I should be blogging about Afghanistan and Mad Men and the Beatles
... but who has time to blog about such things at a time like this? I’m way too busy with teaching and writing letters of recommendation and reading students’ applications and personal statements and going to meetings and reading other things and basically doing my day job. I wonder how many people realize that October is crunch time for professors. Other than other professors, of course.
And though I have to admit that I didn’t have the good sense to plan this week’s course preps back in July, I am pleased to find myself teaching The Sound and the Fury in my “Stranger than Fiction” senior seminar and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in my Intro to Disability Studies in the Humanities course. I am enjoying this immensely, and I hope that some of my students are too. Feel free to ask me about cognitive disability and narrative! I’m supposed to write a book about these things one of these days.
In the meantime, here are two Important Pictures. Each of them Tells a Story, and the two of them together tell Yet Another Story, a Story about My Life. One of these days I’ll get around to writing those stories, if you like. Especially the Story of the Broken Stick, which will make you laugh and/or cry, depending on how much you care about hockey sticks.
As for Mad Men: poor Sal.
Hockey’s a game played mainly by young women isn’t it?Posted by on 10/14 at 03:13 AM
Please don’t show that top picture to your doctor. Painting like that is just so wrong; it is the very reason most of us hire people and tell them what to paint. Is this the broken stick from the 48th birthday game??? Or worse, were you trying to use the stick to help paint the bottom of the sidings of the garage in restoration???
Non lo so, but compassion for Sal??Posted by on 10/14 at 03:59 AM
Okay, I’ll bite: Michael, please tell us a story about cognitive disability and narrative!
When I read it a few years ago, I’d seen The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as close in some ways to Pamela Dean’s The Dubious Hills, where the narrator is kept from talking about certain things by ... well, I won’t spoil it. But Faulkner makes sense.Posted by Sherman Dorn on 10/14 at 06:27 AM
Zarquon, where did that cartoon come from? Spyder: yes, yes, I know. This is one of seven things I did wrong in the course of painting the dang house. However, the people we hired a few years ago did nine things wrong, so it all evens out. Kind of. The stick scored 4 in two B games on the birthday weekend, but did not survive this weekend’s A game—no, I’m not going to tell that story yet. And Sherman, just one thing for now: I did not say I’d tell any stories about cognitive disability and narrative. But I will tell you one of the things I told my students in both classes, namely, that when a narrative contains a character with a cognitive disability, it always asks the question—however implicitly—of whether that character understands the narrative s/he inhabits, and with what consequences. Which is one reason the “detective” frame of Curious Incident works so well. (Another is that detective stories and disability go together like Longstreet and Monk!)Posted by Michael on 10/14 at 08:04 AM
Michael, in re: your disability and narrative class, you might check out Marco Roth’s essay “The Rise of the Neuronovel” in the latest n+1. It offers a fascinating argument for this wave of novels featuring neurologically disabled characters. Your friend Richard Powers rates some discussion, among others. After reading it recently I wondered what you might have to say about it.Posted by on 10/14 at 08:51 AM
I would have had the story all wrong. My thought was that the first picture was of you coming to after being struck in the head with the weapon captured in picture two. In picture one, it’s pretty clear that all you had to defend yourself was a paint brush. Clearly, you put up a good fight. (A belated happy birthday!)Posted by on 10/14 at 09:06 AM
and the two of them together tell Yet Another Story, a Story about My Life.
Four possibilities immediately spring to mind:
1) Top picture is MB performing the prescribed ritual lamentations of the Owa Tagu Siam sect of Buddhism upon the loss or destruction of a cherished possession. The key element is prostrating yourself, rolling about and gesturing towards your most costly remaining possession while chanting the name of the sect with an increasing cadence.
2) He is about to draw the narrative of the broken hockey stick on his foundation using the end of a burnt stick.
