Monday, December 31, 2007

Job Search, Phase Two

I don't actually know that this phase 2 of the job search--I'm sure that I could break down the application process into at least half a dozen mini-phases--but we'll call it that, because once again I'm in the waiting stage. Ugh. Last year somewhere I compared the job search to trying to date in junior high: waiting by the phone even though you know perfectly well that there's no actual chance that your great love, that dark-haired boy who rides your bus and plays second violin in the school orchestra, is going to call you, since you almost never even say hello to him (despite having all of your classes together) and anyway at the last school dance he slow danced with K like three times, and their elbows were bent, meaning that they were actually standing within about a foot of each other, so clearly there's something going on there although of course in your heart you're going to deny it because he's just so cute. But yeah, he's probably not going to call, at least not right now, and yet that doesn't stop you from leaping up with heart a-flutter every time the phone rings. This is what phase 2 is like. It's what phase 1 is like, too, for that matter, because that's when you're waiting for the interviews to be scheduled in the first place.

I've already been rejected (very kindly) from Very Good School, which is a bummer, but I've processed it and am okay with it. I also really appreciate being told so early that I won't be on the short-list. Rejecting rejected candidates nicely and promptly is a good thing to do; it's kind of like the guy who's not interested in you but manages to not get all weird even after your stupid best friend lets him know that you like him (to continue the middle-school analogy).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Interview Iditarod

It's been quiet around here, I know. But I don't like to blog from my mother's house--it makes me nervous; also, the cat and dog hair infiltrates my keyboard in nasty ways, and the dog tries to put his nose on my screen, and I was doing a lot of drinking, and I have various other excuses. Okay, yeah, I've been lazy, all right?

Anyway, here I am, deep in the trenches: 60% through the MLA interview quintifecta. (I don't know if that would even be the right word, if it were a word. I'm tired.)

A blinding snowstorm hit Chicago today, making the trek back and forth between hotels all the more exciting. Everything is now rather soggy. But since I got my current job after an absurd late-night interview with many mitigating distractions, I like to think that I work well with logistical difficulty. The interviews were fine, anyway, I think. By the last one I was feeling a bit wound up and rambly, but I didn't say anything identifiably crazy. One thing that I really like about interviewing is how nice everyone is, though. The interviewers are all talking up their schools and asking interesting questions about my research and, as conversations, they're pretty fun. Fun conversations do not necessarily translate into jobs, however, so one must be circumspect. Cautious optimism remains the order of the day.

(I have the feeling that I'm malapropping and mixing metaphors all over the place. "Malapropping" probably isn't even a word. Feh. I've used up today's brain allotment, okay?)

Before I trundle off to a long nap, I will add that last night's blogger meet-up was lovely and fun; my only regrets are a) that I was incapable of imbibing much at all and had to go to bed early, and b) that there were a couple of bloggers that I didn't get to speak to at much length. However, I did get to speak to several others at length, and really it was the aforementioned bed-going-off-t0 that kept me from talking to the others. So I'm hoping to run into a couple of them during the rest of the conference.

In the meantime: Happy MLAing, everyone! Good luck with papers and interviews!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Book Meme

Both Medieval Woman and Belle tagged me for the meme in which one lists five of the best books that one read in 2007. Luckily, 2007 was a year in which I reread several favorite novels, and I'm happy to promote them. So (in no particular order), here goes.

1. The Day on Fire, by James Ramsey Ullman. I know that I've mentioned this book at least once on this blog, but it's truly great, and I reread it with pleasure last winter. A fictionalized biography of Arthur Rimbaud, Ullman's novel is an engrossing account of the poet's wanderings (mostly on foot) through France, Italy, and North Africa; his time in Java; and his relationship with Verlaine. Of course, it's fiction, and Ullman fills in the blanks in creative ways, but it's really well written and just an absorbing book. Out of print, unfortunately, but readily available online.

2. Ada, or Ardor, by Nabokov. I reread this when I was in Europe last spring. I originally read it in about 1997, when I was a fresh young thing just finishing college, and I loved it--but I don't honestly think that I understood it all. Didn't think that I understood it, in fact. I confess that I picked it up again with a hint of trepidation: I barely remembered the novel, and I was afraid that it was going to be a lot of Nabokovian smoke and mirrors (although I've yet to meet the VN novel I didn't at least like). But no, it was terrific, and I loved it, and I highly recommend it. All kinds of weird musings on time and space, and it takes a really long time to figure out what world the novel is even set in, if that makes sense. And it's just incredibly satisfying to grasp it all, in the end.

