am uncomfortable with some of the phrasing, if only because it seems to reflect someone else's ideas rather than my own; if I can change it to sound more like my own writing again, I imagine, things will go well.

    I just find that I am wrestling with the need to publish and the desire to represent myself as accurately as possible in print. Fortunately, my editor sounds pretty willing to allow me to tweak the "liberties" he took with my writing. In any case, I think the best thing I can do is take a look at it in the morning when my emotions are not as immediate and then, with a night buffering me from the initial reaction, I will reassess the situation and take it from there.

    In any case, I have been reading a few pages of The Master of Petersburg, and I have been enjoying it. It's nice to read Coetzee's prose again after having spent so much time reading other people's interpretations of it. I also finished listening to an audio recording of Chuck Palahniuk's excellent Invisible Monsters, which I enjoyed immensely. I really enjoy reading Palahniuk or Kurt Vonnegut whenever I am stressed over school or burnt out after a particularly draining period of academic work.


    Well, although it is only a bit after two, I am going to call it a night and try to get myself rested for the homestretch. Thanks for reading!

    For tomorrow: Finish the transcription, work on editing the edited revision of the essay, and otherwise prepare to begin writing the chapter...

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 6, 2008
    Well, today started off as another one of those sleep-in-a-bit-too-long days where I don't start working until after I would have liked to have finished. Luckily for me, though, today's work consisted largely of transcribing notes and copying quotes, which is essentially mindless. I spent a few hours plugging away at the keyboard, typing some ten pages or so of quotes and listening to Social Distortion, Against Me! (you gotta love a band that turns "Condoleeza" into a catchy refrain), and Agent Orange. I think I am more than halfway through the transcription process but, after so many weeks of tedious reading, an extra day or two of typing sounds kinda nice, if only because I can listen to music while doing so. Plus, as the pages scroll by, I do get to feel a distinct sense of accomplishment.

    In any case, I heard from my editor today and it looks like the essay I wrote will be published soon. Coincidentally, I saw that an essay I wrote on Don DeLillo made its appearance in a journal and a short piece of flash fiction I wrote (just to play with the form, really) will be published on Monday. So I feel encouraged by all that positive stuff.

    Well, again, it is after four in the morning, so I will keep this brief and sign off.

    For tomorrow: More pre-writing. Oh, and have fun with my friend.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, January 5, 2008
    All right. It's after four in the morning and I should really get some sleep tonight, so I will keep this very, very brief. In any case, I did not get much reading done during the day because I was out and about in Ithaca with Minxy, with whom I also spent most of the evening eating pizza, making candles, knitting, and talking--in other words, I had fun.

    As a direct result of the aforementioned fun, I did not finish reading the chapter Sue Kossew devotes to Age of Iron in Pen and Power until a few minutes ago. But I read it and, being in a considerably better mood than I have been in the past couple of days (thanks, again, to said fun), I processed the text and did not struggle as much to make my way through. For any Coetzee scholars out there, I would recommend Kossew's book as a wonderful starting point for any study of the author's work. She's very readable, intelligent, insightful, and refreshingly concise.

    In any case, tomorrow I will start my pre-writing, a phase which should not last more than a few days and I anticipate starting this chapter sometime next week. And, yes, this blogging idea totally got me this far. . .

    For tomorrow: Arrange notes, review notes, copy notes, and otherwise prepare for the writing.

    Work Cited

    Kossew, Sue. Pen and Power: A Postcolonial Reading of J. M. Coetzee and Andre Brink. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1996.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 4, 2008
    Well, today was a better day than yesterday, that's for sure. I did struggle with procrastination much of the afternoon, playing music, solving crosswords, wasting time online and, oddly, cleaning. I should emphasize here that I have always been more comfortable living amid clutter than in anything approaching a nice, neat home. The very concept of making a bed, for instance, strikes me as utterly absurd and, truth be told, there's a certain coziness inherent to a paper-strewn desk or a floor-cum-hamper that I really rather like. But, still, I cleaned. I was that restless, that unfocused.

    I did, however, remember how I felt yesterday evening and resolved to read one, just one little chapter about Age of Iron, which I did do. I decided to really focus my energy on comprehending what I read, getting up frequently to ward off the temptation to skim. Which explains the cleaning and the sudden growth of my iTunes library (it is nice, though, to finally have added the Jam's entire output, X's Los Angeles, and a good deal of X-Ray Spex).