3) MB is being dragged to his backyard by Sean Avery (out of picture to the left) where Avery will then beat MB mercilessly with MB’s own hockey stick (breaking it in the process) for dissing Avery in a recent comment on this very blog.
4) None of the above.
(And no, no one will ever look beneath there, but I’m sure it made you feel better. And I usually don’t do captchas… but “house”.)Posted by on 10/14 at 10:09 AM
I have a photo of me similar to your photo #1, except I had to lie down between the house the a bunch of prickly juniper bushes to paint the underside of the bottom course of siding. What a fun way to spend one’s summer.Posted by on 10/14 at 10:46 AM
Looking forward to that book!Posted by Maud Newton on 10/14 at 10:52 AM
>> October is crunch time for professors
I don’t think I ever quite put it that way, but, put that way, it explains *so much*.Posted by Lisa Bickmore on 10/14 at 11:30 AM
Hi, Maud! It’ll be a while yet, but it’ll be a more fun book than Ye Left At War, that’s for sure.
Kevin: Michael, in re: your disability and narrative class, you might check out Marco Roth’s essay “The Rise of the Neuronovel” in the latest n+1.
Well, I’m not teaching a whole class on this just yet, but thanks for the tip! The opening is enticing, and I’ve just decided to pony up $2 for The Whole Thing. I’ll be back one of these days with a response.
Chris, JP, would it help if I acknowledged that the first picture was taken two months before the second? There’s no way I would put myself in that position after being diagnosed with a pinched nerve. And thanks for reminding me that Avery is still a Ranger. He also has a teammate named Brashear, they tell me.
And no, no one will ever look beneath there, but I’m sure it made you feel better.
Tell it to Emily. Emily, you and I know that guests and family members check the underside of the bottom course of siding all the time. You know where else they check? The underside of the top course of siding, just behind the TV cable. There are still a few schoolhouse-red patches up there that can only be seen at night if you shine a bright light directly on them, but don’t think people don’t notice these things.Posted by Michael on 10/14 at 11:36 AM
So the photos illustrate that spinal columns (much like plots) have the capacity to twist and turn (though a great deal of pain may result from getting too far out of register) but hockey sticks ... not so much.
Cognitive disability is something we all have to a greater or lesser extent isn’t it? Is there ever a reliable narrator or, in keeping with your (Haddon’s) detective theme, a reliable eye witness?
I thought Christopher’s perspective in The Curious Incident ...was quite well-written and eye-opening; I found myself saying “yes, that makes sense if you think about it from that perspective” a great deal.
Sound and Fury was too long ago to remember in any detail but I don’t recall that I thought Benjy’s POV was any less reliable than the others.
Longstreet (oh the crush I had on James Franciscus) ages us.
I look forward to your narrative(s).Posted by on 10/14 at 11:49 AM
Am also interested, of course, on your expounding on cognitive disability and narrative. I’m interested in your students’ response to The Curious Incident. I read it and liked it, but I found that people with less experience of disability in their life found it exceptional and all kinds of other superlative words. I also heard “so that’s what autism is like.” I also just read a book called Amphibian (by Carla Gunn) about a 9-year-old who is desperate to save the world from ecological ruin. So many people who read it labelled the kid with OCD and I just saw him as very bright and sensitive.Posted by on 10/14 at 01:33 PM
would it help if I acknowledged that the first picture was taken two months before the second?
Sheesh! What part of “4) None of the above.” don’t you understand?
The Sound and the Fury (which I read in high school) was the book that really opened my eyes to the limitations of any narrator and in particular to reexamine my unthinking acceptance of seemingly objective global omniscience as the “normal” way to tell a story. Thinking back on it, my attitude probably changed to something perilously close to “We are all Benjy now”; however; it was the book that jarred my thinking on the subject, something reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest a few years earlier should have done, but didn’t.
I probably need to revisit The Curious Incident; I recall being a little put off by it in a “this is what disability looks like when you in fact aren’t actually thwarted by the disability” kind of way. But that does not hold up as a general criticism, and is probably more a reflection of my inability to distance myself from the book than anything contained within the book itself*.
