Monday, 10 October 2005

Who Can Write in Your Books? Anyone Important Enough To [Warning: This post may seem livejournalistic. But entertainingly so. You know me better than to think my tales of life at UCI merely personal. They all resonate. Resonate, I say, RESONATE! That, and there's some implicit lessons to be learned on the importance of bibliophile etiquette buried deep beneath the surface of this entry.] Before I begin working through Foucault to the New Historicists, I have some trivia to share. The copy of Hardt and Negri's Empire from which I'll be quoting has an interesting history. It begins in 2000, the year of its initial publication, when Jim Ziegler (since tenure-tracked somewhere) and I were discussing it in the "TA lounge," a.k.a. the round table in front of the graduate student mailboxes ... which the faculty use as a short-cut between the main English department office and the primary graduate seminar room. (And why shouldn't they? It's their department.) So Jim and I are idly chatting about Empire when Julia Lupton walks up, pauses, greets us, says something to Jim (I'm deaf, remember?) and then hurries off. (Julia's an important person around UCI—a model academic whose standards I fail daily to live up to—she's always hurrying somewhere, and with good reason.) Point being: Julia and Jim exchange words both assumed I could hear. I couldn't, but as I often do in such situations, I nodded my head and pretended to hear all. So when Jim's email arrived later that afternoon asking me what times worked best for me, I had no clue what he was talking about. I related my schedule. "Perfect," he responded. "I'll get right on it." "Get right on it?" I thought to myself. "Get right on what?" Turns out everyone rightly pegged Jim as (but mistook me for) the resident Hardt & Negri expert, and that I was now the co-coordinator of the faculty-dominated Empire reading group. You heard me correctly: a first year, in his second quarter, was assumed expert enough in the Hardt & Negri corpus to lead a faculty-dominated reading group. (In retrospect I realize the faith Julia placed in Jim was well-founded, and her willingness to defer to a graduate student on the topic a sign that she practiced the egalitarianism she preached. But I digress.) So I participated in this reading group with Jim, Julia and a host of imposing faculty members like Mark Poster and Andrzej Warminski. One of the highlights of my first year, I tell you. Time passes. The year is 2005. It is Spring Quarter. I haven't thought about Empire or been all that theoretically inclined for years. I still own the book, mind you, and it still overbrims with my original marginalia. I'm invested in every page. Manic glossing. Attack this point here, cheer-lead that point there. The phone rings. "Hello?" I say, assuming the voice at the other end belongs to a machine which desires nothing more than to clean my carpet, lower my mortgage rates or help me refinance my loans. "Yes, I'm told...
Aegri Somnia? I Wish; or, Cacoethes Scribendi, Indeed! [If you would like to read some inaugural remarks on Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, skip the first two paragraphs in which I explain why they're only inaugural. You may also wish to read John Leonard's review of it in The New York Review of Books.] My followup to this post on Foucault's still in the works. In it I'll tie up a few of the criticisms commenters at Long Sunday level, but it proceeds slowly—more slowly even than this damn chapter—and I am a very tired boy. Also in the works: a sustained account of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. So far I've bleated and pointed in the opposite direction. Now I'll talk it head on. Not now now, mind you, because sustained analysis isn't possible when you're as tired as I am. How tired am I? Polite of you to ask: Of the past seventy-two hours a grand total of four of them have been spent asleep. Why? That's the funny thing about it: I thought I didn't know why, and it only occurs to me now that I do know why, only I've been so tired I couldn't remember. Since the Big Scary Monster of last year I've been on thyroid hormone replacement therapy, i.e. small doses of levothyroxine every morning. Whenever they change my dosage, I have insomnia. Last Friday they upped my dosage but somehow this slipped my mind. So instead calmly understanding that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep as easily as I typically do, I had one of those insomnia-induced panic attacks, complete with tossing, turning, the choking-back-tears-of-frustration, &c. So tired was I on Saturday that I even though I took my levothyroxine that morning, it still didn't occur to me as I stared sleeplessly at the ceiling Saturday night that my insomnia had a specific and familiar somatic origin. It didn't occur to me until this afternoon. As in Tuesday "after two more sleepless nights" afternoon. So today a couple of scattered thoughts—call it "lucid dreaming" posting—which I'll collect with some presently even more scattered later in the week. The first concerns Didion's implicit contention that John Dunne's "sudden" death could have been prepared for had she seen the signs. Two nights before his death, for example, Didion recalls John asked me if I was aware how many characters died in the novel he had just sent to press, Nothing Lost. He had been sitting in his office making a list of them .... Some months after he died I picked up a legal pad on his desk to make a note. On the legal pad, in very faint pencil, his handwriting, was the list. Why was the pencil so faint, I wondered. Why would he use a pencil that barely left a mark. When did he begin seeing himself as dead? She catalogs all the behaviors which would have had symbolic meaning had she the perspicacity to notice them at the time. As the book progresses,...

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