Friday, April 28, 2006

Now Hoist The Scarlet Banner High!

Amanda over at Pandagon has a post on what happens here in America if you work hard and make the right choices:

Simple and straightforward. In America, the class you’re born to is the class you’re likely to stay at, no matter how hard you work. After getting over the need to cling to the myth and looking at some cold, hard realities, the truth of that is obvious. The demonized illegal immigrants that gather at the street corner nearby before dawn to look for a day job probably work harder in a week than the President has in his life. If you were only looking at the hard work to wealth ratio in that example, you’d have to conclude that laziness is the path to success in America. Of course that’s completely silly. The path to success in America is having the right parents.

mr. delagar and I were arguing about this about this last night -- the kid and I were listening to Billy Bragg, one of his many pro-union hymns, and mr. delagar made an anti-union crack, and the kid wailed in dismay.

"Don't listen to Daddy," I told her. "He's a frakking capitalist."

Her eyes went round with horror. "What?" she said. "What?"

"I'm afraid it's true," I told her, with deep sorrow. "Your daddy's family owned the means of production. They fought the working class and the unions all their lives."

"Daddy!" she cried in dismay.

"Oh, like your mama was working class," he snapped.

"Fuck I wasn't," I said. "I was born in a trailer, son."

"You father worked for NASA!"

"Drafting. Building models. You ain't think that's working class?"

"He was Vice President of LOOP!"

"Later, yeah. Your daddy can't take it," I told the kid. "He married a working class bint."

"You wish," mr. delagar said, and returned sulkily to his reading.

Anyway: mr. delagar considers us not working class now -- which technically we're not: university professors are hardly hauling coal out of the mines, are they? -- yet we clearly don't own the means of production, as I like to point out to him when he starts spouting elitist rhetoric about the poor. So we can't be capitalists, and we certainly aren't management. We make more money than most people in Pork Smith -- we're above average -- but this is only true because most people in Pork Smith are abysmally poor (many of my students and their families live on something like twelve to fifteen thousand a year).

And we are not in the same class as our parents: we've sunk a bit. mr. delagar has sunk quite a bit.

Partly this is bad choices -- I should have bought health insurance when I was a grad student, even if it was amazingly expensive and I was amazingly poor, mr. delagar's parents shouldn't have smoked and thus died of lung cancer so young -- partly it is the hideous economy; partly it is nasty luck -- but mostly it is, as Amanda points out, that our system is set up to be that way.


But getting my students to see this, to recognize it, to admit it -- it's impossible. Even talking about it is nearly impossible.

"That's socialism!" they cry, and refuse to hear anything else I say.

"Yes, it is," I have started saying back, the minute they cry the word.

This shocks them so much -- that I agree cheerily, as if "socialism" isn't evil -- that sometimes they will listen.

Not usually, though.

Because it's a central tenet of their true faith (the Church of the Hummer, the Church of Capitalism) that everyone can work hard and get rich. Therefore anyone who isn't rich didn't work hard and is evil.

Therefore they will all be rich one day soon. Because they aren't evil. And plan to work hard.

All of them believe this just as strongly and as blindly as they believe in Jesus.

They believe it even though they can look around them and see that their mamas aren't rich and their daddies aren't rich and nearly no one they know is rich and even though all those people are the same people who have been preaching this doctrine of capitalism to them all their lives -- you'll be rich if you just work hard and don't be evil -- and they write me these essays about how right now they're making nine thousand dollars a year but soon they'll be making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and it won't be fair then for the govmit to take all their money and give it to the lazy poor folk who are evil and won't work hard, will it? Like they worked hard? And got rich?

As Amanda says, it's irrefutable.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

National "Fuck Up, Will You?" Day

Seems the Wingers are annoyed about the National Day of Silence thing being so successful.

Here's Alan Sears, whining:

It’s an interesting approach: education through verbal vacuum. Integration through intimidation. Impressionable minds, encouraged to imagine – and be struck dumb by – the injustices perpetrated on fledglings to homosexual behavior by a callous public and the cold constraints of that old-time-religion.

