Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rereading, rewriting

The other day I re-read a book, Joan Didion's Play it as it Lays, which I know I posted about reading during one summer when I lived in California, but I can't find the link now, so there. It has been so long since I just up and read something for pleasure, and re-reading something ----! Boggling! Insane!

The choice of reading was because the last few Mad Men episodes seemed to really resonate with the existentialism of the book. That and I keep thinking Don Draper is about to cut out for the light-suffused modernist glass houses of Southern California, and for some reason I had thought the Didion novel exemplified that oversaturated, David Hockney-style landscape. Funnily enough, no! Why do so many people describe Play it as it Lays as cinematic? There is practically no description anywhere. Gorgeous writing, but your mind has to supply all the details of the city and the desert and the feel of slaloming down all those freeways yourself. I still think though that we're about five minutes from the confusion and social upheaval of the current Mad Men episodes to the cool narcissism of Didion's work.

I was surprised by how much of the book stayed with me; it's quite compelling. And I'm surprised it hasn't been written about all that much --- I had wondered if any scholars had written about what disease or disorder the daughter Kate actually has, so I looked up in the MLA bib and saw surprisingly few articles published on it. Not that I'm going to write on it, but if anyone is interested, they should check it out. I'm sure there are still fruitful things to say about it, if you have things to say.

No, what I need to work on ... is my book manuscript. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I have started and run away from that project so many times it is clear now that there is some sort of block or problem there. And yet, that is what needs to be done. So that is my project for the summer: a) revise the dissertation into a book manuscript and b) do not avoid, procrastinate on, or hide from the revision of the dissertation into a book manuscript. Sigh. I wish I wasn't so "done" with this topic. I don't know how to make it interesting and new to myself once again. But I already avoided the book last year by starting up a brand new and different article and here I am again, back to staring at the book manuscript. I don't know if putting it off from last year was a good choice or not, but now it is the only big thing left on my plate and it has been listed as "in progress" on my cv for a very long time, so it is time to actually get it out there.

I have the feeling that this rereading project will not be as pleasurable as the novel-rereading one, alas. Though it might turn out to be a similarly existential nightmare.

3 comments:

Dr. Koshary said...

Ha! "Fruitful things to say." I see what you did there, lady!

You may be 'done' with the topic of your diss, but I doubt you are done with the professional benefits that can flow from getting a book under contract. Be mercenary. It's helpful, sometimes.

Also, reward yourself with whiskey after finishing each editing task.

Sisyphus said...

Eh, it's all completely coincidental these days...

I think I'll go for chocolate instead of whiskey for an editing reward. Or maybe chocolate and a good red wine. Mmm. Possibility.

Susan Partlan said...

Hi, I'm a new reader -- just checked out a few of your posts.
Congratulations on the comfy chair. Glad to hear Sisyphus approves.

The Didion book sounds interesting. I keep meaning to read more of her books but got a little turned off by The Year of Magical Thinking. TOo much name dropping. "That and I keep thinking Don Draper is about to cut out for the light-suffused modernist glass houses of Southern California" sounds right to me.