Following a request for more ‘day-to-day’ details on this blog, here goes –
Oscar Wilde, The Discovery, visas, LAMDA, indian ink – this is what a postgrad looks like.
1. I have stupidly, ridiculously signed up to do two presentations next week. KSB, tutor of joy & wonder (who, er, fed me with an orange from Catz SCR before last tute – I didn’t like to explain my request for a vending machine as ‘I never eat breakfast and am dying from having got up at 8 a.m.’, but I think she got the idea…) couldn’t quite conceal her horror at just how few presentations S and I did as undergraduates. I am trying to rectify this, and, no, I was right, I actually do hate giving academic presentations more than anything else in the world. As with most things, I try and compensate with bad humour and waving my hands about, which may well be a problem when I present on my ‘B’ course research next week. This is of course, The Discovery, which still, yes, does seem to be a discovery after five more days. Am sure I have completely overegged this. Next stop is a first edition currently housed in the EFL. By next Friday, I hope to have embarassed myself in front of all five of the MSt tutors I most respect. SE, possible future supervisor (who specialises in sitting in on the KSB classes and just knowing more than ANYBODY IN THE WORLD) is, wonderfully, actually writing a book on the topic I have to present on. I mean, a book. Covering 208 years of the relevant theme in the relevant genre. I’m wondering about, like, emigration.
2. Socialising has died as a result of work – managed to miss TWO parties on Friday & zinefest yesterday, count ’em. Team MSt 1780-1900 grows closer everyday, knotting itself into the shape of a many-headed hydra that eats its own young. M spends a lot of time being angry about bibliography, interfering as it does with his lifetime ambition of talking about poetry and stack-requesting bad books with good titles (see 6). S has got me watching Kid Nation, arguably the worst (and by worst, we mean BEST) piece of TV ever made. The other day they killed a chicken.
3. On the other hand, tonight I got to spend time with m’boy and his lovely, lovely sister. Considering how much she obviously adores him (and, sad as it is, I’m not far behind), neither of us will hear a word said to his discredit – which makes bitching about him in his presence all the more necessary/satisfying (‘and he’s in Much Ado and he HASN’T EVEN READ IT’). He is adorable, and always smells good. We watched Britney. I am overfamiliar with her work.
4. I am back on Michael Chabon, & today watched both Fawlty Towers & The Silence of the Lambs (the latter stupidly early this morning – couldn’t sleep), which remains my favourite film, ever (even if I do now acknowledge the serious problems with Hopkins’s accent). I’d like to watch the sequel, but I can’t stand Julianne Moore (why leave BEAUTIFUL JODIE FOSTER’S very BEAUTIFUL JODIE FACE?). The best thing today, though, is what my mother refers to as DABBLING IN ART. The cover for ‘Culo’ is done, and, well, perspective and proportion are overrated. Needless to say, the two panels on which I ACTUALLY TRIED are supremely inferior to the one I dashed off in ten minutes. I do have ideas for further projects, though. Ink is very forgiving. I am black to the elbows.
5. I have no idea what I’m doing next year, but mostly construct fantasy scenarios in which somone pays me a great deal to live in a mews flat, preferably in Soho, writing detective novels and yet crucially saving enough for a DPhil. When I’m not in Chicago, being Amy Sedaris c. 1985. When I’m not, obviously, Harriet Vane.
6. Here’s a book you shouldn’t read: Sebastian’s Tangibles. When I came across a review beginning ‘Sometimes, a book comes along that defies review‘, I mistakenly thought the critic had recognised the essential crapness of this bunk and all it stands for. Although I will read anything that fulfils even one of the criteria of being gay, Oxonian, and tortured, even I draw the line at this truly terrible book. I have enjoyed Ben Elton’s Dead Famous, I know Poirot by heart and yesterday I bought Heat magazine, but very truly, I say unto you – if you like this book, you should be ashamed of yourself. At first I thought it was the unflinching, unsparing chronicle of a fat old tutor’s passion for his promiscuous, presposterously beautiful ‘Sebbie’ (yes, he is called Sebastian. And yes, he is blonde) that was making me so uncomfortable, but instead it was the APPALLING WRITING that screamed at me from every page. I can’t find a place to slip this in without sounding pedantic, but, really – it’s meant to be set in Oxford, amongst academics, and yet author Anthea Ingham calls Magdalen ‘Magdalene’ and – on the first page – calls one Jane Austen, Austin. That’s not my objection, though. It’s every Oxford cliche going – it’s terrible Brideshead/Bosie fanfiction on two levels (Sebbie and his tutor Julian – I know, Sebbie and Julian, do you think she knew she was two syllables from Round the Horne? – study this Victorian poet called Melcourt, who’s not quite Oscar, who had a cruel lover called Toto, who’s fairly obviously Bosie. There are some dreadful bits of poetry by Melcourt, which I assume Ingham made up) – and, above all, although I can imagine a certain kind of imagination writing this stuff (me, for example, at sixteen) I can’t imagine anybody having the gall to show this kind of rot to other people. Why has this been published? It’s truly awful. The best bit is the cheesy mash Seb and Jules eat on page two hundred and something – oh, the ‘Tangibles’ of the title are the vast meals Sebastian eats at every opportunity.
The final plot twist is nearly good, although the very ending, the very very ending, is so embarassing that it should have stayed inside the author’s head. Re-reading the previous paragraph, I realise the gentle reader might have thought, initially, that ‘cheesy mash’ was a terrible euphemism. It isn’t, although, frankly it might as well have been – the sex, you see, just isn’t sexy. So. Sebastian’s Tangibles. Anthea Ingham. MSt co-conspirators and I read it last week. Rot.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.