Saturday, March 08, 2014

8 march

Busy. This week has been our spring break, but there's been no real let-up in the busyness. A trip to Ikea, and the concomitant dithering about with Alan wrenches and hammers, putting things together. Finally biting the bullet and buying a Time Capsule so that our computers can be backed up automatically — with the delightful side-effect of greatly improved wifi coverage. Installing a big-screen TV that has been sitting in a box in the dining room for eight months, and for which we really didn't have an adequate space. (Feeling quite handymanish and masterful about figuring out how to do that one!) Grading papers, and more grading papers.

My ICFA paper has yet to be written out, though there are plenty of notes on hand. I have, what, eleven days or so? I'm half tempted to get up and try to deliver the thing extemporaneously, from notes, as I were talking to a class. But I don't think I have the courage to do that; while I've come to the point where I feel I can hold my own critically with the sci-fi/fantasy crowd — and certainly I think I know more about this set of texts than almost anyone else, at this point — I know that my improvisatory skills, while perfectly adequate for the baggy time requirements of the classroom, are highly likely to lead me well over time in a panel setting: that is, I go on too long.

I almost wish I had nothing but the title on hand — that ICFA weren't publicizing abstracts, as they did last time around. Because if that were the case, I could work up the essay I'm deeply excited about right now. Get this: Michael Moorcock is usually the most conservative craftsman possible, in terms of narrative technique; his books are so straightforward they make Lord of the Rings, with its back-and-forth between focal characters (see especially the cunning structure of Two Towers) look avant-garde.  But there are a handful of books — Mother London, the third and fourth Cornelius books, Breakfast in the Ruins, and one or two others — in which Moorcock's narratives are highly fragmented, deeply paratactic. One could argue that he's following Burroughs (William, not Edgar Rice) in this, or other postwar figures. But I think it's possible to make the argument that Moorcock arrives at this echt modernist narrative technique, not through any recognized path of literary influence (say, Flaubert to Joyce to Burroughs) but precisely through the pressures and habits of the trashy pulp writing which he grew up and came of age writing.

Details to follow, at some point. Maybe in the Moorcock book I'm quite seriously contemplating writing.

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