Mid-Year Entry

Already it’s June 30th, and I have no idea where the time has gone. I’ve also realised that this is the first time I’ve stopped working and put my thesis away since I came back from Oz in February. That must have something to do with it.

I’m almost on holidays, apart from writing an abstract for a conference in August and a proposal for an edition of an online journal, and cleaning the window sills. I’ve just finished a short story for the Bridport Prize and sent it off. I wanted to submit my grass story because it was about England and Australia, but there was no way it was going to be ready in time, nor would it have been good enough, so I sent off a very Australian story about land and inheritance.

The parental unit are arriving tomorrow evening, so H and I have been meticulously cleaning every orifice of the house. I don’t know if this is a ritual particular to our family, or if it happens to every Australian whose family/friends come to stay. However when I flew over from Berkeley to visit my sister in London in 1999, she announced (with pride), that she had cleaned the mould from the bathroom ceiling. That was impressive.

On Thursday I had a very distressing meeting with my second supervisor, S, who also runs the Consortium. Where I- says only good things about my work and makes me feel appreciated, S is often very critical, although never in a nasty way. We spoke for an hour, and at the end of that hour I felt like he had completely decimated my entire argument on fictocriticism, feminism and the body and I was nearly in tears. However I managed to control myself, because I’ve cried before him once before and didn’t want to start a habit. Naturally, there was also my mascara to consider.

So I walked out stunned, not a little miserable, and with my confidence – which is usually unassailable – somewhat shaken. What was a girl to do? Uhmmm … go shopping, of course. Even better, go shopping in the sales! So I found a beautiful red wrap dress by Sticky Fingers, and a skirt by St Martin’s which I’ve had my eye on for a while, and felt a lot better. That night I went out with H, H, P and some more Australians to the Drunken Monkey, which was excellent, although too noisy, and then to another pub on Commercial Road which was even noisier, so we sat outside and shivered in the disgusting weather, until P thought his balls were going to drop off so we had to go inside, and of course I couldn’t hear, so took myself home. On the bus, there was a man standing next to me in a yellow safety vest who reeked of rotten meat, and opposite me was a man with greasy, greying hair who had shortened thalidomide arms. I was so drunk that it all felt wildly surreal.

Since then I’ve been thinking about what S said, and I think his contention was that I was forcing my material into an argument in which it didn’t necessarily fit. I could understand that, but as an English student I’ve always been taught that you can argue what you want, as long as you can back it up. However, I guess that if this means forcing it to the point of distortion, it obviously isn’t going to work. The other thing he seemed to be saying was that I was making statements without thinking about them carefully enough. This is one of the main reasons why I don’t think I can be an academic; I just don’t have enough intellectual rigour, especially compared to him and I-, and I couldn’t be bothered with investigating theory. S seemed to recognise this and said that I was using fictocriticism in order not to think about the other side of the argument; that is, by using fiction, I was giving myself the licence to say what I wanted without considering whether it was valid or not. He was right. All I want to do is write novels, not this PhD. But when I said this to him, his response was that Virginia Woolf, upon whom I rely heavily, used fiction as a way of getting away from that personal voice. He also said out that the point of fiction was to investigate other lives, and in that he is, of course, correct, and I felt incredibly stupid not to have seen it.

However there is, obviously, no turning back now, and after realising that all he was advocating was a little less sloppiness, rather than an entire change of approach, I felt better. I think what I need to do is stop justifying fictocriticism, and stop adhering so strongly to the argument I’ve devised and just write it the way I want to and see what happens. S suggested writing a dialogue with Georgiana, and while I can’t be bothered with that, I can see what he means: I need to be more attentive to her point of view.

I never wondered why I wanted to do a PhD until I got here and realised how difficult it was (although it shouldn’t be difficult, because I breezed through my other degrees). It just seemed to be a natural progression in something that I was good at, and of course, I want to be a genderless Dr, not a Miss or a Mrs or a Ms. In yesterday’s G2 there was an article about how Ms was created so that women wouldn’t have to be defined in relation to men, and yet in using it they still are – because by using a name that shows that they have no relationship with a man, they are still reminding people that there is a system to get away from, and therefore they remain implicated in it. I think we need to create a new title altogether.


One Response to “Mid-Year Entry”

  1. Konnie Huxtable Global Says:

    “Hello Mr Postie. Is that for me?”

    “Yes, Konnie. It’s a parcel from Wales.”

    “Wales? But I don’t know anyone in Wales.”

    “Hang on… it’s from ‘South Wales’.”

    “Look, you dimwit, if I don’t know anyone in Wales, then I’m hardly going to know anyone is the southern part of the same principality, am I?”

    “Hang on again… it’s from ‘Ne… ‘” [Etc. You were there before me anyway.]

    That’s my weekend sorted. Is there any redemption in it? I rather like redemption.

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