3. Pride and Prejudice. I read this over the last week or two because I'm going to be teaching it next semester, and you know, I just think that Jane Austen is fun. I didn't used to like her much, but as I grow older I find myself appreciating her more and more.

4. The Time-Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Two people gave me this book within the space of a couple of months. For a time-travel book, it's surprisingly satisfying. One thing that I particularly liked about it was the way in which the horror of time travel is evoked. Time travel always seems like such a neat idea--but I suspect that if spontaneous chronological displacement actually happened, it would be the way it's portrayed in this novel: suddenly finding yourself naked and afraid in an unknown place. Not too good.

5. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I first read McCarthy about 11 years ago, and I steered clear thereafter: Child of God freaked me out but good. Then, this fall, the student group of which I'm a sponsor decided to read the novel as a sort of book-club thing, so I read it, and it's pretty damn gripping. What I found most interesting about it was the way it made me think about the importance of human community and how, in the total absence of community, life itself would seem pretty close to meaningless. Definitely drives home the whole social-animal part of our makeup. Plus he's just a fantastic writer. I don't want to go see that new movie, though.

I'm not going to tag anyone in particular because I don't know whom to tag. But I'm interested in reading recommendations from everyone out there who reads this blog, so consider this a Blanket Tagging.

(By the way, the phone interview went fine. I think. As far as I could tell. Definitely better than the Interview of Doom, and I have a pretty good feeling about it. Of course, I've had pretty good feelings about interviews in the past, so I'm not putting too much stake in my subjective experience of the affair--but hey, at least I don't think I bombed.)

Temporal Displacement

I have a second phone interview coming up, and I just realized that, owing to my difficulty in grasping time differences, it's two hours later than I thought it was going to be.

Which is fine, but these things make me nervous and I'd rather do them earlier in the day.

It also kind of gums up my highly tentative afternoon plans, but that's not at all important.

Mostly I'd just like to do the interview now so that I can stop being nervous about it.

I'm also vaguely worried that I am not in fact wrong about the time, because I wrote it in my day planner like weeks ago, and it seems improbable that I could have had it wrong way back then. I don't know why this seems improbable. Clearly I could have had it wrong. But somehow the fact that I wrote it down makes it seem less wrong. You know? So I don't know. Agh. Shall I describe my current research to the walls one more time?

Friday, December 14, 2007

And so why are you interviewing me, exactly?

--is the question that I would have liked to ask about midway through last night's phone interview.

So this was my seventh academic first-interview ever (the other six were last year, ranging from MLA to eleventh-hour phone interviews for one-years), and it was by far, BY FAR, the worst. All the other ones seemed fine, actually, although five of them yielded nothing.

The Interview of Despair basically comprised a series of extremely detailed questions about how I would put together courses I've never taught before. A couple of the courses they wanted to hear about were entirely reasonable, and I was prepared for them. But then we went off down a Dark and Dangerous Path that actually crosses the Terrain of Another Field Entirely, Terrain that I in no way, ever, anywhere, implied that I knew anything about. I was able to wing the first question or two, but when we got into highly specific theoretical approaches, I had to say that I just didn't know.

In that moment, I smiled to myself and thought, Well, they can only keep me on the phone for another 10 minutes or so, right? And then I thought about the bourbon awaiting me in the kitchen.

I was also a little disappointed that I'd spent all afternoon rehearsing my research and teaching answers, thinking about difficult teaching situations I've been in and how I elicit discussion from recalcitrant students, and didn't get to mention any of that. No! It was all course planning. Very specific course planning. As in, Why isn't Author X on this syllabus? What is this book that you said you'd use about? Weird.

Oh well. I just wonder why they even bothered to call me--they can't possibly think that I do the stuff that they evidently want someone to teach, can they? Whatever.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Observation

It takes me much, much longer to comment on and grade papers on the computer than it does to do it the old-fashioned way. I write a lot more, for one thing (despite my best intentions). And also I'm distracted by things like the internet. (I'm in the middle of grading a paper right now, in fact!)

