Ghosts in the stacks?

Personally, I think the alleged ghost in the New Paltz library is a bug crawling over the security camera lens. But the video‘s still kind of eerie to watch. (Paging agents Mulder and Scully!)

In which I finally get to breathe a bit

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had two campus-visit job interviews and one phone interview in the space of eight or nine days. I don’t know exactly when the Great Job Search of ’08 will end, but I should know more next month. Most of it is unbloggable at this point, but I’ve been a bit surprised to discover how much easier it’s gotten for me to be "on" all day when I’m being interviewed. I still want to collapse and sleep for twelve hours afterward, but being interviewed isn’t the big intimidating energy-drain it was the first time I tried it.

Other things I’ve learned: interviewers’ questions are much easier to answer with several years of relevant experience plus most of an MLS under my belt; I’ve lost all vestiges of the fear of public speaking, if indeed I was ever afraid of public speaking; and ironing my interview-day shirt in the hotel room the night before the interview is a surprisingly calming thing to do. Polishing my shoes has the same effect.

Last weekend was for interview-prepping. This weekend is for decompressing, getting my suits dry-cleaned, doing a bit of knitting (a clever collapsible baby hat for a friend who’s having a baby this summer), catching up on homework, watching bits of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica, and seeing the final Met HD broadcast of the season (Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment). Also, on the recommendation of Kristine from Serendipities, I’m reading Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr. Y, which is kind of like Robert W. Chambers’s The King in Yellow meets Being John Malkovich (a cursed book that supposedly kills its readers, a plot that involves portals into other people’s heads), only more British and with a lot of quantum physics thrown in.

Catch you all later. I may even have time to blog a bit more in the next few weeks.

My conference paper, let me show you it.

Since several of you who read this have asked about it, I wanted to point out that the Questioning Authority conference proceedings are now online, and you can get to my conference talk from the page with the rest of the papers from my panel. The slides should go up too, at some point. If not, I’m going to be putting the whole thing in my online portfolio anyway, and will supply the link when I have time. (Translation: probably not this week or next.)

Job search status update: In-person interview #1 was yesterday, in-person interview #2 is on Tuesday, and phone interview #3 is coming up a couple of days after that. I’m hoping I’m not a complete zombie by the time the end of next week rolls around!

Not dead. Just resting.

I’m glancing back in during my job-search-madness-month hiatus to say: Hello, blogosphere, I’ve missed you! I’m still busy, still neck-deep in readings and assignments, and prepping a couple of job talks while getting ready for another phone interview. But I’ll try to post intermittently while the rush is on.

Things that are making life easier right now:

  • short-sleeve weather and sunshine
  • getting back in touch and/or staying in touch with friends old and new
  • the GTD greatness that is Remember the Milk (I can feel myself relax a bit every time I check off a task, and I can text-message it if I remember something urgent while I’m away from my computer, and it allows both tagging and Boolean searching — what’s not to love?)
  • a few cherry blossom branches in a vase in my living room, which, hopefully, will come all the way into bloom at some point
  • Capogiro outdoing itself yet again (latest favorite gelato flavors: chrysanthemum tea and dark chocolate with candied orange peel, and I can’t wait to try the green mango with chili)
  • having done my taxes early this year, for the first time in, like, ever
  • the prospect of a vacation week in early May — granted, I’ll still have classes to go to that week, but sleeping late and lazing around the house will be such a relief!
  • weeding my book collection and my clothes closet, and getting rid of my backlog of New Yorker issues

In which life gets really, really busy

Spring quarter at Drexel — a.k.a. my very last quarter of library school — started this week. I’ve got ten more weeks to go, which seems like no time at all. But during those ten weeks, I’m going to be working, taking two reading-intensive courses and a job practicum, continuing my job search, going for a job interview (and hopefully a few more after that), thinking about the logistics of moving to wherever I end up moving to, spending at least one day this month as a prospective juror (and if they select me, who knows how many more), revising my Questioning Authority conference paper… and maybe also finding time to sleep, somewhere in there. Maybe.

