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The Dead Time of Year

December 27, 2007, 2:57 pm

This is the Dead Time of Year. The week between Christmas (or, if you prefer, the end of school) and New Year’s Day is a time of reckoning, during which we in the Radical household have a tendency to obsess about what we didn’t get done during the calendar year, as opposed to praising ourselves for what we actually accomplished. Thus, this week tends to be taken up with neglected household projects: repainting that last bit of molding in the downstairs bathroom, attending the annual sale at IKEA, washing the dog, putting up the mirror that has been balanced precariously in the upstairs hall for seven or eight months. Or endlessly re-organizing our notes on writing projects that we have, to date, resisted the charms of, well, actually writing. Everyone knows that once you get all the books re-alphabetized, the notes in the right piles with paperclips at the exact same spot, and the pencils well sharpened, the revisions might just do themselves in the middle of the night.

Yeah, sure. After a visit from the Revision Fairy.

Our other strategy is to leave town. One year we left on January 1 for San Cristobal, in Chiapas, and stayed for five months. Last year we left for Kauai the day after Christmas, which was a blast, and stayed for six weeks. This year, because of massive administrative duties, the AHA and some urgent scholarly deadlines, the Radical will be staying put in the Good Old Continental U.S. of A., watching the Republic dissolve around her, thanks to the tender ministrations of the Bush Administration. But my companion N is heading off to Unnamed South Asian Country, where she will be virtually incommunicado for three weeks and doing worthwhile things while I hold the academic and political fort here.

Now, this creates a different paradigm for Dead Week, from my point of view, which is that it is now part of a twenty-one day hiatus in life, a monkish interlude, that can actually be a turning point in the year. I will have so much time on my hands (because domesticity does take time, my friends) both for the idiotic things I aspire to during winter break (how to fix the draft coming under the front door because the guys laying the floor in the front hall never bothered to and it was summer and I never noticed until they had left town? How to make maximum use of the post-holiday sales so that I will look my best at AHA? What would be the perfect reorganization of my study?) and for the non-idiotic things on which I have actually made a lot of progress in the last year: finishing several pieces of writing without overly obsessing since, like bad nickels, they will surely come back again for more revision; getting my spring course organized so that it can more or less run itself; actually writing that paper for the AHA, the one that I am giving in nine days (oh yeah, that paper!) And is now the time to learn Power Point? To do those perfect visual presentations that I always wish I had ten minutes before the lecture?

And I need to think about what direction this blog will take in the New Year. Because for all of the ups and downs on the last post, it has caused me to think about a lot of very interesting things, and I now think that I haven’t even scratched the surface — after successes and failures; errors and corrections; anonymity, pseudonymity, and coming out as myself (whoever that is); positioning myself as a professional advisor to others; struggle with complete strangers and reconciliation with some — of what blogging can accomplish as a literary or political form, or as a critical space that compliments print. That’s pretty exciting, and some peace and quiet around here will help me think about the next stage in my blogging — or could we just say writing? — life, I’m sure.

Oh, and dear reader? If I owe you a grad school recommendation, and it’s not done yet, it will be in by 5:00 today. Promise.

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Please note that I have edited my blog ethic slightly, to explicitly add “name calling” as an element that will get comments deleted in the future. It’s a really mean thing to do, and doesn’t advance a conversation one iota.

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