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    Sobriquet 46.24

    Sunday, September 28, 2008
    Although I had initially planned to spend the day reading one of the longer critical articles I still have sitting around, I opted instead to read a couple of reviews on Disgrace. Normally, when I end up reading newspaper reviews, I do so out of desperation. Either I have been unable to focus on a longer essay or I have been working (for-money working) all day and haven't the time or energy left to read much more than a briefer, less scholarly-sounding text. Today, though, was different. It's only 1:30 in the afternoon, so I really can't claim that I have been struggling to read an essay all day long. Likewise, it is a Sunday, so I can hardly blame long hours in the classroom or around the conference table for not getting much done.

    Instead, a friend invited me over for the afternoon to play Dungeons and Dragons, like the proper icosahedronic dice-rollers that we are. Having been a bit lonely lately, I figured, socializing might well be the ticket to ensuring a better attitude towards my own work. It certainly can't hurt.

    So, I read a couple of reviews so that I could enjoy myself knowing I had gotten some work completed already. The first review, Rachel L. Swams's "After Apartheid, White Anxiety," as the title suggests, situates Coetzee 's text among "a new literature of South Africa's whites that vents and explores their fears about the post-apartheid nation" (1). Drawing comparisons to Nadine Gordimer's less negative House Gun, Swams sees Coetzee's novel as depicting the "chilling indifference" of a society in which vengefully violent acts of retribution may be exacted upon seemingly innocent white individuals like the "warm-hearted" Lucy Lurie (1). Swams's essay, it seems to me, stands out as a particularly strong introduction to a certain vein of critical concern among the South African literary establishment. Additionally, by drawing upon critics such as David Attwell and contemporary novelists such as Zakes Mda, Swams effectively presents a learned, relatively unbiased view of this branch of critical discourse in her native land. I also read Robin Vidimos's review of Disgrace which, despite misidentifying the novel's protagonist as "James Lurie," is a fairly solid reading of the text. Although not explicitly evoked, existentialism seems central to Vidimos's interpretation of the book and, accordingly, focuses on the origins and solutions to the "rudderless" Lurie's detachment (5).

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Works Cited

    Swams, Rachel L. "After Apartheid, White Anxiety." The New York Times 14 Nov 1999: 4.1.

    Vidimos, Robin. "Midlife Tragedy Quickly Grabs and Retains Interest." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. The Denver Post 14 Nov. 1999: F5+.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008
    Well, the past couple of days have been fairly packed, but in a good way. As I have mentioned before, I have a tendency to isolate myself socially whenever I have a lot of work to do. Not that such solitude is abnormal or unnecessary, but it can take a psychological toll on you if you don't take care to counteract extreme the solitude with some form of socialization. So, I jumped at the opportunity to play Dungeons and Dragons with some friends on Sunday, figuring the creative aspect of the game, combined with the pizza-eating, light-hearted atmosphere would do me good. And it did. I've felt recharged and considerably less solipsistic and, surprisingly, not the least bit nerdy. The time spent with my friends also helped improve my mood, which enabled me to get quite a bit more solid work out of myself.

    Other than that, I have been dealing with the annoying habit I have of sleeping too much during the day (because I can) and staying up too late at night (because I can and because I'm not tired after my nap), so my daily routine has taken on a slightly different schedule. Today, for instance, I decided to start writing much later than I normally would have liked but produced a few pages of what I feel is a rather strong section of this never-ending chapter on The Master of Petersburg. So, I'm not complaining. I've also made good use of the dead hours (you know, those hours between two and six when nothing's open and there's not much to watch on television) of the early morning when I cannot fall asleep. With these empty hours, I have finished several audiobooks and will probably finish Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake tonight, so I have a sense of real intellectual accomplishment, which is nice. The added bonus, of course, is that I can simultaneously feel enriched and, as a result of laying in bed while listening to the books, thoroughly lazy.

    For tomorrow: Tuesday will be a busy day involving all sorts of errand-running, so I will just assign myself some more reading in Diary of a Bad Year.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, March 2, 2008
    Though my illness did keep me from attending a potluck at my friends' house in Ithaca yesterday evening, it did not keep me out of commission this afternoon, which was nice. One of my friends officially introduced me to the ins and outs of Dungeons and Dragons, a game I never really found myself able to get into. When I was younger--in grade school and high school, especially--several people I knew played the game, but I never really ran with that particular crowd, so I did not get involved their elaborate role playing games.

    As a member of the Nintendo generation, however, I did grow up with video games and I had played a few computer RPGs. Still, I never really got that passionate about any of the vaguely medieval fantasy worlds in which the games were set. Granted, as an English/Norwegian double major, the scenarios my gamer friends would discuss often reminded me of the Arthurian legends and Icelandic sagas I loved...so I was never averse to playing what many of my peers often dismissed as the pastime of nerds. I just hadn't met anyone with whom I felt I would enjoy playing an intensely imagination-based game.

    As someone who spends a good deal of time reading and writing, the fundamentally creative aspect of non-computerized RPGs interests me a great deal. I suppose what I like most is the storytelling, especially the interactive nature of it. I mean, you place a character in a pre-existing world with an elaborate faux-history and extensive mythological system, but create little stories as you progress through it, thereby adding to the lore. Plus, by collaborating with friends--especially those with whom you have some rapport--you engage parts of your mind that you mightn't otherwise use. Seriously, one of the worst parts of growing up is the tendency we have to move away from the make-believe of childhood. With a game like Dungeons and Dragons, though, you can revisit that playful part of your mind in a way that--unlike, say, running down the streets of Manhattan, arms outspread while yelling "Vroom, I'm an airplane!"--won't cause anyone to lock you away. As for me, I see it as a pleasant way to spend time with friends and an intellectually-stimulating way to break out of the sometimes difficult moments of dissertation mode.

    Speaking of which, I did read and transcribe. I am still enjoying "The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee," though I doubt I will devote much space to it in my dissertation. At times, I find myself questioning whether I am, in fact, doing enough work. Occasionally, if I notice that what I am in the process of reading does not appear to be relevant to my work, I wrestle with the temptation not to continue reading. This is often the case with critical articles, but also applies to some of the fiction I have been working with. My approach, so far, has been to keep reading, keep taking notes. You know, just in case. And sometimes what I dismiss as irrelevant ends up yielding more than those texts I had assumed would be the most significant. Still, when I feel I am not reading something that will add much to my project, I tend to feel that I am wasting time...This, of course, is ridiculous. I mean, I am reading. I am enriching my life and broadening my knowledge of the world in which I live...which is precisely what I must remember: the dissertation is not my entire life and learning is never irrelevant. The dissertation is part of a larger whole. Not everything I read will go into it, which is fine. Normal, even. Furthermore, the point of writing a dissertation is not simply to produce a document. One learns a good deal as well, much of which will never make its way into the dissertation. But, hey, that's great. So, this is what I tell myself: Let the tip of the iceberg be the dissertation...but be certain to appreciate all the unseen ice below the surface, holding the damn thing up.

    For tomorrow: Continue reading and finish transcribing.

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