12 August 2009

Birthdays, Pies, Jobs, Academe

Yesterday was my 24th birthday. This seems neither too old nor too young for me, but somehow the wrong age anyway. Then again, I am the girl who when quizzed on her age by strangers sometimes still accidentally answers that she is 18, an age I have had the pleasure of not being for many years now.

My birthday was good for a lot of reasons. I spent the morning at the library looking at old photos, then took a long walk. I got a card from my mother, many calls and emails from friends and family (including a priceless voicemail from my brother in which he admitted that he 1) had initially forgotten my birthday 2) didn't know how old I was at first and 3) didn't know what city I currently live in), and went out for a ridiculously delicious dinner with Bron.

The best part about my birthday is that I'm gearing up for a lot of changes. Soon I'll be leaving one of my library jobs (the unpaid one), which is sad, because I really adore the work I do there--leaving so I can have that time to work on graduate school applications, including revising my master's thesis from last summer (more on that in a moment). I've also recently quit my job at the cafe, which is somewhat less prudent financially, but personally is like a dead weight lifted from my shoulders.

I'm excited about the fall and having a little more free time (or, at least, self-scheduled time). I baked a pie last week (peach pie with cornmeal crust) and realized how little I've had time to bake in the past year.

I've been surprised as I've started looking over my research and writing for my thesis just how much I love the topic I chose, and just how much more I have to say about it. The fact that I still have so much enthusiasm for Sigurd is galvanizing--in some false small way it makes me feel justified for wanting to undertake a PhD, like my ability to resurrect enthusiasm for a project I had spent so much time on and then not looked at for months is somehow proof that I'm cut out for it. Truth is there is no way to prove that I'm cut out for anything, except to try it on, give it a good go, and see if it fits.

I'm also considering submitting an abstract, based on my thesis, to NEMLA. The deadline is at the end of September, and there is a panel on spatio-temporal shifts in 19th century literature that I think my thesis would speak to well--there's a large section in the beginning about Morris's ellision of landscape, mythos/storytelling, and past-ness that I was planning on fleshing out more.

It's just too bad I can't think of a plausible way to tie the project to the panel on "The Politics of Meat in the 19th Century Novel."

According to Bron, there are quite a few of us baby Academes-in-training who are hoping to hop to NEMLA this year. Are you?

30 June 2009

As far as bathing suits go, this one is pretty bleh--drop-waisted bathing suits flatter no one, not even this preternaturally thin Vogue illustration lady--however, all will be forgiven because CAPE!!

The pink version would be rad made up in shin vinyl, like a raincoat (raincape?), but the best part of the envelope is View B, wherein the Vogue illustrator gave up the silly notion that any woman would wear such a cape for any purpose other than to be a Bohemian French spy. She is clearly none other than Madame Clouseau on her way home from a jewel heist and clandestine tryst.

In other news, I have finished (finally) the dress I've been working on. I'd provide a photo, but I'm too lazy to get up and find the dress or the camera. It came together well, although I had to do some last minute taking in of the bust, as well as some extra bust gathers, to make it fit at the top. I had planned to cut the dress I'm making for Bronwyn today--it's a Vogue repro design and I'm doing it up in this fabric:

Yes, those are tiny books. Tiny red books. You can't see it in this picture, but they are tiny red books that have little covers reading "LABOR." It's going to go swimmingly!

22 June 2009

Re: In search of lost 19th century novelists

Woke up this morning to this post at Little Professor about lost 19th century novelists. It's a subject that comes up a lot whenever I talk to other Victorianists, but which I have only infrequently observed in earlier time periods. It's funny, though, how we (and by we I mean other Victorianists, or 19th-centurists, more broadly) think of lost vs. found. I mean, which groups are we talking about, here, anyway?

For example, Wilkie Collins. Very very popular in his day, and still instantly recognizable to the most average Brit--but rarely taught even to English majors in the states. Trollope is another good one. I rarely hear of him being on syllabi, and he appears known across the pond almost exclusively because of BBC adaptations--people have generally heard of him and have a vague idea that he is someone they should have read, but if you ask for a list of big-name 19th century novelists he is immediately squashed under DICKENS, ELIOT, HARDY, THACKERY etc. and rarely can anyone remember the titles of his novels (which is really sad, because they have excellent titles).

Elizabeth Gaskell is another of that list. I might have passed through all my undergraduate years without encountering her had it not been for Christine Cozzens excellent syllabus for a class called 'The Woman Question in Victorian Literature.' We read Ruth, which I think rarely makes it onto reading lists, overshadowed in the world of 19th-century novels about unwed mothers from the lowerish classes impregnated by rakish members of the upperish classes by Tess of the D'Ubervilles. In graduate school, I read both Sylvia's Lovers and Cranford, and it was not so much any one of them that convinced me of her talent, but the combination of all three. Each is so distinct in style and flavor--Cranford in particular is a sharp contrast in that it is nearly completely plotless, and yet is quite vibrant and readable, very funny, and seems laden with import even though the greatest plot point is a cow who wears pajamas.

