A year in first lines

The work year is winding down—albeit slowly, with university information day lectures and advising on Saturday, an extended abstract to submit with a co-author, some editorial work and various administrative tasks. I am making peace with tasks left undone and readying to relax into summer. Without my daughter at school, it’s a strange transition to holidays this year. The heat in Sydney this week is helping everyone settle into languidness (the forecast for Thursday is 39ºC in our neck of the woods).

Over the break I am looking forward to doing some reading of the type described by Kate Cole-Adams in Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness (although my tastes lean more towards the comforts of dystopian fiction):

In the months after my mother’s diagnosis and prognosis and all that followed, I took to reading—or more often re-reading—the Regency romances of the late Georgette Heyer. Bright, witty confections filled with impatient men and irrespressible women. A slender, predictable plot (elopements, kidnappings, tangles of one sort or another) stitched together with a mass of extravagant period detail …

I was amused and a little startled at how comforting I still found them … It was the yearning. An indefinite, pre-sexual ache. The longing for another skin to enclose my own, to hold me in, to keep me safe and entire and complete. A yearning that, through the ritualised choreography of Heyer’s imagination, and for the duration of the book, would be satisfied. Because that is the contract. The fantasy of permanence.

I borrowed the meme for this post—a year of first lines—from one of my favourite book bloggers Whispering Gums. The first year anniversary of this blog passed unremarked in November, so this is an enjoyable way of wrapping up 2017 and revisiting a first year of posts.

January: Inspiring aspirations

I love the start of a new year. There’s something delicious about the beginnings of things—books, semesters, people—don’t you think?

February: Writing differently

I have had a wonderful fortnight of writing.

March: Rejection

After celebrating an enjoyable and productive writing period in an earlier post, I am now cast down after a rejection.

April: Teaching and mortality

I’ve been thinking about my approach to teaching lately.

May: Quantified academia

At a conference dinner a few years ago, my dinner companion asked me ‘what’s your h-index?’

June: Undercare in the academy

Sometimes a new (to me) word comes along that seems to perfectly encapsulate a whole lot of previously disconnected ideas.

July: Good enough

I moved office today, which makes it the perfect time to consider what I want to display on the walls.

August: What matters

This is not the post I had planned to write.

September: Complicity

Like many of you, no doubt, I have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale.

October: Strategies for working during tough times

Last year, while the centre I worked in was being disestablished, I watched an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine with my son.

November: Uncertainty

It is hard to write this week.

And taking us full circle, this post started “The work year is winding down…” and then listed jobs that still need to be completed. It is hard to let go of work. But if ever a year deserved a holiday, it is 2017. I am reading Anne of Green Gables with my daughter at the moment, and her effervescent optimism is echoing through our days: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

4 thoughts on “A year in first lines

  1. Oh what a lovely thing to say about my blog Slow Academic! I agree with your slow mantra, I must say, particularly with reading. I wish I had more time to read, but whenever I do read I like to read slowly – to soak up the words, ideas, images.

    Anyhow, your first lines have tantalised me and so while I should be doing some prep for my reading group’s potluck here tonight, I’m going to meander a little through your blog first!


    • Thank you Whispering Gums for reading and commenting. Your blog brings me a lot of pleasure and, I must confess, sometimes vicarious reading. Time is such a challenge for us all, especially those of us who like to meander. I hope you still had time for your reading group potluck preparations. It sounds like you have a lovely evening ahead.


      • Thanks Agnes (is it?). We had a great evening, including discussing our favourite reads of the year, which ended up being, iii I heard correctly, Pachinko, Black Rock White City, Position Doubtful, and The museum of modern love. When we asked if there was a book people wish they hadn’t read, no-one said anything – which is a good result I think.


  2. Pingback: A year of books and questions | The Slow Academic

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