[UPDATE: some Bostonians have objected to my casual use of the word Masshole, believing me to harbor feelings that everyone who lives here is an asshole. Quite to the contrary, I simply assumed that was the correct term for someone from Massachusetts, along the line of Oregonad or Missourable Failure or Ohi-point is when you cross the border into Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvampires live. I have since discovered this not to be the case. As a contrite Oregonad I am very sorry.]
This edition of the rarely-updated and even-more-rarely-read chronicle of a random array of unimportant things is going to be heavy on the look-y, light on the read-y, largely because I am completely burnt out on writing. Though I won’t post any pictures of it because it is so boring to look at, the vast majority of my summer 2012 existence is being spent busting my ass on three research projects at once. Right now those three projects are:
- slogging my way through Robert Musil’s masterpiece Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften again–the last time I attempted this was in 2006, when my German was considerably worse, my familiarity with the late Austro-Hungarian empire next to nothing, and my self-discipline somewhat lacking. My self-discipline still sucks, but I’m trying a bit harder this time, given that I have to write not one but two articles on this excruciatingly difficult book–which, in case you are impressed by such things, is over two thousand pages long. The bright side is that most people–and thus also I–“only” really read the first 1000 pages. OH GOOD NOW IT’S EASY. This week I’ve managed 125 excruciatingly thin, tiny-printed and large pages. Keep in mind that I read very slowly and Musil’s vocabulary is, for a 20th Century writer, nearly unmatched. Oh, also the book doesn’t really have a “plot” to speak of. BECAUSE PLOTS ARE A MEANINGLESS CONSTRUCT OF A DECAYING 19th CENTURY IDEAL. All right.
- writing, at breakneck speed, an article on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Robert Walser’s much shorter and smaller-worded masterpiece Jakob von Gunten, an ingenious book about a very strange chap who attends a school for butlers at which nobody learns to be a butler. It is probably my favorite novel of my adulthood, sorry Franz Kafka, this guy taught you everything you know! He is the Paula Abdul to your Janet Jackson, choreography-wise. I hope for this article to be my writing sample on the you-know-what this year (I try not to utter the words “job market” when I don’t want to spiral into a rage/depression. A depRAGEion), as part of Operation: I am Not a Kafka Person. Why is this, given that I have been a massive Kafka fan for 20 of my nearly-36 years of life, and am now a full and official Kafka expert? Because in the German Studies world, everyone and their socially-awkward cousin is a Kafka expert, self-professed or other wise. The second they see the word “Kafka” in a writing sample they go into paroxysms of loathing (for example, as I went into an MLA interview last year, one search committee member said to another, “Which one is this again?” and then she remembered, and sneered, “Oh, KAFKA.” That interview went great, würg). So, despite the fact that in probably two years’ time (if I’m lucky) I will have a full and official book on Kafka out (more on that below), I am going incognito this year as a more general Modernist, WHICH IS TRUE, PEOPLE, and I have some fucking expertise on a seriously obscure Swiss dude to prove it. SWISS, people, that’s barely even German-speaking (according to Germans and Austrians, who are bigots).
- The aforementioned book; I’m currently working on a chapter about Kafka’s Schloß and Wittgenstein’s Paradox of Ostensive Definition. It is hard. That is all.
So, these three things occupy most of my time, which is good, because I have a lot of it here, because for the past week and the next five I am an official Architecture Widow. My significant other is attending, for fun and probably not profit, a summer program in urban design at the world’s most elite university, and spends every waking goddamned moment drafting and modeling and being critiqued and debriefed with a bunch of art students. I’d be jealous except I’m sure to them he comes across as SERIOUSLY OLD. IT’S TRUE, BUDDY, YOU KNOW IT.
We have still managed to have a few adventures, though, and now ends the write-y and begins the look-y. For you. The post-Instagrammed-pictures-y for me. Some highlights and “highlights” of the last week:
1. Our sublet in Cambridge has certainly grown on me (and, happily, is three blocks from the design school and thus enables my absentee urban planner to return home for meals, breaks, etc, so I can remember what he looks like every now and then), but when we arrived it was underwhelming to say the least. Rotting kombucha in the living room (and no, I am not being redundant: the kombucha, which is already a fungus, is growing decidedly toxic and disgusting mold on the top of it, and we are supposed to “let it do its thing”). General grad-studenty decor. But the crown jewel of this place is the “bed,” which, upon sitting on it, provoked first hilarity and then utter despair. This “bed” consists of literally the most disgusting and lumpy and crushed-down futon mattress I have ever seen, on top of two different sets of excruciating slats, mitigated by several flattened cardboard boxes. What. The. Fuck?
I really, really wracked my brain to develop a narrative in which two seemingly-functional non-addicted adults slept on this bed every night, and all I could come up with is that their toxic kombucha makes them hallucinate and their spirit animals provide extra padding. Anyway. We promptly put the ridiculous futon on the floor and that made it slightly more bearable, upgraded to junkie hovel from Penal Colony torture apparatus. Luckily a mere 12 hours later we were en route to being rescued by my remarkably kind and generous brother and sister-in-law, who happen to a) have a guest futon, and b) be leaving Boston in a few weeks. The guest futon was actually being used by my sister-in-law-in-law at the time, but she took one look at the photo above and took the couch out of pity for us. WE LOVE YOU, KIM.
2. Being in a real city! Here’s a duck boat. This represents the real-city-ness because it is full of tourists and tourists don’t come to stupid places with nothing in them like Columbus and St. Louis. PACE TO MY TWO HOME TOWNS BUT YOU SUCK. A LOT. FUCK YOU. I AM SERIOUS. Anyway. Duck boat.
3. My brother and sister-in-law, and, equally importantly, their dog Charlie, with whom I am 100% in love FOREVER. My brother and the Mrs. live in an apartment in the South End that is the polar opposite of ours in every way. Theirs is on the top floor, ours is on the bottom, theirs is awesome, ours is gross, theirs has a roof deck and a Charlie, ours does not, etc.
My sister-in-law, Charlie and the Boston skyline.
I have no reasonable way to end this post, and I’ve already used one That’s Entertainment! this month, so.