Between Semesters

I am now officially between semesters. As a student this was one of my favorite times of the year. If my memory serves, we usually had five or so weeks off before the spring semester began. Now, as I grow into a middle-aged professor of English, the much-cherished time between semesters seems to decrease every year. This year we will have a little over three weeks before the next semester begins; barely enough time to catch one’s breath.

I used to devote my time between semesters to reading really big novels, usually Russian. The beginning of winter always seemed to be the perfect time to start a lengthy Russian novel with all of those names that I tried to keep straight. This year will be different. I have just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s magnificent novel, 1Q84. The problem is, that novel comes in at just over 900 pages (925 to be exact), and I now lack the energy to tackle a lengthy Russian novel or something by Dickens. So this year I have decided to read several short to medium length novels. A short novel is usually around 120 pages or so (a novella, really) and a medium length novel is somewhere around 300 pages—at least in my world.

I plan on beginning with Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters and moving onto Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich, then The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai. From there the path becomes unclear, but I do plan on re-reading The Rebel by Albert Camus and diving into Nathaniel Philbrick’s new book, Why Read Moby-Dick? There is a lot of non-fiction and journal articles I need to catch up on, and there is always my own research for a book I am writing on contemporary narrative and the concept of home. I plan on reading as many newspapers as I can to gear up for the New Hampshire Primary, which I hope to report about on this blog. I would also love to interview Leonard Cohen. I would call the article “The Last Cool Man,” and, among other things, attempt to discover the art of how a man stays cool well into his 70s. Justin Timberlake take note: there is only one Leonard Cohen.

One project is for certain: I do plan on reading as much as I can on ghosts, demonology, and witchcraft, particularly in colonial America. A few weeks ago I began writing the second volume for the ghost project. This time I plan on introducing a particularly unsavory character, a Congregational pastor whose name just happens to be quite close to my own. Of course, I would like to take credit for this being clever on my part, but I am really stealing the idea from Jorge Luis Borges, Javier Marías, and Roberto Bolaño. If one is going to steal, then one should steal from the masters.

So I have stocked up on books and scotch, my iPod is fully charged, and the car is full of gas. I plan on disappearing for at least a little while into the printed page, or the movie theater, or onto some lonesome highway, or better yet, back into the lives of my children full time. Maybe I’ll even get to know my wife again. If all goes well no one from my professional life will know how to reach me.

I don’t think I’ll even answer the phone until the second week of January.

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