Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storm damage

 Can you see the damage? A big piece of trim blew off and landed back by the grill.

Considering what lots of other people in the region are going through, this is pretty minor damage. A nuisance that will cost a bit of money to fix. The joys of home ownership!


Crazy and kind of scary storms moved through here a couple of hours ago. Everything is okay here--still have power, etc., but again, it was scary and this area got slammed.

Anyway, my dad, who checks on his kids who live far away using a weather app on his iphone, called to check on me. Very sweet to know he cares.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I wanted to wait until it got a bit cooler outside to water my flowers. I told a friend, "Yeah, I'll do it this evening." Well, it's 6:00 now and still 102 degrees (without the heat index). Yuck.

I can't complain too much, though. I am lucky to have AC here at home. A friend and I beat the heat a bit earlier today by seeing Brave (which I thought was pretty cute) and getting some frozen yogurt. I was introduced to the wonder that is Sweet Frog. If that place isn't a million dollar idea, I don't know what is. Wow.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting to know you...

The "you" in this post's title refers to my newest adventure in research: a long anticipated project on Fanny Fern that I am only just starting. (It's not that big a project--for now, just a paper for SAMLA in November.) Anyway, as I look towards wrapping up one big project (that MELUS article I mentioned here) and get ready to start writing another conference paper (this one on Constance Fenimore Woolson, for the SSAWW conference in October--and the research/note-taking is done on this one), it seems like the right time to start the Fern project. I will confess, though, to having a lot of it already written in my head.

Major nerd alert, but it's so true: this first phase of research--hitting the MLA bibliography, ordering ILL materials, printing off articles, picking up books, really diving into the conversation--is just always so exciting to me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Creepy Syllabizing...

I just wrote the following on my Fall 2012 syllabus for ENGL 215 ("Creepy Lit"):

"W 11/28: Watch pilot episode of The Walking Dead"

That strikes me as very weird, very cool, and just a bit risky. But I think it will work. Good TV writing is, after all, literary, so studying a solid pilot like this one will help put a nice cap on our semester-long discussion of literary genres/forms. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Advising & Registration, 2012

It's Advising and Registration time again. One session down, four more to go. Today went pretty well. I had a good (if a bit quiet) group of students who got just about every class they wanted. It will be a different picture by the fifth session, but no use worrying about that now. I am also really excited to have two terrific A-Team students: they are smart, funny, and very helpful. 

The next session starts on Monday, so I've got a bit of a break to get some final revisions done to this article that needs to be back to the editor by July 15. (Did I post here yet that I got an article accepted for MELUS? It's pretty awesome!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Constance Fenimore Woolson on Louisa May Alcott

"What heroic, brave struggles. And what a splendid success" (qtd. in Gebhard 218).

I know I keep posting these "_____ on ______" entries, but I keep stumbling across great examples. It shouldn't surprise us that writers are so very good at witty and spot-on evaluations of their peers. This one strikes me as particularly poignant as Woolson, like Alcott, struggled with and wrote despite poor health, had long periods of self-doubt, and fought societal expectations about women-writers.

Alcott's grave marker in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. (Taken during my awesome vacation last summer)

Work Cited
Gebhard, Caroline. "Constance Fenimore Woolson Rewrites Bret Harte: The Sexual Politics of   Intertextuality." Critical Essays on Constance Fenimore Woolson. Ed. Cheryl B Torsney. New York: G.K. Hall, 1992. 217-23. Print.

Drunk Texts from Famous Authors

Check 'em out here. Of course, Emily Dickinson's is my favorite. (The Dan Brown one is the meanest, but also oh-so-funny.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't let his sweet face fool you...

Those of you who have met him might not believe it, but this animal turns into a wild beast once a year, when I take him to the vet. Yesterday was the worst ever. They had three people in the room to handle him, covered him in two towels, and even then the doctor said he thought it would be for the best to just give him his shot and skip the full exam. I was mortified. I apologized to everyone but finally had to abandon my "he's all bark but no bite" spiel--because this time, he was all about the bite (and the scratch), although no one got hurt.

The doctor suggested that next time we give him a mild sedative first. At least I have a year to prepare myself. Maybe I should take one, too.

The really amazing/frustrating part? Less than a minute after I get him home, he is just fine. Happy, purring--like everything is okay.

Seriously: this is one of the most stressful and traumatic things I have to go through every year. (Which, glass half-full, is pretty awesome, I suppose.) And oh, Bing went, too, and he did just fine.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

So long, summer school!

Just finished grading the final exams. The session really flew by!

Of course, training for Summer Advising and Registration begins tomorrow at 8:30. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Emily Dickinson on Hawthorne

"Hawthorne entices, appalls."

