Monday, July 02, 2007

Scut Work

For some reason, it always feels like I have to clear the decks of old crap tasks before I can begin the task that I'm excited to work on. Why is that? Is that just me, or is it the state of human existence?

I've got a big ol' stack of books about media that I'd like to be reading, but before I really can, I'm ethically bound to finish work on a project about a famous and controversial South African novel. Is this totally outside my field? Yep. Do I have the critical wherewithal to really address it? Nope. Am I writing it anyway? Sure 'nuff. I'm working with a group of people from my undergraduate institution on this book, and it's a festschrift, of sorts, and I'm co-authoring this sucker. So, were I to back out, I'd well and truly suffer the pains of disappointing not only these peeps, but also my dearly beloved undergraduate advisor (who, by the way, officiated my wedding, so it hardly seems right that I back out on his retirement gig).

Oh, but the pain of it all! You know how it's hard enough to write on something that you're totally jazzed about? The "ass in chair" iron discipline that it takes? [If not, that's a good thumbnail of my own sad writing psyche for you.] It's perhaps doubly difficult to churn out stuff when you're not totally jazzed. In fact, I'm not only frustrated by the deceptive complexity of this novel, I'm on the verge of offended by its politics. Sadly, I've been assigned to address a particular topic in the novel that underpins its politics. Let's be frank: my co-author and I are writing about the representation of rape in the novel. If there is anything that I'd like to spend less time thinking about this summer, it's the representation of rape. Our initial forays have sent us reading everything from Mackinnon to the Biblical story of Dinah. I now have an academic and literary historical view of rape. Wheeee. None of it seems to get at the suffering of the characters in the novel, which just makes it all the more frustrating to write about. And to top it all off, I have this sneaking suspicion that the other people writing about the book are focusing on other characters. Thus relieved of the responsibility of having to grapple with the rape survivor, they're free and clear to theorize about the main character's epiphanies, his coming into a state of grace, etc. Which just pisses me off---it's a bit too close to the emotional economies of our current culture, isn't it?

Hmmm. not just cranky about the taskness of the task, but rather about the particularities of this task, it seems. My mother, bless her pragmatic soul, would say "oh well, sooner started, sooner finished." [Of course, she would also say things like "writing papers was the worst part of college," so I don't know how much help that would be.]

With a whine in my heart, I'm off to work on this godforsaken article.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sisyphus said...

Huh, I had that response to V.S.N.'s _Guerillas_. I was too weirded out by the book to write on it for my grad class.

I can keep my ass in the chair ('cause I'm lazy) but even when I love what I'm writing on --- ooh look, a bird!

Good luck --- pound through the article and reward yourself with some fun writing. Strike that. Pound through and reward yourself with chocolate. Then work your way up to some fun writing.

Monday, July 02, 2007 9:29:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Thank God you struck the "fun writing." What would that look like, exactly? There is little fun writing for me; more like "less torturous, not-so-bad-that-I-wouldn't-rather-tear-out my-fingernails" writing.

Thusly, I'll look forward to some chocolate.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 10:37:00 AM  

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