a fallow PhD

So, I am writing my new book.  Please send help!  It’s in the house and I’m pretty sure it’s trying to kill me.

Actually, it’s not too bad.  The progress is slow but steady.  My protagonist is a pretty interesting double.  It’s been a while since I’ve been inhabited like this; it’s taking some getting used to.  It’s a little bit like being in love, except the person you’re in love with doesn’t happen to exist.

Here is a giggle-worthy tidbit on academia from a book my husband is reading:

Keynes had long been suspect among his colleagues for the clarity of his writing and thought, the two often going together.  In The General Theory he redeemed his academic reputation.  It is a work of profound obscurity, badly written and prematurely published.  All economists claim to have read it.  Only a few have.  The rest feel a secret guilt that they never will.  Some of its influence derived from its being extensively incomprehensible.  Other scholars were needed to construe its meaning, restate its propositions in intelligible form.  Those who initially performed this task–Joan Robinson in England, Alvin Hansen and Seymore Harris at Harvard–then became highly effective evangelists for the ideas.  (217; Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went; John Kenneth Gabraith)

Yes, my husband reads economics for fun.  Also obscure military histories.  The last book he read before this one was called The Collapse of Complex Societies.  I think this title captures something essential about my husband’s soul.

As for me, I have entirely stopped reading any books that have an even remotely academic flavor.  It’s been tremendous.  I have managed to read a few venerable old primary sources for my exams, which are coming up the first week of May but which make hardly a dent in my consciousness.  It’s like my brain has reallocated all its resources to my novel and doesn’t want to be bothered with this crap.  Hey, want to hear something truly scandalous?  Lately I’ve read stories by authors currently alive.  Gasp!  The decadence of it: reading a novel without trying to mentally shoehorn it into my dissertation topic.  I feel naughty, I tell you.

Speaking of breaking with academia, I had a chat this week with a novelist who has a fallow PhD.  She was a Romanticist like me; it was a little eerie as it always is when you’re speaking with somebody who embodies some part of your past and/or future self.  I have a tendency to try to read such people like oracles.  But of course, oracles always spoke in gibberish that could only be untangled once it already was too late.

One response to “a fallow PhD

  1. I admire your psychic resilience…and I think that your Ph.D. journey, however truncated it may be, might have further nurtured your resilience. G*d knows, we writers need it. Thank you always for your encouragement and support. You rewl.

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