No facts. No studies. No discussion. No presentation of alternative viewpoints. No examination of the possible physical, emotional, or spiritual consequences of homosexual behavior. Just a few hours of propagandistic pouting.

It’s working.

A 2001 poll by Zogby International found that 85 percent of high school seniors supported something called "homosexual rights." Two-thirds supported legalizing same-sex "marriage," and 68 percent favored same-sex couples being allowed to adopt children. Another 79 percent endorsed so-called anti-discrimination laws specifically designed to protect those who engage in homosexual behavior, and 88 percent backed “hate crimes” legislation.

So they're starting their own day: going to call it The Day of Truth.

It's going to be all about how nasty teh gay is.

...I heard a story on NPR this morning talking about the national Day of Silence to raise awareness of GLBT issues. Unfortunately, one of the followups was an interview with a Christian student who is organizing what she calls a Day of Truth, where she and her cohorts will 'lovingly' express their disagreement with a particular 'lifestyle'...

And here's another one:

Yesterday was the “Day of Silence” for same-sex marriage advocates, where silent coercion is used (rather than respectful open dialogue) in an attempt to shame those that don’t buy into the declaration that the same-sex lifestyle is healthy, normal, and the equivalent of natural organic relationships and marriages between a men and women. Thus it seems fitting to look at some of the recent news/dialogue relevant to the issue, after all today is the “Day of Truth” where proponents of natural, healthy relationships respectfully and openly discuss their concern with same-sex lifestyles.

Cause you know these Xtian Wingers: they're all about that Respectful Open Dialogue. That's why Novatownhall is quoting "Dr." Mike Adams on her blog, I reckon. Cause she's so into respect.

Here's the bit of Dr. Mike I like the best:

-I am intolerant of girls who wear snow shoes with miniskirts. My problem is with the former, not the latter.
-I am intolerant of people who say the word “like” every third word. I like think that like they should like be deported.
-I am intolerant of illegal aliens. And so are you, don’t lie.
-I am intolerant of people who drive 40 MPH in the fast lane. I sometimes call the cops and say that they were swerving.

He's so respectful, Dr. Mike.

That's from an essay on gays, and why he shouldn't have to tolerate them, mind you.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, right.

Xtian Wingers.

They've been made nervous by the Day of Silence.

Which, frankly? Cracks me up.

So they're positioning themselves as not made nervous -- not, not! They're just more enlightened than those pouty perverts! They're not interested in propaganda! Or posturing! They want to educate! They want to open a dialogue!

Yeah. That explains all that praying about the flagpole and the giant crosses stuck up all over the landscape and shit. I get it now. It's all about opening the dialogue.

So all right, Wingers. We had one Day of Silence. That leaves, by my count? 364 days that y'all can talk. Since you're so fucking interested in dialogue.

I'm starting the countdown now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Making My Child Red

My birthday present finally arrived -- Billy Bragg's Vol I -- and I've been listening to the CDs non-stop in an attempt to lift my depression*.

The kid's favorite song so far?

The Red Flag

The people's flag is deepest red

It shrouded oft our martyred dead
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their hearts' blood dyed to every fold

Then raise the scarlet standard high
Beneath its folds we'll live and die
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here

That's my girl.

Her second favorite is The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions, which includes these lines:

Here we are, seeking out the Reds
Trying to keep the communists in order
Just remember when you're sleeping in your beds
They're only two days drive from the Texas border
How can a country large as ours

Be scared of such a threat
Well if they won't work for us
They're against us you can bet
They may be sovereign countries
But you folks at home forget
That they all want what we've got
But they don't know it yet

We're making the world safe for capitalism

Here we come with our candy and our guns
And our corporate muscle marches in behind us
For freedom's just another world for nothing left to sell
And if you want narcotics we can get you those as well
We help the multi-nationals

When they cry out protect us
The locals scream and shout a bit
But we don't let that affect us
We're here to lend a helping hand
In case they don't elect us
How dare they buy our products
Yet still they don't respect us

We're making the world safe for capitalism

She says to me, "Can I take this CD with me when I go visit Grandma this summer?"

