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Friday, 30 November 2007

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Mike S

Not exactly germane to this post, Scott, but I've occasionally wondered what prompted your turn from Pynchon to the 19th century. If I recall correctly, there was even some early interest in Joyce, no?

SEK

Comment the first:

People must really have hated the Lotion.

Comment the second:

Mike, I came to graduate school with the Pynchon/Joyce interests, inasmuch as I was one of those Pynchon/Joyce/Foster Wallace people -- you know, the people who enjoy long, ambitious novels written in difficult prose. (I don't know why, but Big Difficult Novel people have very predictable tastes. I mean, most people could nail my favorite books, only they'd throw Delillo in there, which would anger me.) So, the short version is that I came to grad school to study Joyce more than Pynchon, but have written about both. (Joyce for three seminars, Pynchon for Derrida, then again for Katherine Hayles' Big Books seminiar.) (Not that I wrote the same paper twice, as that'd be cheating.)

THEN! (Dramatic, ain't it?) THEN! (Now not so much.) I TA'd for Laura O'Connor's Irish Modernism course, at the end of which she invited me to dinner with her and her husband, James Olney, with whom I'd take a course on Theories of Memory my second quarter here. During the course of this dinner, they were very frank about the job prospects for people who do Big Books: "There aren't any," she said. I'd either need to work the Irish or American angle, but I couldn't do both.

THEN!

She said there aren't that many jobs for Irish modernists, since Joyceans abound, so I'd have to be a modernist, and if I wanted a job, I should focus on the British side of the pond. But much as I liked Joyce, I didn't want to spend the rest of my life teaching Pound and Eliot, so I drifted for a bit, took a course with Michael Szalay, and decided to hitch my wagon to his star. (Mostly because he was the biggest, most-demanding asshole I'd worked with since Pat McGee as an undergrad. Lest you think that an insult, I don't intend it as such: he's a harsh, exacting critic who doesn't pull punches or coddle you when you write crap, as I frequently do. I'm a far better writer and thinker for working with him and am, in fact, quite embarrassed by what I would've become had I not.) But yes, so anyway, where was I?

Yes, I was working on C20th American stuff -- race and literature, in the '30s and '40s, and dabbling in the socialist literature of the period as well -- when I started preparing for my exams. Over the course of them and the dissertation prospectus workshop, I discovered I was much more interested -- and therefore far more motivated to work on -- the influence of evolutionary theory in literature. (There's a connection there, and yes, it's eugenics. But I couldn't just start writing about material in the '30s and '40s without having read what came before, and then I realized that's where all the excitement was.)

Thus endeth the story.

Sisyphus

That's quite the academic autobiography tucked away in a comment here. Which time did you go to Hayles's big books seminar? --- I know a couple people who took it one go-round; very cool class.

So most people don't change their field of study based on the same reason I did: the need to color-coordinate the paperback books with the bookcase?

SEK

That's quite the academic autobiography tucked away in a comment here.

All the information's been related before, just never in the same place. It was sort of gratifying to write in a look-how-far-I've-come kind of way.

Which time did you go to Hayles's big books seminar?

Well, me and my classmates only "went" to one ... then Hayles, one of the most generous people ever, decided to drive down to UCI, through rush hour traffic, to teach us UCI folk as soon as she finished teaching the same exact material at UCLA. There's a post in that story, if only so one day, while vanity Googling, Hayles stumbles across it and knows that her efforts were as appreciated as they were arduous. (More so, even.)

So most people don't change their field of study based on the same reason I did: the need to color-coordinate the paperback books with the bookcase?

All of mine are that Penguin puke-green ... so yes, I suppose I did.

JPool

Wow, I feel so sorry for you lit folks now. I mean more so. My bookshelves (in various shades of blonde and brown target/ikea faux wood) are a veritable rainbow. The only consistent color even within publishers is Cambridge's longtime insistance on bright white spine, saying "You know that we're worth $50 for a paperback." OK, looking again, Ohio and James Currey's co-published series did the same thing for a while at more reasonable rates. Both have thankfully stopped.

Wally

Not a bad album! I'd read those liner notes ages ago and been all like 'There's no way this band is anywhere near as good as these liner notes' - God almighty I'd give my legs to be able to write like Thomas Pynchon, my legs and maybe an arm or a lung - and now I know, re: this album, that though I was not fair, I was not wrong. But not a bad album at all; nice workin' music. And not quite measuring up to Pynchon is no shame either.

Shawn

Pynchon interviewed Lotion in an issue of Esquire back in the mid/late 90s. That's how I came to know of the band.

I too was a "big book" fan and at the time was obsessed with reading or hearing anything Pynchon wrote (including book blurbs.)

Lotion was a damn fine band through 2 CDs and the Agnew Funeral EP. They lost their way a bit with the Telephone Album but even that was an above average effort.

My band has played "La Boost" and "Juggernaut" live before.

One last thing: I'm a nobody, so I guess that means I'm cool.

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