    In any case, I read David Attwell's "'Dialogue' and 'Fulfilment' in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron," which I found to be one of the better essays I have read on the novel (which, I suppose, figures, given that Attwell is one of the most respected Coetzee scholars out there, and one who knows the author personally). In it, Attwell addresses one of the more common criticisms of Coetzee's fiction, namely the author's supposed disengagement with the political landscape of his native South Africa. Drawing upon comments made by Benita Parry Nadine Gordimer, Attwell sets out to challenge the more disparaging interpretations of Coetzee's work, showing how the author does, in fact, address the issues some critics accuse him of omitting as well as provide room for the other to speak in his fiction.

    What I enjoy most about the essay, however, is Attwell's discussion of Coetzee's lack of what Parry calls a depiction of "a transfigured social order" to which South Africans may aspire (162). I, personally, have always baulked at the notion that an artist must work towards bettering his or her society in any prescribed fashion. Certainly, an individual may feel a sense of obligation (as, indeed, is the case for many writers), but to disparage an author's work based on his or her desire not to engage with socio-political situations in his or her craft, to my mind, seeks to limit the scope of creative exploration in much the same way as the oft-cited Soviet effort to eliminate Samizdat art. Essentially, I am of the opinion that there is no external code that determines what one is or is not obliged to create or address in one's creation, nor do we have the right to universalize our notions of propriety to such an extent that they become the sort of criticism with which Parry faults Coetzee. All obligation, then, must necessarily be negotiated within the creative artist and the resulting work will reflect his or her individual morals, ethics, aesthetics, conscience, or conception of duty. Ultimately, owing perhaps to our common humanity and shared values, we tend to feel the same pull of duty, but may not respond in precisely the same fashion as another person. Indeed, as Attwell shows, Coetzee does engage with the socio-political conditions of his homeland, but in a markedly different, decidedly less explicit way as, say, Andre Brink. Rather than provide readers with an alternative to the present, Coetzee dissects the present, autopsy-wise, so that we may learn how to live from the disease that destroys us.

    For tomorrow: Another chapter.

    Works Cited

    Attwell, David. "'Dialogue' and 'Fulfilment' in J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron." Writing South Africa: Literature, Apartheid, and Democracy, 1970-1995. Eds. David Attwell and Rosemary Jolly. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 166-179.

    Parry, Benita. "Speech and Silence in the Fictions of J. M. Coetzee." In Attwell. 149-165.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, January 3, 2008
    Yeah, so today was another one of those days where I stayed in bed far later than I should have and, once I did get out of bed, I could not focus on my work. I have not taken a full day's break from the dissertation in over two weeks and I am beginning to think I should take a couple of days off to recharge my reserves, but I know I will not enjoy myself unless I have something written to show for my effort. Still, I'm getting to the point where I am just groaning at the thought of reading any more criticism and I notice more and more that my chagrin manifests itself in a stubborn refusal to focus on whatever I am reading.

    Needless to say, I procrastinated much of the day.

    I sorted songs in my iTunes library, then I solved a few crossword puzzles, then I told myself I would check email (and ended up procrastinating more). Then it was, like, ten at night. When I finally managed to eat a bit (while watching Seinfeld), it was well neigh eleven...and I still hadn't done much.

    At that point I seriously contemplated driving six hours to New Bedford, Massachusetts to attend the annual Moby-Dick marathon reading. Something, anything to escape the wretched sense of stagnation I feel. In the end, though, I opted to make a few more votive candles, if only because the lengthy process would force me to stay up late enough (it's almost four-thirty) to get something done.

    And I did.

    Finally.

    As I mentioned earlier, I have been working my way through the book-length studies of Coetzee, picking up a few useful tidbits of critical insight and cursing Age of Iron for having inspired so much discussion. I feel obliged to review every piece of criticism published on the book if I am going to write about it, but I am really struggling. I have grown weary of the repetitive nature of the critical discourse and frustrated by the time it takes to digest the unnecessarily convoluted writing style some critics still use. Thankfully, the chapter I read this evening was not one of those. Graham Huggan, one of the more prominent figures in postcolonial literary studies, penned an interesting look at entropy and evolution in Age of Iron for a collection of essays he edited, and I found the chapter insightful and rather unique in perspective.