"...uh," I say. "Sure."

*Self-medicating with Billy Bragg. Well, it's a lot worse things I could be self-medicating with, I reckon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Day of Silence

Tomorrow, Wednesday April 26, is the National Day Of Silence, meant (actually) to end the silence surrounding Gay and Lesbian students in schools.

Here at UA-FS we're having a half-hour of silence around the Bell Tower, from 12.30-1:00, after a rally. And I believe the Gay-Straight Alliance group is going to be doing the silent thing all day.

Anyone know what's going on on other campuses out there?

Monday, April 24, 2006

My Lost Boy

Oh, God.

Here's a kid I would adopt:

Blog Against Hetereonormativity

I know it's a bit late for me to be blogging against heteronormativity -- that was on Saturday -- but I had a really awful weekend, so cut me slack.

Anyway, it was this student I wanted to blog about. He'll remain nameless. And it's not his fault, anyway, is it? It's this land he lives in.

He wrote me a paper in which he included a paragraph that got cutting about gays, how disgusting it was that gay people did those gay things, yap yap yap, how he wished gay activity didn't happen and gayness would just stop.

This happens, I would say, about five or six times a year -- I get comments like this, though not often from students as intelligent as this kid.

I drew a deep breath and did what I always do: I wrote a restrained and gentle comment in the margin of his paper, to the effect that he ought not to assume, as he apparently was assuming, that everyone in his audience would agree with him that teh gay was teh evil.

After class, he came up to me and demanded to know if I was insisting that he be "politically correct" when he wrote.

I told him, just as gently (I swear I did, I swear I was restrained), that no, he did not have to be politically correct (can I mention in passing how much I hate that fucking phrase?) but that he really ought to be more, well, objective.

"Society does have a prejudice against homosexuals," he said. "That's all I was saying."

"You were saying you agreed with that prejudice," I said, "and you expected the reader to agree with it as well. That's different from pointing out a prejudice against gay people."

He looked bemused.

"Phrasing it one way is acceptable," I said. "Phrasing it the other way, in a paper on literary criticism, is really not."

He said he would think it over.

Half a dozen times a year, I swear, I get this.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Skip this

If you don't want to hear whining.

I'm so depressed by this, I can't take it.

I was already depressed, what with the taxes and the gas prices and that fuckwit being President and summer being here and the pile of papers on my desk that I can't get through and the kid's teachers on our case because she has decided she hates school (out of nowhere) and my late insomnia and the car being a piece of junk and about 80 other things I won't list for you, but this, this is the straw.

I pulled jury duty last week.

In lovely Arkansas, pulling jury duty is not like pulling jury duty in other, sane places, where you serve for one day and no big fucking deal.

No, in Arkansas you serve for a fucking, I kid you not, month.

A solid month, you have to sit waiting to be called for jury duty.

Who can afford to do this, I ask you? Who?

So it's usually as standard thing, when I get called for duty -- I just email my dean and she sends a letter to the clerk of court and I get excused, because I'm a professor, I can't miss a month of class.

Hah, says the clerk this time. You're out on the 16 of May, ain't ya? Your ass is ours for the last two weeks of May!

In vain I point out to her on the phone that I am not "out" for those two weeks -- that those two weeks must be used to grade exams and prep for the summer session, which begins on May 30. In vain, I point out that those two weeks are the only two weeks all fucking year I am going to have when I am not teaching (which, not counting the, I think it is, nine days at Christmas between sessions, is the case) -- the closest thing I get to a vacation all year. Uselessly I tell her about my seven year old I have to take care off, who will be off from school part of that time.

"Most of our jurors hold jobs," she says, flatly. "You act like this is a big deal."