So anyway, at the moment I'm reading Wives and Daughters, her last and almost-but-not-quite finished novel (I'm sort of looking forward to an unresolved end), which I have to say is pretty much blowing me away. Molly Gibson, the little heroine, is such a perfect character. She's somehow a direct descendent of both Fanny Price and Maggie Tulliver, at once obedient and dull while also managing outbursts of anger, dismay, and defiance. Gaskell's plot is reminiscent of some of the more re-used fairy tales (young, pretty daughter of widower encounters stepmother of dubious motives, stepsister of dubious morals--hijinx insue), but she layers it into a very textured world. Like Eliot, she is fond of in-jokes and jabs, a sarcastic and wry hand pervades, but she's also capable of startlingly astute scenes.

In closing, I'd like to leave y'all with this scene, which shows just how well Gaskell understands the pitfall of the fairytale plotline. Like Cinderella, or Snow White, or any of the other such girls, Molly has received the advice that to cope with her father's approaching marriage it is her responsibilty to accommodate everyone, to be good and self-effacing, to put everyone else's feelings before her own. If she is good, everything will be for the better. She responds:

"'I did try to remember what you said, and to think more of others, but it is so difficult sometimes; you know it is, don't you?'

'Yes,' he said, gravely.... 'It is difficult,' he went on,' but by and by you will be so much happier for it.'

'No, I shan't!' said Molly, shaking her head. 'It will be very dull when I shall have killed myself, as it were, and live only in trying to do, and to be, as other people like. I don't see any end to it. I might as well never have lived. And as for the happiness you speak of, I shall never be happy again.'

There was and unconscious depth in what she said, that Roger did not know how to answer at the moment; it was easier to address himself to the assertion of the girl of seventeen, that she should never be happy again.

'Nonsense: perhaps in ten years' time you will be looking back on the trial as a very light one--who knows?'

'I dare say it seems foolish; perhaps all our earthly trials will apear foolish to us after a while; perhaps whey seem so now to angels. But we are ourselves, you know, and this is now, not some time to come, a long, long way off. And we are not angels, to be comforted by seeing the ends for which everything is sent.'"

14 June 2009


So, I recently purchased a copy of McCall's Complete Book of Dressmaking by Marian Corey. It's from the fifties and is completely fabo. The full color illustrations alone would be worth the paltry sum I paid for it, but the glossary and instructions are excellent--particularly since Ms. Corey clearly has a preference for hand-techniques, so a lot of the stitches and techs in the back of the book are fancy lap work (which I always prefer).

The funniest part of the book, though, is the section on how to select becoming patterns. A woman should always dress in a becoming fashion, and should avoid all things that make her unbecoming. Her advice for the short and slender is absolutely ludicrous--all of it stuff that if I tried to wear it I would look so overwhelmed and clownish. Short girls should apparently never wear short skirts--their skirts should be as long as humanly possible, and if short skirts are in fashion they should hide in shame from them until they go out of style again. We should also never wear belts at the waist, or mary jane style shoes (ok, so that last bit is something I read in Fashion Mags to this day). We should be lax about fitting the bodices of our blouses, as the extra room will disguise our lack of chestiness. Slim shoulders should be disguised by humongous puffy sleeves and copious use of shoulder pads. Our jackets should be cut as long as possible to make us look longer.

Can you imagine me in a floor-length skirt, too-big blouse with shoulder pads and puffy sleeves to my wrists, a long jacket to my knees? I would look about 2" tall.

I think the skirt needs to be a little longer--what do y'all think?

30 April 2009


There is no milk. Do I:

1) Run to the corner store and buy some, come home, and make coffee
2) Run the the coffee shop, get coffee to go and come home to drink it
3) Actually prepare for my day, without the aid of coffee, and then get a coffee on the way to the library?
4) Have tea.

21 April 2009

Best Spams Ever

Subject line: How To Get Boys To Kiss You

Body: With bugles sounding, advanced up yonder street and under the conduct of shebasam.

It's practically poetry.

20 April 2009

Grad School: Bad School or Glad School?

Yes, I've been a bit lazy about updating my little blog recently--noticed perhaps only by Shiloh, my one faithful reader. Shi has recently settled on a graduate school program, gotten a scholarship for it, and is beginning the process of moving herself, her husband, and her insanely cute doggie across the county--I think congratulations are in order, and I thought I'd start with those since this post is about beginning the search for my own graduate program.