Back to it. Six down, twenty-nine to go.

Slow Blog

I realize that I've been pretty quiet lately. A lot of that has been due to busyness--last week was absolutely crazy, what with finishing up classes, grading all my final comp projects, and then foolishly leaving Field Town for the Metropole a mere two days after I finished teaching. My lit students are submitting their papers to me via email (and I really need to get going on those...).

I also haven't been blogging much because I'm trying not to write about how the job market is going. I haven't been checking the wiki as obsessively as I was last year because I've just had too much other stuff on my mind, but I think that I can safely say that I'm doing OK on the market this time around--better than last year, anyway. I'm cautiously optimistic. But I've been avoiding blogging about it.

I'm breaking my vow of silence, however, to report my delight and astonishment at receiving a call this morning from a Very Good School. Probably one of the top 5 jobs in my field this year, in fact. (Not the #1 job of the year--medievalists, you know what I'm talking about--but I probably would have exploded if I'd heard from them.) This is the first time that a VGS has expressed interest in me. It's a little scary. But good.

And now, I grade. Thirty-two eight-to-ten-pagers to go (assuming they all reached the minimum requirement, that is!).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

End of the Term

"Dear Dr. Mihi,

Will it hurt my grade if I don't get to the required page length [= 8-10 pages]? I only have three pages written and I'm almost done, but I really want to get a good grade.

Thanks!
Your Student."







That's me, speechless.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Meme, Glorious Meme

I have been tagged, not once, not twice--but thrice, yes, thrice for the Seven Things meme. It all started with Maude Lebowski, and then not a day later I was hit by squadratomagico, who was followed in short order by Kermit the Frog. So okay, people. I will do the meme. Enthusiastically!

First, the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

All righty. Here goes:

1. In 1998-99, I worked as an artist's model (of the naked variety). The odd thing about it was that my mother actually got me into it--pressured me, some might say--and booked me my first job. I was working full time at various other jobs during this period, but the modeling was a reasonably lucrative sideline; my most profitable month scored me about $400, which was close to my rent in those days (and in these days, come to think of it).

2. In high school I had that hair style which I've heard referred to as a "hessian"--you know, long on top but shaved in the back and sides, up to about the temples. The rest of it was usually colored with manic panic; "rose red," a kind of flaming magenta, was my favorite. Oh yes, I was one bad-ass honors student. All of my friends at this point were conservative girls who wore turtlenecks and loads of hairspray; I must have looked funny next to them, with my hair and my black eyeliner and the whole grunge ensemble (this was the early 90s: think flannel shirts, cut-offs, combat boots, the occasional fishnets). Or maybe the turtleneck-and-hairspray look was the funny one?

3. I didn't have any cavities until I was 23, and now I've had four. The fourth was filled this afternoon. Huzzah!

4. When I was about two years old, I thought that I would probably be a football player when I grew up. I already had a white bicycle helmet, so I was, I reasoned, halfway there. I imagined myself being carried out onto the field in someone's arms; evidently I was still at an age where I was carried most places. (This fantasy of mine is among my earliest memories. I have no idea why I thought I'd be a football player. My dad watched football back in those days, so I guess I just had the idea that this was something that grown-ups did?)

5. I intensely dislike having the blinds shut during the day. To me, it feels like not brushing your hair or staying in your pajamas--sloppy and squalid (although, funnily enough, I have no problem with staying in my pajamas, hair unbrushed, well into the middle of the day. So maybe that's not the best comparison. Well, I ain't changing it now, honeys).

6. Also when I was two years old, Jimmy Carter patted me on the head and said that I was a very cute little girl. This, I don't remember.

7. I didn't wear a bra for most of my college years. At times, I fervently wish that I could go back to those earlier ways, but I cannot. It is unimaginable to me to go out in public without a bra (unless I'm wearing some hugely bulky coat and just running to the grocery store or something). This saddens me, as I despise the accursed things, with their straps and their totally unnecessary (in my case) "support" and little poky lacy bits. Ugh. Ugh!

And that about does it, I think.

Oh right! The tagging. Since everyone seems to have been tagged at least once by now, and I'm highly self-conscious about tagging anyway (it seems like such an imposition), I shall do what all the other slackers are doing and let anyone who wants to be tagged consider him/herself such.