    Regardless, I have felt burnt out and frustrated over the past few days, and I crave a bit of unencumbered free time. Since the next semester starts up in less than a fortnight, however, I don't know how likely it is that I will find the time to do so. I desperately want to finish the section on Age of Iron so that I can take a couple of days to relax without the anxiety not having written a word would likely inspire. Although a daytrip would help me recoup some of the energy I will need to better handle the stress of preparing syllabi and beginning the next phase of the chapter, I imagine I will have to find some other, more immediate outlet for my tension. Indeed, batting cages come to mind...

    I am disappointed in myself for having spent as much time as I have on a novel that doesn't figure very prominently in my overall project, but I am hoping that, with Disgrace (which inspired a huge critical discussion) already tackled, I will be able to move more quickly through Elizabeth Costello and Slow Man (and possibly Diary of a Bad Year, which I have yet to read). Since the post-2000 novels have considerably fewer articles written about them--a fact which likely owes more to their relatively recent publication dates than to their lack of rich content--and because I enjoy the texts a good deal more than Age of Iron, I imagine it will be a bit easier to make my way through the criticism.

    I hope.

    I suppose I am just burnt out, again. I mean, I have been in a consistently burnt-out state since partway through my Master's degree, so I am accustomed to periods of exasperation, but as my thirtieth birthday looms menacingly on the horizon, I often feel that I just want to finish this chapter of my life, close the book, tuck it snugly between my past and my future, and move the #@$% on.

    All I can say is that graduate study is definitely not for those people who crave instant gratification.

    Still, I refuse to allow today's frustrations to get the better of me. This is not the nadir of my existence...it will be a reminder to myself in the future that I have gotten through bad days before and can do so again.

    For tomorrow: Try to get through as much of the remaining book-borne criticism as possible.

    Work Cited

    Huggan, Graham. "Evolution and Entropy in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron." Critical Perspectives on J. M. Coetzee. Eds. Graham Huggan and Stephen Watson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

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    Tuesday, January 1, 2008
    Again, I will keep the evening's entry brief. I did manage to finish revising the essay I have been sporadically working on the past week or so. I hope my editor chooses to publish the manuscript but, regardless of his decision, it feels nice to have gotten something completed. The dissertation continues to weigh on me, especially as what I had intended to be a short bit of work has become a month-long project. I'm not sure if it is because Age of Iron is not one of my favorite Coetzee novels or if there are other factors at play, but I cannot wait to move on from this book and the discussions surrounding it. Still, I feel that I have learned a good deal more about apartheid and South African society from these past few weeks than I did in any of my high school history classes.

    In any case, I want to thank all of my friends and the other well-wishers out there that have been visiting this site and sending emails and commenting on my entries. In all seriousness, I do not know how I would have gotten through some of the reading load without the sense of obligation I now feel to report my progress to the handful of readers that have helped make this project work. Thank you all!

    So, now that I have cleared my plate of other commitments, I hope to get a nice chunk of the dissertation written in the next week or so.

    For tomorrow: Read a few chapters on Coetzee in the book-length studies and otherwise prepare to write.

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    Well, I finally got to the end of my stack of criticism on Age of Iron. The last essay I read, Michael Marais's "'Who Clipped the Hollyhocks?': J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and the Politics of Representation," examines, among other things, the function of South African literature and its obligation to present a truth beyond the truths presented by the apartheid-era governments. Although the essay does not seem likely to figure into my dissertation, I can say that Marais is clearly one of the better Coetzee scholars out there and, as I progress beyond Age of Iron into the author's later works, I am certain I will seek out Marais's work early on in the process.

    Since it is quite late, I will keep this entry short. Over the next few days, I will do some last minute pre-writing, reviewing notes and such, look over a few books and otherwise prepare to start the chapter on Coetzee. Finally. I am nervous about the whole thing, but I figure I have to start and see what comes of the effort. At least I'm further along today than I was a few weeks ago when I started this blog project.

    For tomorrow: Finish writing the extra-curricular essay and, if there's time, (re)read a few passages on Age of Iron in the book-length studies of Coetzee.

    Work Cited

    Marais, Michael. "'Who Clipped the Hollyhocks?': J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and the Politics of Representation." English in Africa. 20.2 (1993): 1-24.

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