So looks like I'm pulling jury duty, last two weeks in May.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Blogs Rule

The Jesus-as-a-Zombie meme showed up on Bones last night.

Heh, is all I have to say.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Male Gaze

I got this from Bitch Ph. D.

It's outstanding.

I did some work with this -- the male gaze, dominance issues and that, when I was working on my doctorate -- and got a lot of my worldview shifted at that point. It was still great to see it laid out like this, and I like the points they're making toward the end, about who the real audience is, and the problems with the arguments being made by that gaze.

Conversation at the delagar Breakfast Table

The kid: There's this book at my school.

(They have a half-hour of silent reading at the kid's Montessori school, but she likes to check out the book selections with me first.)

Me: Yeah?

The kid: Sounder.

Me: Ah. No. Sad ending.

(The kid cannot handle sad endings. I don't mean she doesn't like them: I mean she goes into full-mode nervous breakdown. It's not a pleasant sight.)

The kid: (Heavy sigh): I thought it might be. There was a dog on the cover. Why do they write books for kids with sad endings.

Me: (After thinking a bit): Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the main one has to do with the patriarchy.

mr. delagar: (gives me a narrow look across the table.)

Me: Oh, deny it!

mr. delagar: I'm not denying it, I'm thinking it over.

Me: It's totally the patriarchy. A boy has to learn to kill the thing he loves, or he's not a real man.

mr. delagar: I'm thinking it's an initiation rite, but that might be the same thing. To get accepted into the society, the boy has to accept a certain role, which...

Me: a patriarchy, means being willing to kill things that love him and depend upon him to keep authority happy. That's what I said.

mr. delagar: Don't yell at me, I didn't write the books.

Me: They're totally evil, that's all I'm saying.

mr. delagar: What do you want, a book where the dog leaps up, bites out the boy's throat, and runs off to start a free society of dogs in the Yukon?

Me: Heh. Yes. That's exactly the book I want to read. That book.

Which, oddly enough, is exactly the book I'm writing.

Only without the dogs, mind you.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cool Hand Luke

The kid ate, and I am not even kidding, fourteen Easter eggs* today. One after the next.

Just the whites. Not the yolks.

She fed the yolks to Big Dog.

I asked her what she was doing, auditioning for a role in Cool Hand Luke?

*Yes, we dye and hide Easter eggs in the delagar household, even though it makes both mr. delagar and the Baby Moses cry. Also the kid gets a basketful of candy too. Because I reckon we should get our share of every pagan holiday that comes along, that's why.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bad Boys Aren't Bad

Lance Mannion has another good post here, on the fuss being kicked up by that latest blatt by Brooks:

Men are animals, says Brooks, but once upon a time the wiser of them knew their true natures and preached a gospel of stern self-discipline and moral vigilance. Then along came moral relativists---LIBERALS, in case you didn't know---who tore down the father figures who kept us in line. Next thing you know, there are strippers and underage drinking on campus and the poor misguided Duke lacrosse players are giving in to urges Liberalism robbed them of their defenses against.

This is the Right Wing Kulturkampf ur-myth restated. Once upon time we were all good and well-behaved, if plagued by demons and temptations within. You know, back in the day, when lynching was a spectator sport, children were worked to death in factories and mineshafts, and employers thought nothing of hiring goons to beat and kill workers who dared strike for safer working conditions and decent pay.

Then came the Fall, and with it moral relativism, post-modernism, Freudianism, Marxism, feminism, birth control, Roe v. Wade, situation comedies that make dad into a buffoon, and black people who expect to live in our neighborhoods and send their kids to our schools...whoops, did we say that last one out loud? We meant entitlements, the nanny state, and the culture of dependence brought about by Welfare.

There's more.

April 15

I believe in paying taxes. I do. I vote for the local ones every time they come up -- more library taxes, I say! More road taxes! More money for women's shelters and medical care for poor kids and yes, damn it, let's take a penny from my paycheck to feed the poor, because, you know what, that is what society is for.