Last year, I completed a Master's degree at the University of London--I did this straight out of undergrad, which gave me a kind of mixed bag of experience. I should perhaps have listened more closely to friends and professors who advised me to wait a year before setting off into graduate study, because my goals upon entering that program and my goals now have definitely shifted--but on the other hand, as a personal experience, living in London, getting that degree, meeting my lady, and just generally having a year of study and reflection rather than sloth and dejection after getting my BA--these were all good things.

Anyway, this year has been a lot about figuring out professional goals, and I think I have a fair handle on what I want to do, and now I'm looking at schools that can help me get things done.

It's funny to be applying to graduate school again and to notice how much my methods and thinking about it have changed. The last time around, I was much more haphazard--I pretty much just relied on the universe to work things out for me, and went with my gut reaction to a school most of the time. I didn't look very closely at things like financial aid or the specific research interests of the school/faculty, and I went for quantity much more than quality in terms of my own applications. I guess in the end the universe has the last laugh--I do think things worked out for me, but not the way I expected.

This time around I'm trying to be more thorough. Funding is more important to me now than I realized last time around, so that's something I've paid more attention to, in addition to checking out faculty interests, course listings, institution's resources outside their department, resources in the surrounding area, and chances for internships and graduate research.

But, in the end, sometimes it does come down to a gut reaction--why do some programs stick in my mind while other similar ones fall by the wayside? Why are some programs so exciting that I am willing to overlook the fact that they are located in a cornfield surrounded by a windswept tundra of Midwesternness, while others remain only frustratingly place-bound? Trying to analyze these reactions can be confusing, and sometimes only comes down to good or bad website design (although, since I'm looking at MLIS programs, I DO think usability and clear information access are more important than they would be for, say, an English department website).

Other times, though, I think it has to do with voices--whose voice comes through the summary descriptions of two years or more of what my life might be? Is the voice the cold checklist of ALA-accreditation, or is it the warm voice of interest, scholarship, and history? Is the voice the voice of the bureaucracy of an institution, or is it the voice of the professors and department chairs who make up the fabric of the program? Sometimes, rarely, it can be the voice of the students themselves--today looking through the website of a program I'm kind of on the fence about, I found my way to the online publication of the MLIS students--articles about libraries and books, interviews with interesting professionals, photographs of great libraries around the world; all written and compiled by students, and showcased by a proud department. Suddenly, the search stopped being about what kind of classes were offered or how perfectly suited the catalog was to my interests, but rather about wanting to be in a place where students are interesting, thinking creatures, and a department filled with faculty who are capable of recognizing that and promoting it.

And in the end, that is exactly what I want from a school, you know.

04 March 2009

The Young Victoria

Has anyone else been following the buzz of this The Young Victoria film that premiers in a few days? It's a UK film, starring Emily Blunt as Mrs. Saxe-Coburg-etc. and I have no idea when it's supposed to be released here in the states, but I hope really, really soon 'cause it looks all kinds of awesome. Paul Bettany is in it! As Lord Melbourne! Watching the trailer, it seems like he's supposed to be the films villain, which is pretty funny, and they've also seemingly hyped up the rumors of Victoria's affair with him. The actual Lord Melbourne was something like 40 years Victoria's senior, whereas Bettany is only about 10 years older than Emily Blunt, but that's a little par for the course. The most realistic moment in the trailer is when Victoria asks Albert if she can just get married and forfeit her power to her husband.

In other news, I won some free patterns from the nice folks over at The Hemline. More on that soon--in the meantime, I'm off to work.

20 February 2009

I hear kids are experimenting with shortness these days...

There are a bunch of really lovely mod designer patterns over at MomsPatterns right now. Most of them are not in my size, or not in my style, but are really lovely to look at. I'm particularly taken with this one [*EDIT* upon re-reading this, it sounds like I think this is a mod design, which it isn't. Most of the others are, this one is anomalous. But for serious, lots of chic, funnel-necked mod frocks with oblong hats to be found]:

I love the sunny yellow and the floral version too--it's beautiful. Unfortunately for me, I'm way too short to pull it off. It would look like a bad nightgown on me, and the sleeves would completely overwhelm my wimpy little arms and puny shoulders. Alas for a bit of height, for this is exactly the sort of dress my sister (who has my proportions exactly, but stretched over a 5'7-8''ish frame) or my mama (ditto) can pull off in a snap. They also have the hair for it. While my straight-as-sticks Molly McIntire hair would be at odds with the free-spirit-yness of this, they both have naturally curly hair that's made for a wreath of flowers and a floor-length floral frock.

Also, it has pockets.

It's definitely a step up from the CHUB-DEB.

18 February 2009

Attack of the Chub-Deb

Sized for the CHUB-DEB?

Seriously, sized for the CHUB-DEB?

Advance Pattern Company, to you I say, "WTF?!"