Wednesday 29 September 2010

Blank pages

My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

- The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition, Trans. Coleman Barks et al., p. 47
The bookstore is closed. I am in my new apartment; there are still boxes on the floor and some of those boxes contain essentials to be assembled, such as the new dining room table. But the bookcases? The bookcases are up and they are stocked. For the first time, my personal collection has been wrangled into a certain amount of order - each shelf is organized alphabetically by author, even though each bookcase boasts no universal order. Also, all my Japanese books are together. I am no longer a book-seller but I can't return to my youthful glorying in total bookish chaos and having no idea where anything is.

Perhaps bookshelf chaos is no longer attractive now that my life, for at least the next three months, will possess no structure. I had enrolled in a Japanese language class for Monday and Wednesday evenings but the instructor was atrocious so I dropped out; dammit, I've done enough school that wasn't fun - now that it's entirely voluntary, there will be no suffering through. Hubby and I have agreed that I'm not to begin looking for work until Jan 1, 2011.
It's been ten years since I had a real break, and I really need one. I was meant to have a break in between finishing grad school and taking over the bookshop but that was reduced to a mere 10 days as my defense date was pushed to its outer limits after I landed myself in hospital in the middle of writing my thesis conclusion. So, it's time for me to learn to relax again, to take the time so generously offered me by the universe (and my rich, indulgent husband) to think hard about what I might like to do to bring in some donuts.

I'm not the first 35-year-old to have to contemplate a whole new professional course in life. But if I'm to be honest, my resume is the sort of resume that will make HR monkeys' heads explode. A brief summary of my salient qualifications and experiences:
  • PhD English Literature, but can't/don't want to pursue an academic career
  • I like teaching literature, but only Shakespeare, and only his drama, and only to 18-22-year-olds
  • Excellent writing and editing skills
  • Really, really good at reading!
  • I kind of hate working with the public
  • I've travelled literally around the globe
  • I like deadlines, a lot
  • Don't want to sell any more books
  • Don't want to sit in front of a computer all day
Er, yeah. This is going to take some figuring. But right now, all my figuring's going towards determining what to do when dinner isn't concluded at 9pm because I've worked till 7. Seriously, hubby and I finished dinner at 7 tonight and we literally did not know how to cope! I'm a bit lost, I guess. I've got 3 months to re-write myself in some ways. In the lead-up to closing the shop, I found this prospect to be tremendously exciting; today, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the open-endedness of it all.

One good thing: I'm reading again. I finished Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, which wins the 2010 Bookphilia Prize for Most Deceptive Title. I was expecting a comedy full of sharp, snappy back-and-forth and instead got a slowly unravelling domestic tragedy. Gah. But it was good, and I want to write a little more about it later.

I started reading a swords and muscles and political intrigue book by Bernard Cornwell but lost it for a week or so in the move and by the time I'd found it, had lost interest.

Now, I'm reading a lesser known Wilkie Collins called Little Novels. Delicious and easily digestible little morsels they are, perfect for my weary brain. Apparently, it wasn't popular when it was first published in 1887; silly Victorians!

More anon. I think I will soon be able to begin posting again with regularity, and hopefully also charm, wit, and the usual, er, genius.


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Tremendously exciting - yes, yes.

verbivore said...

I was going to suggest you look into translation (you speak/read French, right? or am I making that up?) until I hit your very last line about not sitting in front of the computer all day. Now, technically, you can translate while in front of a computer at a café or in other fun spaces...
Just a thought!

Now, please enjoy your break, you deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your three months! I'm sure you'll get through lots of books. Your resume looks a lot like mine except I'm terrible with deadlines;P It's a scary thing to suddenly have all this time and space to yourself but it's a rare thing to have these days and I'm sure you'll enjoy it once you find your feet.

Stefanie said...

Glad you are getting settled into your new digs. Enjoy your three months. Oh the reading you will be able to do!

Bellezza said...

I love this post, and glimpse into your life. I love the outpouring of your heart, which so echoes mine. I love these two lines in your qualifications: really, really good at reading; kind of hate working with the public. Wonderful! I empathize completely! You will find the perfect thing~I have confidence in you. In the meantime, how fun to sort our your
Japanese literature. Oh, and congratulations for dropping that class with the idiot professor! We've done enough time with those! XOXO, Bellezza

Bookphilia said...

Thanks, friends! Today felt better, in part because I had to go to the shop to turn over the keys and I was struck afresh by what terrible condition the building is in. I'm glad I'm out of there. Also, this afternoon, I spent some time reading in the gigantic park across the street from my apartment and that did very good things for my soul.

verbivore: Unfortunately, I am strictly uni-lingual, so translation won't be a professional option. However, I think a few months off will make working in front of a computer seem much less terrible, possibly even fun if it's the right job.

But yes, I am going to read a lot of books between now and 2011!

Heidenkind said...

I was going to suggest writing a book about Shakespeare for 18-22 year olds. Or, oooh! You could write one of those YA adaptations like Little Women Vampires, but w/Shakespeare!

verbivore said...

Bummer! I was looking for a colleague to commiserate with :-)

Very glad you are enjoying the break!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post - your CV made me laugh ... I understand that feeling of being lost. I took early retirement three years ago and, while I was really looking forward to it, the first few days were really strange. It's like having too much choice - I work best withe some structure and deadlines. However, I found my way pretty sure someone as intelligent and interesting as you will also!

Am trying this again. Last time I tried to comment OpenId didn't work on your blog (and one other person's). Here's hoping!

Bookphilia said...

heidenkind: While I could probably do one of those "classic + ridiculousness" books, I think I'll pass. The world needs more quality, less candy.

verbivore: I'm rather sorry myself that I don't have a real grasp on more than one language, for many reasons!

whispering gums: Your comment worked no problem this time! No illumination for me yet but in the past week or so I've begun to feel a little better in some ways. This isn't turning out to be a quick rebound at all! Very luckily for me, it doesn't have to be. :)

Trapunto said...

Get hold of a time machine, and found an ancient Athenean school (no computers!) devoted to teaching the plays of Shakespeare.