I'm all onto that. It's all good.

It's just that mr. delagar has all these part-time gigs that don't withhold taxes out of his paychecks --aargh!-- and of course, what with the way gas prices and food prices and utilities have been running, not to mention the rest of our lives, we haven't had much luck saving anything up. What little we did have just got sent to the feds and the state.

So it's a gloomy morning at the delagar household.

Could be worse, of course. We could be living in Iraq, for instance, where Mr. Bush is sending all our tax money.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Days Like These

I gave my freshmen the "What is literature for?" lecture this morning.

They don't have a clue, of course. They think literature is something invented by English professors to bore them into submission.

So I started with the question of what literature is, and went from there.

Well, actually, I started with calling off the quiz, which always cheers them up. Then I asked them what literature was, and broke the news to them that literature included movies and MTV and Buffy. This upset about half the class. They don't want V for Vendetta to be literature. Only Jane Austen and Shakespeare should be literature. When I ask them why, they cannot tell me, but they are sure they are right.

When I tell them they are civilization, they are equally upset.

I tell them literature is trying to change their souls, and that to do this it has to make them listen. I tell them only MTV and V for Vendetta is getting them to listen anymore, so obviously it is the only real literature these days. I tell them that's why I'm studying it.

They are wholly appalled now.

I talk to them about how literature works, have them tell me what they like in a movie or a book, what engages them, what doesn't, show them how the character and the dialogue and the plot is used to make them hear ideas, talk about worldview and pushing the borders. I don't actually say unacknowledged legislators of the world, but....

They stare at me like I'm a cobra.

Most fun I've had in a week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Time for Affliction

Passover tonight.

Of course I have a meeting scheduled this afternoon which will likely run until five, giving me zero time to go home and get ready for the ceremony of affliction, because the University of Pork Smith does not, of course, recognize today as a holiday -- though, to be fair, they're not giving student this Friday off either.

"We're not getting Good Friday off?" students keep demanding of me in astonishment.

"Good?" I demand back. "What's good about it?"

Guess they haven't heard about the War on Easter yet.

Feast of Affliction tonight: Chicken and cherries, grilled asparagus, potato kugel, matzo ball soup, salad. Oh, and chocolate-covered matzo, among other things, on the dessert menu. I have to say, covering it with dark chocolate strikes me about the only way to make matzo edible.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why I'm Not Size One

Posts spring up in the sphere these days on that favorite issue, the need for women to control their appetites, so that they might be suited for the desires of male consumers.


And here:

among other spaces.

(I love, by the way, the earnest comments from the women about how they aren't dieting because they want to please men -- no! no! They want to be Size One because it's Healthier!!!)

(And all the comments from women who seem compelled to give a lengthy CV -- I am this age, I weigh this much, I am this tall, I wear this size pants, my hips measure this -- because, obviously, if they weighed X amount, instead, and wore that size, their opinion would be of utterly no value. Fat Cows should just shut up. Only people who are Size 2 and under can speak here!)


This is a subject that puzzles and disturbs me, because it seems so fucking obvious -- why would any woman do this? It's like Chinese footbinding: why, why, why would women do this do their children? To themselves?

And yet they did.

Why would women in America, in the 21st century, continue to buy into such obvious nonsense -- that dieting and exercising and obsessing about your body, to the extent of all else, to the extent that you have no other life, and can think about nothing else, and do think about nothing else, at all, ever -- is healthy or sane?*

Is something anyone would want to live around?

And -- if that is someone some man might want to live around -- and I suppose there might be men around who want that woman in their lives -- why would you want that guy in your life?

I mean ick.

Yet I know women, lots of women, like that: who live that life. I grew up surrounded by them. (I was raised by one of them. Shit, I was raised by two of them. My father might as well be one of them.)