So if I don’t blog all that often between now and mid-June, I hope you’ll all understand. But I’m thinking this will be a good quarter to practice my speed-reading skills and cash in some vacation time.

[Update: Make that two job interviews. This is going to take some schedule-juggling, but it’s exciting.]

Calling all technogeek book historians

One of the good things about this weekend’s conference was discovering common interests with fellow presenters. During one of those common-interest-finding conversations, I had an idea: “Wouldn’t it be neat,” I said, “if there were some kind of working group for people who work on both the history of the book and what’s happening with digitization and new media?” “Will you start it?” said my interlocutor, who, like me, is interested in both of those things [hi, J., if you’re reading this!]. And, really, the more I think about it, the more I think it ought to exist, if it doesn’t already. Because there are just too many interesting parallels (information overload past and present; how eighteenth-century periodicals were the blogs of their day; early modern remix culture; etc. etc.) to pass up.

So, in the spirit of “‘someone should…’ means ‘I will’,” I’m going to look into starting such a group. I’ve already started thinking of people who’ve done relevant research, and organizations that I should check out — SHARP and the Institute for the Future of the Book, to start with, and maybe ACH, and I probably know at least a few people who might be interested. The question is, what might such a group want to accomplish? And how might it organize?

I’m going to be pondering all of this in my copious spare time. In the meantime, Reader, if you’re interested, or if you know of other people already doing something along these lines, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.

Conferencing, day 2

The main conference day is finished, and my paper went well — various people told me afterwards that they’d liked it. I think it benefited from being on a really good panel on a day of interesting and lively talks. I’m impressed that the conference organizers made everything go like clockwork, with good food appearing at the right moments and moderators keeping panels from running over (always a hard thing to do, if other conferences I’ve been to are any indication). Because we were a small group, and because most of us are still students, the whole thing had an appealingly low-key vibe, almost an "unconference" feel. And I’ve definitely met people I want to keep in touch with after we all disperse tomorrow.

Anyway, I’ll post a link to my paper once it’s available online, which it will be soon. I’m now crashing hard. Catch you all later…

[Postscript: This was always one of my favorite buildings when I lived here. I used to walk by it just to look at it and imagine living there. I walked by it again this evening, and it’s as beautiful as ever. Thank heaven for Flickr, because Googling "that one yellow house on Division Street" wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere.]

Ann Arbor variations

(Title of this post stolen shamelessly from a Frank O’Hara poem, in case you’re wondering. He got an MFA here in between sojourns in New York.)

So here I am in Ann Arbor for day 1 of the conference I’m attending; the papers are all being delivered tomorrow and Sunday morning, so today was mostly about meeting the conference organizers and some of my fellow presenters. We had a lively dinner and happy hour, and now I’m contemplating getting out my paper and going over it again. But first, blogging.

In some ways it’s very strange to be here, because the University of Michigan was where I went for my literature Ph.D., and I haven’t been back since I left in 2004. In fact, my very first visit to Ann Arbor took place more or less exactly eleven years ago — which made me feel positively ancient when I realized how long it had been. When I got into town, I squeezed in a couple of hours of visits with people from the English department before I had to run off.

I found myself thinking the kinds of thoughts that everyone probably thinks on revisiting places where they once lived: first, detached amusement at how little has changed (a reshuffling of a few shops and restaurants, and most of the people I knew have moved on, but the town itself is much as I remember it). Then, a wave of nostalgia (expressed by uncontrollable babbling to fellow conferees: "And I used to walk this way every morning! And this is the street I used to live on! And this place sells fantastic scones!*"). Then, a strange sense of every place being overlaid with seven years’ worth of memory and associations, like geological strata, to the point where I half expected to run into my younger self rounding every corner.**

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes miss the person I used to be when I lived here — or, more accurately, the people I knew and hung out with when I used to live here. But all three of the old friends and mentors I saw again today said the same thing: "You look good. You look happy." And they’re right. The person I used to be is still in there, but grown calmer and more confident and much less melancholy, and leaving the old life here had a lot to do with that. I suspect that this weekend is going to make me think a lot about how to find the through-lines from then to now. Getting back in touch with a lot of people I’ve lost touch with, for a start.

