Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

On books and academics

I dreamt of an encounter with my late father-in-law.  He was standing before me. He looked like the seventy-something man I knew him as when he was alive. He was aware of who he was, and he looked pretty human, except a bit bloated. He understood what I said to him, but was imperfect at communicating. He had a kind of hesitance about him. I spoke with him, to try to get an explanation or an understanding of his experience as one of the dead, but I did not get some deep insight in that way.  I was glad to dream of him.

I do not often remember my dreams. Sometimes I wake up and realize a vivid thing I experienced was a dream. But I do not have photographic recall of my dreams nor do I make notes when I awaken. I do not have an over-arching theory of dreams, but instead apply inconsistent analyses to indifferently-recalled notions.

I'm continuing to read Rod Val Moore's novel "Brittle Star".  I like it. It's nominally a science fiction novel. But the science fiction is not a matter of technology or fantastic scenes, but a device to permit story-telling. I like the old science-fiction-novella approach of pulp magazines that every story is a platform for the telling of fables and lightly-plottedI  tales.

My speed of reading novels varies so much from novel to novel these days.  I suppose that variations occur with each reader. But one novel this year took me a few months to complete, while some novels have taken a very few days. It's partly whether a novel has a page-turner plot. I do not find that a slower read means the novel is a lesser novel or a "better novel" (in the "hard to read but meaningful" sense). I just find that
some books get me turning pages and some books, even if I like them, get me turning pages more slowly.

In general, I read far fewer novels and far more non-fiction prose (and in particular more magazine non-fiction) than ever before. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. But I still have a good novel going at any particular time. Sometimes I feel I should read more poetry and more short stories.  I enjoy poetry, but rarely find myself buying and reading poetry books.  As to genres besides science fiction, I've never read that many short story collections, though I have in the main enjoyed the ones I have read. I like that so many stories do not merit a novel or novella, but fit neatly in the short story form. I dislike that some short story writers develop a kind of trademark archness that seems to be licensed from a central repository of arch writing. I call some of this kind of writing "MFA fiction"--sterile, a bit un-original, and yet fairly taut though a bit "look at me, look at me". I'll bet earning an MFA degree is a fun thing, learning more about the craft of writing. But if I could take writing courses, I think I'd take simpler fare about how to plot without sounding trite and how to make dialogue sound like dialogue.

When I think of writing, I do not imagine some grand novel I wish to write. I think of writing little non-fiction essays about birds in the local parks. I read yesterday about a lawyer I knew better in my 20s than I know today.  In mid-life, he returned to school and earned his Ph.D. in history. He has written several books that were published by university presses.  There is a cachet to that. After a few years in academic life, he returned to law practice. I think it would be fun to have done that, though such a thing never occurred to me to do. When I was 30, I considered getting the next level of law degree, the LLM.  But I considered this because I wanted to be a law professor.  I liked law school so much that I thought I would like to teach law.

I did not get my LLM.  The cost of the degree plus the lost income opportunity cost was fairly high, and the chances the degree would propel me into a teaching position seemed to me to be about 50/50.  So I kept on being a simple practicing lawyer. Since I opened my current firm with a friend 17 years ago, I have known I made the right choice.

I do envy, a bit, my friends who became academics. One fellow I grew up with is a professor of accounting at SMU. He published his university picture, dressed nattily in a suit and tie. I dress in suits and ties for court or deposition sometimes, though I must admit that I only rarely find myself natty.  He travels the world on vacations and he lectures in conferences, inspiring students as he goes to and fro.  He's a good guy.. 

I've loved reading of the people on LJ who worked through graduate school and got their master's or Ph.D's. Some went on to become tenured professors. Some exist in that world in which one has a job but is not in a tenure-track position. Some never worked in academia.  But they are all big successes in my book. They all got out and learned things.

Yet I cannot imagine being a professor. I do not believe I would enjoy the insider politics of that life. I might enjoy the Summer breaks and the travel to conferences, and the chance to not think about a worrisome case. So I will admire professors, just as I admire volcanoes, largely from afar.

I did not do nanowrimo this year. But I think I should write more things for people to read.


from Dreamwidth, because two posts of the same text are twice as nice
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