I don't diet. I don't exercise -- I hike, sometimes. I take the kid on climbs up mountains and walks about parks. Sometimes I go for a swim or ride my bike if it's a nice day. But I don't, you know, jog. I'm not skinny, I'm not fat. I sort of like my body. It's just a body, mind you. Nothing anyone would put in a magazine. But it's nice enough. It gets me around. I like hanging out with it. We're pals, me and my body. I don't wear make-up, I don't own a dress. (Really! Not a single frakking dress! Hee! Or any heels!) I wear birkenstocks and lots of dull jersey shirts and I do have this light blue woolen sweater I like a great deal but that's like the fanciest thing I own and partly that's because I was broke for so long but mostly it's because it's just a body. It's where I live.

And the more time I spend obsessing over nail-polish and hair-dos and all that, the less time I have to think about Chaucer and the History of the English Language; the less time I have to write and hang with the kid and mr. delagar and climb up mountains.

Frankly, I have stuff to do. I don't have time to put on eye-liner.

*And yes, lie to yourself all you like, if you are going to be size 1, if you are going to be the woman the White Bear mentions and Anthony speaks of with such blissful approval, that is the life you are going to have to live: diet and exercise and personal trainers and shopping for the perfect shoes and doing your hair and doing your face and dressing and dealing with your body and nothing else, forever and ever and ever until you die, amen. I'm sorry, sweetie. No Ph.D.s in geology or comp lit or rocket science for you. Get your tiny ass to the spa and don't forget to hydrate!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Back from Texas

Despite the fact that the Texans I met were the politest people ever -- except for the ones that were smoking, and what is up with that? Jesus, glance at a Texan blowing cigar smoke in your face and he acts like you tried to abort his grandchild -- but generally, I have to say, Texans were just so astoundingly polite I couldn't get over it. Kept looking around for the hidden camera. You're really going to be this nice to me? I kept thinking? Can't you see my Birkenstocks? My ratty jeans? Don't you know I'm a lie-beral?

But they were sweet to me anyway. It was so pleasant.

And despite this, and despite the wonders of the H-E-B, which was truly wonderful -- we found, in fact, the Kosher H-E-B, which had a whole Passover section, the likes of which drove mr. delagar to tears, yes, indeed, he wandered through its aisles saying, "Oh. Oh. Look. Real KFP wine! Look! Matzo stacked high as your head! Look at that brisket! Look!"

Despite all this, and despite the fact that in the Kosher H-E-B you could also buy Boarshead pickles one at a time out of a barrel right there in the deli section, despite all that, Texas is off the list. I won't be looking for a job in Texas.

Two reasons: (1) Wind. Good Lord, the wind never stops in Texas. I would go insane. And (2) Traffic. Same thing. Everywhere we went, San Antonia, Dallas, Austin, no matter what time it was, traffic snarls everywhere.

"I suppose it's a trade off," I told mr. delagar. "We can live in Pork Smith (which is what mr. delagar has started calling Fort Smith) and have nothing and no traffic, or live in an actual place which has B&N bookstores and Sam Ash music stores and the H-E-B and traffic jams 24/7."

"This isn't traffic," mr. delagar said. "You want traffic, try Jersey."

Jersey is off the list too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Momentary Interruption of Service

I'm off to Texas -- no, it's NOT my fault -- well, you know, except in the sense that we all have free will and it's a free country (sort of, still, yet) and I could have boycotted the CEA Conference for holding the session in TX this year and yap yap yap...

That's a favorite thing to do, btw, by CEA members: boycott sessions. The first year I ever attended the session was held in SC, and half the members boycotted the session. I can't even remember why. I think it was the Confederate Flag issue. I think that was the year SC voted or didn't vote to put the Confederate Flag on or off their state flag...anyway, it was my first year in a real tenure-track job, my first year presenting a paper as an assistant professor, as opposed to a Visiting Assisistant Professor or a graduate student, I had food poisoning from unwisely eating crab soup at some dive on the boardwalk the evening before, and very nearly no one showed up for my presentation -- which still made it so much better than my experience at the APA in New York, the last big conference I had presented at, when I presented a paper called "Who's on Top," as a graduate student, which argued that Virgil, Ovid and Catullus had been deliberately playing the role of sexual inferiors in their imitations of Alexandrian poets, being fancy boys, as it were, in order to diss the notion of the superior Roman Tough Guy (in case you are ever wondering, Classics Professors are MEAN when you challenge their turf) that I didn't actually mind so much.