*Eliding for the moment what I might possibly mean by “contained within the book itself”.Posted by on 10/14 at 02:23 PM
Sorry, I thought if I included too many links the comment would be spaminated. The cartoon is from a blog dedicated to the works of Ronald Searle, ronaldsearle.blogspot.com, specifically this post.Posted by on 10/14 at 03:54 PM
But I will tell you one of the things I told my students in both classes, namely, that when a narrative contains a character with a cognitive disability,
they need to break the hockey stick in the third act.
Please don’t show that top picture to your doctor
...unless you want to drive ver mad with lust.
guests and family members check the underside of the bottom
Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!Posted by on 10/14 at 04:40 PM
All I can say after this weeks episode is that Betty and Don deserve each other.Posted by on 10/14 at 10:36 PM
So why is October crunch time for professors?
I ask not to be snarky, but I wonder whether knowing this would help students understand the rhythm of a semester better.
Captcha (sic?): “tell”Posted by Mitchell Freedman on 10/15 at 01:43 AM
Well, that’s one way to do crunches. But shouldn’t you have finished the sideboard facings before attending to such normally-unseen detail work? That’d lessen the chance of overlap lines showing up later.
Over here, we had the entire house painted just last week by a swarming horde of Guatemalans. They did a fine job overall, and as I roam about absentmindedly attending to minor touch-ups, I’ll thank the stars that my fantasy of doing the entire job myself were quashed by the wiser SO.
Not that I have much else to show for the summer, but hey: crunches are where you find them.Posted by on 10/15 at 02:50 AM
Grrr: fantasies were, fantasy was. Why do such things only stick out after hitting “submit?”Posted by on 10/15 at 02:57 AM
I like the “just yet.”Posted by Sherman Dorn on 10/15 at 07:54 AM
Well, Sherman, one of these days I really ought to teach a course on cognitive disability and narrative. Back to Kevin @ 5: I did read Roth’s essay and enjoyed it right up until it rode off the rails at the end by getting a bit too meta- about the social position of novelists. But the contest between psychology and neurology is depicted well, and Roth asks the right question about the idea of Proust as neuroscientist: maybe, just maybe, neuroscience could learn something from novels? More on this another time, when I figure out why James Wood would love him a novel about Capgras syndrome that he describes as “perhaps” a novel about Capgras syndrome while not loving him Richard Powers’s novel about Capgras syndrome because it’s got all that Capgras syndrome stuff in it.
Clare @ 13: I’m interested in your students’ response to The Curious Incident. I read it and liked it, but I found that people with less experience of disability in their life found it exceptional and all kinds of other superlative words. I also heard “so that’s what autism is like.”
Yeah, I tried to head that off at the pass on Tuesday, by suggesting to students that they not read it mimetically at all, let alone as The One True Novel about the Experience of Autism. I noted wryly, however, that the title page references Haddon’s work with children with autism, and even the dang copyright page says that Christopher is autistic. And, of course, it’s in a disability studies class, which kind of skews the mimetic expectations accordingly. But still, what can this narrative tell us about narrative? About detective fiction? About metafictional self-reference—as when Christopher’s father discovers the book we’re reading?
To JP @ 14: I recall being a little put off by it in a “this is what disability looks like when you in fact aren’t actually thwarted by the disability” kind of way.
Yeah, there’s some of that, though Christopher clearly is hampered as a narrator in some respects. I had that reaction to Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark, though, and I note also that Moon had to invent another narrative voice/POV in order to get certain exposition-type work done at crucial moments. Which makes Haddon’s work all the more impressive, I think.
Mitchell @ 18: So why is October crunch time for professors?
