I want so badly to write about the little brown birds. I keep trying and I can never get it right.
I recently had a conversation with Emily about our academic ambivalence: our excitement over fall 2008 classes (I’ve already picked out what I want to take) and yet our horror to realize that we are going to be juniors next year. Juniors! That sounds so frighteningly old to me. Old and responsible. I always imagined I’d have my life figured out and my career lined up by the time junior year rolled around. Now I’m recognizing that will probably be just another one of my lavender-colored dreams.
But the classes are so deliciously promising! Japanese 305, Renaissance poets with Armitage, ethics for journalists, twentieth-century poets, and some other journalism class. Classes that I love and classes that I want to take: just English, journalism, and Japanese for me. I have, pleasantly and perhaps a little blindly, confined my personality and my potential success to these three areas.
As I ran my beloved loop around Gimghoul and Raleigh Street yesterday, insufferable questions beat in time with my feet: Where is my life going? Where is all of this headed? What am I doing? I knew where my feet were going at that moment but that was all I knew about my projected movement. I could not — and cannot — foresee my life even three years in the future. Somehow I always imagined that it would never come; that I would never have to grow up, graduate, provide for myself. I was terrified as I thought, breathing in rhythm, trying to outrun the low sun that danced between the trees. Where does God want me? And what does He want from me? All I have are questions and echoes where answers should be.
I am proud of and surprised with myself for keeping up with the photo project; I didn’t think I would last even this long. 57 days today; 309 to go.
We read Paul de Man’s essay “The Return to Philology” in my literary theory class today. I liked it much more than the previous essay of his, “Semiology and Rhetoric,” mainly because I actually understood this one. In “The Return to Philology,” de Man talks about the need to revolutionize the way we teach literature — to instruct students to quit paraphrasing and dipping into psychology and history whenever they write about literature; to quash the indulgence of any thought that may enter their minds and to instead write only on the text itself; consider only the words four inches from one’s face.
De Man praises one professor at Harvard for teaching his students to write about literature in this way. And yet he lauded the students, who had finally mastered this mode of discourse, for not spitting out dozens of books. He wrote, “Good writers are often spare writers and in the present state of literary studies, that is all to the good.” My professor, Dr. Curtain, had the perfect explanation of this. Curtain said, “They did not write many books because they knew how very, very difficult it is to write a good book.”
I think this is perhaps why I am afraid I will never write a book. I am afraid of being a hack, a narcissistic poser who presumes to believe she has anything worthwhile to contribute to this conversation that has been going on for thousands of years. And so I will continue to spew nonsense on the Internets instead.
Irony! It always comes back to irony.
Reading: The English Patient still; The Mercy, poems by Philip Levine
Hearing: “Woman King,” Iron and Wine; “I Will Never See the Sun,” Great Lake Swimmers
Thinking: my hands are the dry hands of an old woman and I like the way my wet hair leaves raindrops on the tissue-thin pages