Perfect, right? And so very Dickinson.

Matt's back!

Even though this guy and his videos have been around for years, I only learned about them when my friend Jane showed one to me about a month ago. I was an instant fan. These videos just make me happy--and hopeful. Anyway, here's a new one, with happy dancing people from all over. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hawthorne on Melville

Wineapple's book continues to provide great little glimpses of Hawthorne and his world. Much has been written about Hawthorne and Melville's relationship and it seems like Hawthorne wasn't the good friend that Melville needed him to be. But Hawthorne clearly got Melville. He writes in his journal, "If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us" (293).

The barn at Arrowhead, where Melville and Hawthorne would sit and talk when Hawthorne visited.

Monday, June 18, 2012

David and his mansion

This past weekend found me up in Philadelphia, helping my friend David find a place to live as he prepares for a new (tenure-track!) job up there. I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I did get one of him at his new school outside the old mansion that now houses classrooms and his future office. Perfect.

Summer tableau

This doesn't tell the whole story of my summer, but it tells a lot of it (so far).

Bing has excellent taste in biographies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Since it was a West Coast game, I didn't hear about Matt Cain's perfect game until this morning. Something about these stories of perfect games and no hitters get to me--that there's always that play that adds to the delicious drama and tension of it all. Like this play, for instance:

I'm telling you, I watched that clip this morning and my eyes welled up with tears. It's just so beautiful. Yeah...I love this game.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"On Wanting to Tell [ ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes"

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this poem on the "Poem of the Day" podcast, listening to it on a road trip up to New York. It has sort of haunted me since then (perhaps I need a less dramatic word...)

As Szybist explains in the brief introduction she gives the poem in the audio clip you can find here, she wrote the poem after a friend died and--on that same night--the poet had dinner with some friends. I love the visceral grossness and energy (talk about needing another word!) of the little girl scampering around eating eyeballs--such a strange image and perfect of vibrant, youthful life and energy; this "almost feverish" bundle of youth, mercilessly gobbling up the world around her. Those last lines, too: just a knockout punch.
Mary Szybist

—how her loose curls float
above each silver fish as she leans in
to pluck its eyes—

You died just hours ago.
Not suddenly, no. You'd been dying so long   
nothing looked like itself: from your window,   
fishermen swirled sequins;   
fishnets entangled the moon.

Now the dark rain   
looks like dark rain. Only the wine   
shimmers with candlelight. I refill the glasses
and we raise a toast to you   
as so and so's daughter—elfin, jittery as a sparrow—
slides into another lap   
to eat another pair of slippery eyes   
with her soft fingers, fingers rosier each time,   
for being chewed a little.

If only I could go to you, revive you.
You must be a little alive still.   
I'd like to put this girl in your lap.
She's almost feverishly warm and she weighs   
hardly anything. I want to show you how   
she relishes each eye, to show you
her greed for them.   

She is placing one on her tongue,
bright as a polished coin—   

What do they taste like? I ask.
Twisting in my lap, she leans back
sleepily. They taste like eyes, she says.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hawthorne: A Life

To prepare for my seminar this fall, I am re-reading Brenda Wineapple's great biography of Hawthorne. (Actually, I think this will be the first time I've read the whole thing.) Whenever I dive into these big biographies, in addition to the "serious" notes I take, I keep a list of random facts/anecdotes that stand out to me. So here are a few from the opening chapters:

Hawthorne's kids sound like they were just as warm, fuzzy, and optimistic as their dear old dad. Daughter Una (an inspiration for Pearl in The Scarlet Letter) once wrote a poem called "Dead Sunshine" (11). Ha.

Hawthorne's Uncle Robert (Manning), an important figure in his life, since Nathaniel's father died when he was only four, once sent his young nephew these words of advice: "Study the hard lessons, learn all you can at school, mind your mother, don't look cross, hold up your head like a man, and keep your cloths [sic] clean" (24). Words of wisdom that still hold up today!

I hadn't come across this reference before, but I imagine it must be the letter that launched a thousand (okay, maybe dozens?) of dissertations/articles/book/conference papers: Fifteen-year-old Hawthorne, bemoaning that his carefree, childish days are behind him and the fact that he has to go to boarding school, writes to his sister Ebe, explaining, "But the happiest days of my life are gone. Why was I not a girl that I might have been pinned all my life to my Mother's apron?" (39). I am sure there were plenty of women who would have gladly switched places with poor Nathaniel.