We’re grading papers and midterms; our graduate students are looking for jobs whose application deadlines are usually around November 1, so we’re reading their dissertations and letters of application and writing our own letters for them, which are detailed and painstaking (if we’re doing our jobs properly); we’re already proposing and planning our courses for the next academic year (almost no one knows this, I think); we’re advising undergraduates on law school, graduate school, honors theses, and so forth; we’re finishing up tenure/promotion reviews (either reading ‘em or writing ‘em); we’re writing letters of recommendation for our colleagues’ and former students’ applications for fellowships. Basically, we’re doing all the stuff that determines what will happen to people next year, while doing our usual prepping and grading. The December crunch isn’t nearly so difficult, I find. And that’s why I don’t have time to (a) expand on Elliot’s observation that Betty and Don deserve each other (as they do, though Betty wouldn’t have sex w/Francis in his office and considers renting a room too “tawdry,” whereas Don is happy to compensate for his difficulties at work—Roger, Hilton—by shtupping a schoolteacher at midnight) or (b) prove to you by algebra that prog-rock is the Devil’s music.
Romy @ 19: But shouldn’t you have finished the sideboard facings before attending to such normally-unseen detail work?
Grrrrrrrrr. Everyone’s a critic. No need, in this case, because I was painting a lighter color over the too-dark color Janet had originally chosen, and would have to come back with a second coat of the lighter stuff anyway. The unseen detail, btw, got only the one coat.
Also, Janet said, “I want a picture of you doing your crazy-ass doing-the-part-that-no-one-will-see bit.”Posted by Michael on 10/15 at 09:13 AM
Grrrrrrrrr. Everyone’s a critic.
Well, I admit I would have done the job differently.Posted by on 10/15 at 10:30 AM
According to Red State, We Are All Rush Limbaugh Now (or we were last night, anyway). True death of parody stuff; I dare you to try to top it.
Earlier this evening, as most of you now know, one of our own, Rush Hudson Limbaugh, while taking withering fire, crashed and burned.
Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a radio personality.
Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a NFL owner denied
Tonight, Rush is us. And we are him.
Tonight Rush became the metaphor for all of us… every man woman and child in this great nation of ours…
And goes on to invoke “first they came for the communists”.
(via TBogg)Posted by on 10/15 at 12:20 PM
I think Rush should get the team. That’s the free enterprise system. And when players want a premium to play there, and sponsors leave, and fans decide they don’t want to show up, that’s the free enterprise system as well.
e.Posted by on 10/15 at 12:28 PM
Michael @ 22: maybe, just maybe, neuroscience could learn something from novels?
When you write this piece, Michael, you are the person to take on this recent study on the way in which the “nonsense” (NYT) or “meaning threats” (Proulx and Heine) of Kafka improve pattern recognition (a.k.a. “thinking") in test subjects. I especially like Proulx’s comment in the Guardian piece that “It’s important to note that sitting down with a Kafka story before exam time probably wouldn’t boost your performance on a test,” which will surely be welcomed by all the students in my next world literature class.Posted by on 10/15 at 01:17 PM
Michael, have you read Atmospheric Distrubances by Rivka Galchen? Was it mentioned in Rise of the Neuronovel (which I’ll have to find and read straight away)? I’d be very interested to know what you think about it as it seems rather close to Echomaker (subtract the Edgar Allen Poe Locked Rooms Mystery element and replace with Hitchcockian Doubles and Borgesian Riddles).Posted by on 10/18 at 08:47 AM
I’m late to the thread, but allow me to recommend collecting your broken hockey sticks and building furniture from them. Then you can recount the stories that live in each stick to your guests as they relax on said furniture. Like this:
(Partisans will have to overlook the logo; this chair was for my daughter and that is her team)Posted by on 10/20 at 03:32 PM
Here is your guide in improving your home.Posted by siding options on 05/29 at 10:03 AM
Hey, it is too common story because I also do not have time for other work because I am very busy in my own work.Posted by In-Home Eyeglasses Trial on 04/11 at 03:13 AM