All right, enough navel-gazing for one night. (That was a lot of navel-gazing, I realize. I could blame it on having just come from happy hour, but really, it’s the nostalgia talking.) Tomorrow, actual conference-related posting.

* And fantastic bread, and cheese, and brownies. If I have any time at all on Sunday, some of that bread is going home to Philadelphia with me. Too bad their delicious sherry olives wouldn’t survive the plane trip without leaking.

** That overlay of associations on places is something I want to write about, someday. Not sure how yet, but it ties into other spatially-themed obsessions of mine. Perhaps it’ll end up as research with some sort of poem cycle or memoir-thingy on the side.

Midwestward ho!

On Friday I’m off to Michigan to read my paper for the Questioning Authority conference. Allegedly, the hotel where I’m staying has wifi, so there will be blogging, and when I get around to sticking the paper in my portfolio, I’ll link to it for those of you who want to read it (all two of you!).

In the mean time, I’ve become fascinated with Penguin’s experiment in "digital fiction," We Tell Stories. It’s a combination of experiments with narrative in new media and riffs on earlier works. The first one, The 21 Steps, plays with the plot of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps, only with Google Maps (thanks to Emily of Poesy Galore for the link). The latest, Slice, is inspired by an M. R. James story — and, since I can’t resist anything to do with M. R. James, I’m avidly following it on Twitter. Go, read.

Scattered thoughts on my second Met HD broadcast

So I saw the Met’s Tristan und Isolde in HD on Saturday, and was relieved to see there were no casualties after the run of bad luck that’s plagued the production. Robert Dean Smith had stepped in as Tristan #4 after the first three had all been incapacitated or replaced. At the first intermission, Deborah Voigt joked a bit with Susan Graham, who hosted the backstage features, about singing Isolde opposite a different Tristan each time. She’d never even met the previous Tristan, which, she said, “made for some interesting love scenes!”

I’m (still) not one of those people who flip out over Wagner, but I’m starting to see what the fuss is about. Despite the crick in my neck I got from sitting at the end of row 3, it somehow didn’t feel like an endurance test, even after five and a half hours. It was the duet in Act 2 that made the whole afternoon, for me: it was like being swept out to sea. (In a good way.) Act 3 didn’t overwhelm me to the same extent, mostly because so much of it is Tristan’s, and while I loved Deborah Voigt, I was lukewarm toward Robert Dean Smith. (One has to make allowances for his having been flown in at the last minute, but still.) But it reminded me that, great big nerd though I am, opera isn’t so much a cerebral experience for me as it is a visceral one.

Last time I went to a Met broadcast, I found that the experience was better than it might have been if I’d been there in
person. This time was a little more 50-50. On the plus side: comfortable seats, watching James Levine conduct, and seeing so much in close-up. On the minus side: annoyingly intrusive camera direction, particularly evident in the director’s penchant for split-screens (sometimes as many as six little boxes on the main screen at once); also, not nearly as much “screen” acting from the leads as there was in the Grimes broadcast. There were production elements I liked, especially the lighting change to bright red as Tristan and Isolde drank the potion in Act 1, and one or two that made me scratch my head (what was up with the little model castles and knights all over the stage at the beginning of Act 3?).

And the other nice thing about seeing it in the theater instead of listening on the radio was the sense of being part of a movie audience, munching on a box of Junior Mints and striking up conversations with the people next to me as we waited for the lights to go down. I spotted one fellow audience member in the theater’s ridiculously chichi cocktail lounge studiously reading what looked like a complete score. And really, how often does one see that?

[Edited to add: Alex Ross of the New Yorker has a terrific column on the production, pointing out the fine line between operatic triumph and inadvertently hilarious disaster. I’d never heard that story about Leo Slezak missing the swan boat in Lohengrin, but oh how I wish I’d had a chance to see it.]