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Tuesday, 15 May 2007


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Brad DeLong



Hmmm. (rubs chin thoughtfully.) Dr. Crazy has been blogging the whole painful process of revising a proposal and then a manuscript over at reassignedtime if you want a play by play of the pain. (which reminds me, you haven't said anything about constantly having to summarize the work in three sentences on the job market, or write a book proposal and then another proposal once you do have a contract.)

If you want nitpicking, I can nitpick:

"over the next three years it becomes something more"
--- this is not as incisive as the rest and doesn't get at the pain and frustration and slogging.

"Large sections are reconceptualized in an effort to create a manuscript more representative of the sum of its parts. Years devoted to tinkering and conceptualizing, razing and reconceptualizing, rebuilding and resubmitting pass."
--- this is repetitive and a bit dull. People who have actually revised dissertations into books tell me that the problems are that they are sick of the topic or that the cracks in their argument take on water faster than they can bail it out.

And in another random comment, if you tell a bunch of writers that "writing is hard," you're not really teaching them something new, eh? My thought is you'll need some sort of new and interesting defamiliarization of writing that makes everyone understand it in a powerful way; get all Shklovsky on their ass.

Ah, could this comment be any longer and more pointless? Heh! Sorry if you wanted some praise and positive feedback there; evidently I don't work that way.

Rich Puchalsky

"Consider the life of the average scholarly monograph. At first no more than a glimmer in the mind of a graduate student preparing for her qualifying exams, over the next three years it is assembled from separately written articles, like Frankenstein's monster. Then the angry mob with torches arrives. Sadly, none of them care about the monograph."

Then never mention the angry mob again. At the question period, if anyone is so injudicious as to ask "So, what does the metaphor of the angry mob represent?", throw down your papers, sob "You do! All of you!", and rush out of the room. Your talk will be long remembered.

I may try for actual helpful suggestions when I'm not half-asleep. The part about classes of ships is good, though.


wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Though i'm sure that the criticism of others is valid, none will come from me.

Scott Eric Kaufman


You'll get yours next week, my friend. You just wait. I've been practicing my guffaws, and I do a mean dismissive eye-roll.


this is not as incisive as the rest and doesn't get at the pain and frustration and slogging.

Good catch. I wanted "vaguely menacing," landed on "vague."

this is repetitive and a bit dull.

That's what I was aiming for there: dull and desperate, sick and tired. (I went with asyndeton for a reason.) I'm in that awkward position I used to put my students in: I like that I hit the desired effect, but don't like that the effect isn't seen to have a cause. I'll have to think about that one.

As for how someone relates to the material of their first book project, I think you're right ... but that doesn't mitigate the horror that is getting it into print. This is another way of saying that I'm not going for "writing is hard" so much as "all this intellectual labor is unrewarding," as a way of introducing the very rewarding experience of having your monograph book-evented.

And no, I wasn't looking for praise. I'm never looking for praise. Because of the people I work with, I'm disinclined to trust anyone who praises me ... I immediately think they want something from me, and my suspicious mind wants to know what. So please, hack away, boys, hack away.


You slay me. Serious advice would be helpful, but I may throw the Frankenstein bit in there anyway.


What do you want from me, man?


I haven't seen much evidence to believe that things are at all as rosy as your paragraph suggests. Are things really that rewarding in the US academic publishing and higher education systems?


I keep thinking of this poem by Anne Bradstreet where she is horrified that she gave birth to her progeny and it got out into the world, dressed in rags, before she was ready, and it came back with scribblings all over from other people. It gets at "the horror of getting into print," although comparing producing a book to producing a child makes it sound more rewarding than you want.

And Rich, I think I had the angry mob with torches at my prospectus defense. Luckily, it turned into a love-fest over each other and I was able to crawl out unnoticed under the tables.

The Constructivist

Hmm, not having actually yet gotten that first book done (108 blog posts into CitizenSE and counting...), I can't help you on this paragraph. But if you orany of your regular commenters help me edit this draft of a letter to my 3-year-old daughter before the 20th, I'll take a stab at yours. Wow, that metaphor was totally unpremeditated. But I love it. So easily amused....


Looks good to me. I took the liberty of boiling just a bit - removed a preposition here and there. How's this look? You probly won't like the exclamation points. Sorry!!!1!!!!11!!!!

"The average scholarly monograph begins life as a mere glimmer in the mind of a graduate student preparing for qualifying exams. Over the next three years, chapters are written then polished for the disciplinary flagships—ELH, American Literature, Critical Inquiry—then their period escorts—Nineteenth Century Literature, Twentienth Century Literature, Postmodern Culture—only to land in the holds of the undead authors—The James Joyce Quarterly, The Henry James Review, &c. A few respectable publications to her name, the reversion from independent articles to interdependent chapters begins. Large sections are reconceptualized to create a manuscript more representative of the sum of its parts. Years pass, devoted to tinkering and conceptualizing, razing and reconceptualizing, rebuilding and resubmitting. Seven, perhaps eight years after winking into existence, her monograph is accepted by one of the few remaining reputable scholarly publishers, to undergo corrections, cover design, get permissions [FOR WHAT?]. Ten, perhaps eleven years later, the monograph finally rests in its creator's hands. Interest-feigning friends and mentors receive copies, as do the very journals which rejected parts of it years earlier. Her colleagues congratulate her and prophesy —a raise! tenure! - but do not read. They have their own books to write. She moves on to her next project, begins the process anew. Then, three years later, she finds a 250-word review tucked in the back of an academic journal. This is proof, someone read her book! Someone who never engages her argument; neither praises nor condemns; and betrays little evidence of having made it past the introduction. Over the next few weeks she will acquire a passionate resistance to the confession that she had achieved nothing."

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