Setting some priorities…I guess.

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As some may remember, I’m about to give a talk in a wonderful large European city (like, in 6 weeks, but nevertheless, again, let’s just feel stressed out already). Now, some may wonder how to prepare adequately for an occasion like that – at least I do. But obviously I am not the only one, as I got an impressive amount of results when asking auntie google “How to prepare for a talk,” “how to present at a conference,” and “lol best conference fails ever.”

So, I just finished the first draft of my talk 2 days ago and already I’m totally overwhelmed thinking about editing it – once something is done, I’m over it in some way, and I have to force myself to rework it, especially since I’m often too afraid to find too much stuff that needs editing. I prefer my tasks to be explicit and distinct, step by step, and once finished, they magically disappear and something new will materialize out of nowhere (and yes, or course I’m really looking forward to editing about 200 pages of case studies I wrote for my dissertation as first drafts, so it might get easier for me to develop a strong theoretical framework and some logic in my arguments. I finished the last of 6 case studies in January. I have not looked at one of them yet. Not even at the one I finished in January last year.).Because my mind is always on the go and I got the attention span of a 3-year-old, my life has to happen all around this very obtrusive feature of mine. Of course, this is also the perfect condition for working on a long-time project like a dissertation. But that is another topic. Today it’s about the talk, again. At least as far as I can remember.

So now that I accomplished the basic task – even though it is still too long and I already know some wordings are not appropriate, so I have to work on it at least once more before handing it to my proofreading-fairy – I move on to the next big thing for the big-city-event: what to wear for my big day (like, something comfortable and still suitable, which will be challenging to find in a closet that screams “boho skate chick” since 2003), where to go after the conference, which markets to go to, which sights to see, how to find the hotel and how to afford eating in GB. Also, I’m used to travel light, but I never before traveled for work; so this will be a new sort of ‘travel light’ since I need to bring some basic work stuff with me. Guess who is already freaking out about what she actually has to pack (I’m one of those people who bring half of their bookshelves to presentations, just so “you see what I’m talking about”…), fearing she might forget THE most important paper just so she could ‘keep it light.’

And I still don’t have a new passport.

But did you know that with the last update there are now some new cats in Neko Atsume?

Reading: Jack Kerouac “The Sea is my Brother”

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As working on my talk (yes, still working on it…) and some other serious stuff kept me from writing earlier, I will post a sort of follow-up to the previous post, as it again will be all about Jack Kerouac and his writing. Last time I read some of Jack’s stuff was years ago and it was one of his more spiritual (or rather, religious) writing, Wake-Up, A Life of the Buddha. Since I’ve never been much of a religious person, I never actually finished this book; even though I know some argue that Buddhism and the legend of Buddha may not resemble the traditional sort of religion, I indeed have my problems with believing in a single (or – for the sake of religious open-mindedness – multiple) spiritual entity which ‘magically’ influences my life in any way. To be more precise and honest, I’ve always had my problems with the concept of ‘belief’ and ‘believing’, not matter if religious, spiritual, or general. So the fact that I never finished Jack’s spiritual literary musings is not much surprising, nor is it the result of bad writing or anything alike.

When I started reading Kerouac again – again a “long-lost” novel (or similar claims) by this icon of the Beat literature – I wanted to get some information about the The Sea is my Brother as well as The Haunted Life beforehand. After all, poor ol’ Jack seems to belong to the Tupac Shakur/Kurt Cobain-phenomenon, which proves that no matter when and how you died, you are never too dead to release new music or publish a new book. Love the cash-cow, because cash is king (…or so. Says Jack Welch.) So I found a review in the Los Angeles Review of Books (read here) which was very informative and entertaining. It also reinforced my first impression of the book – as the reviewer stated Jack never wanted this book to be published, I definitely understood why. It is not that The Sea is my Brother is bad – I would never say that about any book, even not about those I truly, TRULY dislike (hate?) because more than anything, literature – like all forms of the arts – is a matter of taste, though of course there are technical and stylistic features that may indicate if an author is rather accomplished or dilettante. So, it is not a bad read.

Kerouac is drawing inspirations from his life and has therefore always been known as a highly autobiographical writer; as he liked to play with his real-life influences by connecting characters and events in different ways, this may lead his audience to recognize a sort of recycling which can be irritating and funny at the same time. Those who read The Town and the City will rediscover not only some names, but also characters in The Haunted Life and The Sea is my Brother, though the last one may also be the one furthest from the two aforementioned. In The Sea is my Brother, Wesley Martin, the oldest of the Martin family works as a sailor without much ties to family and friends apart from fellow seamen. He is portrayed as an easygoing, lighthearted guy, preferring emotional detachment regarding his relationships with women, while forming strong bonds to male companions, especially fellow seamen. He is, of course, just one of many protagonists pictured after Jack himself. The strong emphasis on male bonding is very dominant in this novel (fragmentary novel?), as it is in most of Jack’s writing, though not always as blatant. Apart from foreshadowing Kerouac’s main literary tropes, Wesley also seems to have a talent for running into highly intelligent, politically committed, academic babblers, in this case Bill Everhart, who later joins him on a vessel. Aside from Bill babbling a lot and Wesley constantly being on the run from himself (therefore seeming to be detached from everyone in the story apart from the sea) the recurring incoherencies in the writing itself make it at times a hard read. I do indeed understand Jack’s wish to not have this novel published; as he was very meticulous about his writing, his characters, and storytelling throughout his life, this novel does not live up to everyone’s expectations.

But, as the Merve Emre in her review LARB so poignantly states, Jack Kerouac is a brand, a household name, which promises high profits, no matter how low the actual effort is. She is, of course, right. After all, I too bought the book (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only ‘Beat literature enthusiast’ out there…).

