Friday, 26 October 2012

Viva Las Modernism

D and I have spent the past week in Las Vegas while I attended the Modernist Studies Association conference at the famous (after seeing the stories in the Mob Museum, perhaps we should say 'infamous') Flamingo Hotel. We had never been to Vegas before - what totally crazy place! The Strip is unbelievable! Everything is shiny and shouty. We stayed at the MGM Signature which was a truly excellent choice as it is a non-gambling hotel and is slightly away from the centre. This meant that it was a lovely quiet retreat.

The conference itself was wonderful - very inspirational, some great keynotes, a spectacular (I really do mean that!) workshop from my new academic hero Helen Sword and some excellent panel papers, including a fair amount on unusual genres. I'm hoping to write an article for my work blog on new moves in modernism, based on all the modernist conferences I've been to this year. D and I ate very well indeed, and we even had time for a sunset trip to the Grand Canyon which was beautiful. On our way we visited both the Hoover Dam and (fulfilling a childhood dream) Route 66. All in all it was a very good trip indeed. D will get the photos on our account as quickly as we can just in case you're interested in that type of thing. Fortunately neither of us get jet lag so we slotted right back into Blighty life.

I've spent the past couple of days working on my paper for next week's research meeting at the University of Dundee. I'm really excited to have been invited up there and am looking forward to the event. I'm keeping it fairly relaxed and raising a few questions that will hopefully be of interest to anyone who engages with art in any way. I'm staying in Edinburgh for a day and a bit so I can spend some quality time in the library. This new book needs a bit more background research yet. Apart from work, life is very quiet indeed - a little wrestling, a little house tidying and a little reading. Lovely!


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Switching off

The thing about this sabbatical lark is that you find yourself withdrawing from things, particularly, I've found, social media. So if you are waiting for an email, a response to a Linkedin request or a tweet then I can only apologise. It is rather nice to exit things for a, actually it is very nice. I don't think I had quite realised how plugged in to everything I had become over the past two years in Lincoln. It has been amazing, fun and challenging. But right now I am so glad and grateful to be spending long days (really long since D started his new job!) at home in the countryside and to concentrate on writing and reading, and reassessing my research priorities. It is an amazingly wonderful privilege and, trust me, I am really making the most of it.

The new book is coming along well. I felt as if I made a breakthrough yesterday. Writing an introductory book is quite a different undertaking from other things I've done and it requires a different voice and a different set of priorities. It's a very interesting process. I'm also completing a few other bits and pieces, including funding applications and conference abstracts. However, I'm trying as much as possible to focus on one project at a time.

Given that the days are long, I've been able to make much more of our wee country retreat and have been enjoying (OK, that might be a bit strong!) regular cross training workouts and runs through the fields. As the winter approaches (and you can feel this far more acutely in the country than in the city) I have found myself stockpiling and preparing like an old country wifey! On Saturday morning, as an example, D and I got up super early (I must be getting old, 7.30 now feels like a lie in!) and got the BBQ going. We cooked a piece of pork shoulder for 13 hours and ended up with 8 meals worth all in small freezer bags. I've been sorting through all our stuff and getting rid of things - shredding papers, taking clothes to the charity shop and getting rid of herbs I've had since 2007 (how does that happen?). I've been making lists of things we need and have even bought a tub of dried milk to keep at the back of the cupboard just in case the snow cuts us off. The idea of no builder's tea is the stuff of nightmares! So, the whole place is starting to feel organised and ready.

It has also meant that I've had way more time for reading and have been working my way through a heap of books. I'm currently wading through Asne Seierstad's traumatic The Angel of Grozny about the situation in Chechnya (I knew nothing about this before starting this book), Hemingway's equally traumatic For Whom the Bell Tolls (this is very different from what I expected - I'll do a proper review once I've finished it and have had time to process my thoughts), and have Kerouac's On the Road on my desk ready to go. With that list, I really feel I should find something more jolly to delve into. I've also been reading loads of 'intro to modernism' books both to remind me about the central issues of my field and to give me an idea if how to write a decent introductory book.

I've been enjoying Great British Bake Off (the only reality TV show allowed in our house other then...ahem...The Biggest Loser Australia which D and I got into for some unknown reason) and we've recently finished the HBO series Newsroom which, despite moments of total exasperation, was really good. We've got session 2 of Treme to begin as winter approaches.

And that is basically the world chez Warden. We have a quiet weekend in store. D is busy revising so I'll spend Saturday sorting our book shelves, a job I have been putting off since we moved into this house in March! But first we have to go to the garage to get our car fixed as poor D had a fight with a grouse the other night on his way home. D tried to avoid him but to no avail. You will be glad to know that the grouse (who we have nicknamed Gary - we name all the animals around our house) came of worse although he did cause a bit of damage. We might hit a few balls and grab some brunch while we're out and about.

Hope everyone is enjoying peaceful autumnal days.