Obviously it has been a little while since I have really written anything on this blog, which goes to show that I have not written anything on my dissertation lately. I had to spend about ten days revising the last thing that I wrote and since revising isn’t really writing (snap-cut to all my invisible blog readers shaking their heads and strongly disagreeing with that last statement) I didn’t mess with the blog. Then I had meetings with some people to talk about what I wrote. Then we went to the beach. Then I tried to read everything on Virginia Woolf and got side-tracked. Then I ran a half-marathon. Then Shannon went out of town last week and I tried to paint the baby’s room. In the midst of all this was Columbus Day and some awesome music on the internet. And with Pearl Harbor Day just around the corner, I am not sure I can get my head right.
The hardest part of writing for me is the intense focus I require to actually write. Once I get a bit of momentum it really isn’t that bad but right now I feel like I am at the bottom of hill looking at a huge boulder that needs to be pushed up that incline and my response is to collapse next to the rock and yell “C’mon, rock! You know what I am going to do, right? Can’t you just roll yourself? Hannah Arendt, Natality, The impossibility Mary resisting aural conception given in Romanesque artwork, Go!” On my bed stand is Robert Caro’s The Power Broker; that thing is 1100 pages, is totally lucid, and I have absolutely no idea how it was created. I think I keep it close to my pillow right now in the hopes that its brilliance will transfer through some new form of osmosis into my brain. It does not seem to be working. Ugh.
One of the things that got me a bit sidetracked last week was a question from a friend who teaches art at a university in Austin, Texas. She was looking for a short story that she could use with her class to get them to think about emotion and tone. She had already used Raymond Carver’s Cathedral with them and was looking for something different. A new and distracting project for me? Perfect! What should I recommend?
I ended up thinking about John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Upon This Rock. Have you read it? Well, here you go: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/music/200401/rock-music-jesus. Just thinking about it made me need to read it again. That piece is so smart and the reader’s idea of Sullivan is transformed so subtly that I end up crying every time I read it even though I know what is coming (also in this category for me: David Foster Wallace’s piece on Roger Federer, the film Running On Empty, even the title of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Janine Antoni’s art piece that was slipped into the coats of gallery patrons called “Yours truly“, and The Walkmen’s “We Can’t Be Beat“, partially because Miles would sing the “Woah’s” on it when we drive around). I can’t really articulate why I always end up so overwhelmed with emotion with works like this. Something resonates, I guess. It makes the world feel big and beautiful to me. And fleeting. And present. I guess that is it. It makes things feel present and full.
This dissertation can seem so cold sometimes, especially when the weather shifts and the wind shifts from being a comfort in the summer to taking the shape of something sharper. Family, friends, music, great writing, good conversation–there is warmth there. Why wouldn’t it pull me closer?