The Resurrection of Jack Duluoz…or so…?

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I’ve always had a particular liking for British and American authors, even back when my English was really bad and I had to rely on translations. This love for stories and books from the island and other continents deepened once my English language skills advanced to the point where I could start reading my favorite books in their original version. This broadened my knowledge on authors from the English-speaking world as well as further improved my English.

One of my first memorable encounters with American literature was Jack Kerouac and On the Road. I was about 14, or maybe 15, and because I had already been to the US twice, I could remember the wide and open landscapes he wrote about and I longed for these exact landscapes. I too wanted to ride into an adventurous unknown future amidst friends. I too wanted to be free. And I too wanted to be Dean Moriarty –like so many others – the alter ego that wasn’t Jack’s, but haunted him to the grave. [Also, I did not care the slightest that Dean was a male character – I’ve never cared much about gender roles and images and I still don’t. I was 15, I  just wanted to enjoy a road trip with someone who seemed like a true companion]

I read The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, The Town and the City, and Maggie Cassidy, though I never finished the last one as my demons came for some lengthy stay just when I started the book and Maggie Cassidy is not the kind of book I can focus on while at the same time trying to stay mentally sane. Moreover I can remember that The Dharma Bums left a deep impression; once again I felt a longing for solitude, nature and being free, even though I was a few years older than when reading On the Road.

Just recently I started to re-read Jack Kerouac’s works, and in some cases reading it for the first time in the original English version. Two early works of Kerouac – The Sea is my Brother and The Haunted Life – were published ‘just recently’ (a.k.a within the last few years – sometimes I miss important literary milestones thanks to too much literary work) and this prompted me to get back to Jack after so much time passed between our last encounter years earlier.

When I started reading Jack Kerouac in my teens and continued to do so throughout my early twenties, I was myself an avid writer. In some ways I was heavily influenced by Jack, not so much his style – I’m not musical enough, though I love jazz – but rather by his passion, his philosophies and his life in general, always on the move, always travelling and moving throughout the country, always writing (at least I thought so; much later I found out that most of his books published after On the Road were written well before, and that Jack had serious problems to produce any sort of writing since his drinking got out of hand). I wanted to live like Jack and to write like Jack. Which was of course not possible. Thankfully. Also, I never had the stamina to aim for a novel, I’m rather the short-story-type of writer – this may be my way of truly appreciating Jack’s life and personal (hi)story, his unsteadiness and constant rambling cross-country: not being able to stick to one long story but rather jumping from one to another as I liked.

I have not written anything ‘creative’ (‘arty’) in ages, for various reasons: working to get a degree, working as a freelance writer (believe me, one absolutely great way to ruin any sort of creative writing is working as a freelance writer for web contents, online advertisement and alike), demons. But, as I recently rediscovered good old Jack and plan to find out if my love for his writing is still there somewhere, how it has changed after all those years and finally (finally!) reading just English versions, I’m also curious if the pure act of reading Kerouac once again may serve as a catalyst for my own writing. It’s not so much that I think I’m THAT great, but I always loved writing and it’s pretty much the only talent I have (I can also just stand upright and breathe regularly on my own, but that’s rather training than talent).

As a way to spur my academic works (and writing) as well, I just recently started to write daily, in various forms, may it be a blog post, a lengthy diary entry or part of my dissertation (or my talk!!!). It works just fine, at least for now, and maybe, maybe, one day I may finally find how Jack is resurrecting my inner writer in one way or the other. Maybe. Would be fun. And I would again return to being a bit of a cliché…

“You? Never! Stop kiddin’ me!” – Dark hours, days & moments…

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A lot of people who don’t know me well think that I’m confident, outgoing, and funny. I can be all of this with the right people. I can pretend to be this assumed person with a) the wrong people, b) at the wrong time, c) at the wrong place, d) b) a sufficient amount of alcohol and/or e) any combination of the aforementioned factors. This happens to many of us, for various reasons. And everyone faces the challenge of handling their individual issues the best they can. I failed often, still do.

Years ago (like, about 10 years ago) I experienced a period (lasting around 5 years) of anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I got out of it thanks to therapy, pills, and the constant hope that it ‘will be over‘ some day, but of course once your demons found you, they will stay with you. They will love you, take care of you, scare the shit out of you, guide you and force you to grow. Again and again, often for the rest of your life.

Nowadays (no pills and no therapy since 2011) they only visit for a few hours, worst case scenario they are with me for two or three days. But the last time was different – they seemed to enjoy their stay and decided to hang around a little longer than their usual 3 days. Luckily, I didn’t have to work/write a lot, so I had time to celebrate mood swings, crying, feeling desperate and hopeless without neglecting my duties. My demons may have celebrated some sort of anniversary or wtf soever; it was too long, too intense and exhausting.

To distract myself from my demons’ visit, I started to sew, or, to be more precise, I started hardcore-pro-24/7-sewing. Even though I don’t actually know how to sew. But I live true to the saying “learning by doing”, which included sewing…(what a rhyme!). At times like this, I prefer manual labor since my thoughts are all over the place and I can hardly focus on even short readings, let alone ’sophisticated’ intellectual work. Over the last few years I developed some techniques for handling myself better — a little melancholy can do magic about the tidiness of my living quarters. Besides, sewing serves my need for distractions as well as my creative aspirations…

 My demons left some weeks ago. They always leave sooner or later… And every time they return, I’m afraid they won’t leave again on their own, without me getting any help, again. And that is the only thing that truly frightens me about my mind, my life, my soul and my future…my stupid, lovely, fucking, somehow educational demons. Because sometimes it’s not the right time for education….