Anyway, nearly every other CEA convention I have been to, someone has been protesting something, except last year, in Indiana, when no one protested anything. Too bad. I would have liked to protest the existence of Indiana. That's where the server boy was snotty to me when I ordered French fries with my lunch. ("We don't have French fries, ma'am," he said. "We have American fries." And yet? Oddly? He didn't seem to be in uniform. I wonder why not. I wonder why he was working at a mall hamburger shop, that 20 year old strapping lad, when he could have been signing up to go defend his country. Very odd, that.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Off to Texas.

So I won't be posting for a bit.

But while I'm gone, I leave you other fine bloggers to cruise:

One Good Thing, who everyone should read:

Zelda, of course:

This charming site:

Which I got via my new favorite The White Bear:

Jo( e), cause I love Jo(e)

Sugared Harpy, which The Other Liberal Professer turned me onto

Geeky Mom, Cause Geeky Mom rules:

Over here, where Diane went:

My mouse, who works too hard:

And these guys, who make me laugh:

See you next week!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Reading Again

I've finished the revision of book four of the SF trilogy (I know, I know...I think it's going to have five books, this trilogy, actually, now -- a quintet? Do we do those?) and am taking a bit of space before I begin revising book three or start serious work on book five (I've already started messing with it a bit).

Meanwhile I am doing some serious reading. Amazing how much time you have to read when you are not writing nine hours a day. Right now I'm reading Zadie Smith's On Beauty, which I found through a postover there on Crooked Timber's book site --

a good source for reading material if you don't know about it yet, and Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, which I just happened across at my local library, and Jodi Picoult's new one, The Tenth Circle, and more of C. S. Lewis -- his Four Loves.

Smith's On Beauty I'm liking a lot. It's a retelling (a loose retelling) of Howard's End. Apparently she's causing some fuss because she's writing about Americans without being one, or about American Academics without having been an American Academic, or whatnot. How could she possibly and so on. It's true I've found a few spots where she's got the idiom not quite right, or the small details of American University life wrong -- but, hell, American writers who aren't in the Academy get American University life wrong too. A lot more wrong that she has, I might add. "Goes to credibility!" mr. delagar says, in his English Professor Prosecutor mode, when I mention the few mistakes Smith has made.

Which I suppose is true. But the rest of the book is so interesting and so involving that I can't manage to care. Doesn't hurt that I really like E. M. Forster and so am enjoying all her in-jokes.

Bury the Chains is also good. It's a look at the folks who got rid of the slave trade in England -- well, a look at the folks in England who ran the slave trade, and then the ones who orchestrated its overthrow. Full of appalling information about the English mind of that era. Well, the civilized mind of any era. Hochschild does a good job of showing us just how good Christian men could be good Christian men and still sell fellow men, women and children like sides of pork. One of these guys, for instance, as Hochschild points out, in making a list of his top ten sins, lists blasphemy and lust and various other evils -- he never, not once, comes close to listing "Selling slaves," or "dealing in slaves." Nope. Taking God's name in vain? Very bad. Selling a twelve year old girl for thirty pieces of silver? Just fine.

Picoult's The Tenth Circle is also interesting, mainly for how she mixes in that graphic novel bit. The plot itself is confusing and a touch reactionary -- Picoult tends too much in this direction for my taste. Not always, but often. Also, the ending is annoying. Picoult likes this kind of ending, where the evil working mommy/woman gets hers. Well.

As for Lewis. It's not as bad as it could be.