Beyond these rather incidental bits, Wineapple provides some rather insightful commentary on Hawthorne and his work. I really like these words from her opening chapter, a chapter that begins by discussing where the three Hawthorne children ended up as adults: "With an insight so fine it bordered on the voluptuous, he crafted a style of exquisite ambiguity, of uncompromising passion and stubborn skepticism. Yet his characters are often curiously static, poised between self-knowledge and indifference, and like Hawthorne himself, confounded by what and who they are. For Hawthorne was a man of dignity, of mordant wit, of malicious anger; a man of depression and control; a forthright and candid man aching to confess but too proud, too obstinate, to ashamed to do so; a man of disclosure and disguise, both at once keen, cynical, and intelligent, who digs into his imagination to write of American men and women: isolated in their communities, burdened by their history, riven by their sense of crime and their perpetual, befuddled innocence; people ambitious and vain and displaced and willing, or perhaps forced, to live a double life, a secret life, an exemplary life, haunted and imprisoned, even as his children were--or, in Hawthorne's terms, as are we all" (12).

Work Cited

Wineapple, Brenda. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2003. Print.

This afternoon's reading companions...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Little hailstorm...

It's bright, hot, and sunny out today, but we have had some pretty strong storms these past couple of weeks. Thursday brought us a small hailstorm, which always excites me a bit (in part, I'm sure, because my car is usually safely parked in the garage). 

Here's some (relatively boring, I suppose) video. What impresses me is how loud it is, even through a closed door. I can't imagine even bigger stones.

For what it's worth, I saw this satirical PSA against vertical videos after I shot the darn thing above. Sorry.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kelsie's confirmation

It's hard to believe that Kelsie is 13 and old enough to take part in the Rite of Confirmation, but she is and she did (this past Sunday). I am so proud of the lovely, smart, and sweet young lady she is becoming. Some pictures from the celebration afterwards:

 Christian and Aidan.
 Ryan and Colin.

 Olivia and Erin.

 My mom and Colin.

Me and Kelsie.

 Eric, who always makes the best faces. He's going to be fun dad.

Jeff and my mom.

Me and Christian.

 All five siblings. (Perhaps you might notice my wardrobe change? I had to leave straight from the party to head back to WV and changed from my rather pretty dress into driving clothes. That's when my dad decided it was picture time. Sigh.)

 Kelsie and her tantes.

My parents and Kelsie.

Random cuteness


Sonic in Hagerstown opened today. I am ridiculously excited about this. It's still about 30/35 minutes away, but that's a lot better than over an hour (to get to the Winchester, VA or Chambersburg, PA locations).

I am not alone in my enthusiasm. This link takes you to a story from back in February about the proposed location. Next to that story is a reader poll showing that 76% of readers are "thrilled" about the story. Curiously, 4% of readers are "furious." Ha. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Psalm to Be Read with Closed Eyes"

I came across this rather haunting and meditative little poem a couple of weeks ago while catching up on issues of Poetry. That last image--of the child carried up to bed by his father--is just perfect, especially as a metaphor for getting through "the last days." I also love the contradiction inherent in a Psalm being "read" with "closed eyes," echoed in the idea of maybe being awakened but not knowing it. Terrific stuff.

 By D. Nurkse
Ignorance will carry me through the last days,
the blistering cities, over briny rivers
swarming with jellyfish, as once my father
carried me from the car up the tacked carpet
to the white bed, and if I woke, I never knew it.

Quick grading break...

Today doesn't feel quite like summer for a number of reasons. It's cool outside and a bit damp. The sun hasn't been out much this afternoon/evening. And--worst of all--I am grading midterm exams. Yup: these summer sessions fly by. Grading midterms is a bit more work than finals because I have to write actual, intelligible comments on these since the students get them back. (No one ever asks to get their final exams back.) The good news is that I've only got 13 to grade.

Still, I wish it felt a bit more summer-like. (Note:  I am not asking for a heat wave. Please--no heat waves!) Some things that help: One, the Yankees are playing the Rays tonight and it's on the MLB Network so I can watch. Second, my mind is on a decidedly summer concern: my air conditioning, which is most likely broken (although it hasn't been a problem with these cooler temperatures). I called to get someone to look at it last Wednesday (when it was warmer) and tomorrow is the earliest appointment they had. It actually isn't that big a deal since I hardly ever run it even when it is hot. Regardless, maybe I should have gone into the heating and cooling business. 'Cause apparently, business is booming.

Anyway, back to my exams. Five more to go.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Time to watch some GSN...

Sad news about Richard Dawson. Beyond watching him on Family Feud when I was a kid, my last years of college involved lots and lots of Game Show Network watching with my housemates, including Match Game. We even used to make our own silly Match Games for late night breaks. :) Richard was always my favorite.

Roanoke folks: I propose a game for old times' sake the next time we get together.