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Showing posts from December, 2011

That was the year that was

Like most years 2011 was both good and bad. For the most part though, it was somewhere in between. Try as I might, though, I doubt I could write this without referencing the political climate.

My stint teaching poetry and creative writing at Kingston University came to an end with my decision that academia would not be the path I would walk down - not least because Tories in power seem to hate the humanities and immediately set about making any future endeavour in that regard hundreds of times more precarious than it needs - or should - be. I already miss the interaction with fellow writers but I do not miss the mountains of marking!

I was also glad to bid goodbye to a communications job that I'd also held for the duration of both phd and teaching, enduring it as a means to an end, and little else, but a role in which I'd communicated to the English speaking world how dangerous UGG-type boots are, having been designed in Australia as slippers and not for the cracked, concrete …

Judas' Gift

The current (Christmas) issue of the London Review of Books features a one-page essay by writer and psychoanalyst (psychoanalyst writer?), Adam Phillips.

The last essay I read by Phillips, In Praise of Difficult Children, was - what other word can I use except 'brilliant'? From that can be unpacked: Insightful, thought-provoking, reassuring... Well it is the same of this current one, Judas' Gift. (There have been others in the LRB etween In Praise of ... and this one, which were also most of the above.) But perhaps there is a link between In Praise Of and Judas' Gift.

The latter lays out the elements of betrayal and then repositions them using the world's most famous traitor, Judas.

Phillips asks the reader to consider ourselves a betrayer; not just that, but to embrace it for what it could represent. It is Bob Dylan who is used to open this topic, though, and his betrayal of acoustic at Manchester's Free Trade Hall. Dylan had the audacity to greet his loyal fo…


Yesterday began with the sad news that Christopher Hitchens had died. He had only been in the periphery of my mind until his book, God is Not Great, joined Dawkins's, cementing that ever-increasing movement, The New Atheists. A force for good simply because they questioned and interrogated the authorities that too many have been dominated by - within and without - for many a long century. There are those who turned away from 'The Hitch' when he voted for Dubya Bush because Hitch wanted war against 'Islamo-fascism'. Although he claimed he was always a Marxist. He lived his life dialectically - always interrogating his beliefs as he went along and not being afraid to discard old skins for newer, truer ones. Therefore, seen in that regard, I believe we can see him as a true Marxist - the dialectic being the driving force - moving onward to new thesis/antethesis. Denis McShane MP called him a cross between Voltaire and Orwell, a pleasing combination - Orwell, as brilli…

It figures

In the Dec/Jan issue of Literary Review Frances Wilson opens in Pulpit with a piece on Titanoraks. The centenary of the Titanic is April 2012 and Wilson has a book due out in time - but then so do plenty of others, keen to capitalise on the widespread hunger of the tragedy that still exists, even for those who learned of it only through Winslet and di Caprio. Wilson likens Titanorachia (?) to a relationship that just won't let the other party let go. What I found interesting though is the fascination of the figures surrounding the journey - both before, during, and after - as Wilson charts, noting, for instance, the number of cooks on board the fateful liner. She suggests that the story could be replaced with the key figures:

14 April 1912
46,000 tons
882.75 feet long
22 knots
300 foot gash
20 lifeboats
1,178 people on board
705 survivors

The figures presented this way present as compelling a narrative as any words - and the moment builds to the final, sinking figure. I read this pi…


This is, frustratingly, my third attempt at writing this post. The previous two attempts were gobbled up by my iPhone blog app. Anyway, here goes nothing. I took a long anticipated short break to Iceland last week in the hope of seeing the northern lights. I didn't see them, which means I'll probably go off to Norway next year to see if they can be viewed from there instead. It was a refreshing and revitalising few days that I timed a few days before I sat my viva - although perhaps Iceland wasn't the best place to go given that Ketla is due to go off and I could have been stranded there and missed the viva! I was pleased, upon arrival, that my room, which had skylights, was overlooked by this - the Hallgrimskirkja - Iceland's tallest church.

On the Tuesday I went on a full day's tour of the Golden Circle, upto some ancient bishopric, then onto the Gullfoss waterfall, which seemed like a feat of nature - this roaring waterfall pushing through amidst a landscape of i…


I had my phd viva this afternoon. I was grilled for over an hour on both the critical and creative elements of my thesis, and then it was suggested I go and get myself a coffee for twenty minutes. When I was called back I was put out of my misery with hearty congratulations from my internal examiner, Vesna Goldsworthy, and external examiner, Francis Spufford. I have minor revisions to make: add more justification for my use of a key term, a few typos, and a little bit on Ethel Carnie, and then it becomes official.

It's the end of what has been a fairly continuous eight-year journey. The phd took three years, but there was an MA and BA too. But I feel no appetite to dive into any other academic endeavour. That may change but if there is anything I doubt very much that it would be formal. I have to say that the examiners were lovely but did push hard on their points, but one can expect nothing less. So, it's onward, as ever.

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