Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Diary of an Honours Student: The Final Entry

Hello readers,

I know that some of you may have just skim read the updates that I have been posting about the progression of my thesis over the past year.  And that's fine.  The purpose of these near-weekly updates has been to check in with myself mentally; to record what happens to me; and to hopefully inspire just one person to attempt what I have attempted this year.

I am not going to lie and say that this year has been all sunshine and puppy dogs.  But I will say this.  Studying honours is an extremely worthwhile pursuit, and an excellent way to learn about yourself.  I do not mean in a purely academic sense.  Of course you learn your own limitations; for example I have learned that I am capable of being a serious writer who works with research and deadlines, but that academic work is not my cup of tea.  You will learn about your interests, including cultivating some new ones.  But you will also learn that you are strong and capable.  That whatever the world throws at you, you can take it, and you can thrive despite it.

The reason that I am writing this post is today I handed in my final thesis.  And now begins the wait for my marks.  Hopefully those will be somewhat rewarding.  In the meantime...

Finishing, coming out the other side of the tunnel, being this new person, stronger, smarter and more me than ever...

That is the best reward I could have gotten.

That, and a few drinkies this Friday.  :)

Wishing you well,


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Summer Reading List: Lola Bensky

Lola Bensky
Lily Brett

Lola, a rock journalist, is followed by the dead.  She interviews a slew of famous rockstars- asking them boring, deadpan questions, and then getting distracted and talking about the traumatic experiences of her parents in a Nazi death camp. She then goes off on reveries in her head, remembering awkward scenes from her childhood.  The trauma of living with parents who are so altered by their experiences as Polish Jews causes Lola to struggle with her weight and with anxiety.  

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with this book.  On the one hand, I love the subject matter.  On the other hand, I hate the awkward parallel that Brett tries to draw between the trauma of Auschwitz and the trauma of Free Love and drugs in the sixties and seventies.  I also hate the detached, monotonous narratorial style of this novel, which almost seems to be first person except that the narrator constantly refers to the protagonist by her full name.  Lola Bensky did this, then Lola Bensky did that.  The novel also jumps around in time, sometimes in the middle of the paragraph. 

Yet, I couldn't stop reading.

Go figure.

Someone tell me why I didn't throw this book aside, please?

2 out of 5 false eyelashes.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Summer Reading List: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
JK Rowling

It's actually been a few weeks since I have read this, but absolutely everyone who comes into the bookstore that I work at asks me what this book is like, and I thought I would put a little review up for all of you out there in the blogosphere.  It is a big book, and it does retail for about $40 Australian, but it was also a best seller before it even hit stores late last month.  The big question becomes, then, is it worth it?

The story documents the lives of several families from the town of Pagford in England, following the death of town councillor Barry Fairbrother.  Prior to his death, Barry's pet project had been triumphing the welfare of people in the neighbouring Fields, a housing estate filled with prostitutes and heroin addicts.  It kinds of goes without saying that it's not for kids and it's CERTAINLY NOT Harry Potter, although the sheer Britishness of both sets of writing is the same.  Rowling has a way of looking at things which, while original, shows them as they really are, and her characters are well drawn without being mythologised.  None of the characters on the page can be seen as a hero, although some will endear themselves to you more than others.  You will sympathise with Andrew, whose father is an abusive Prick, and root for Krystal, who despite being a massive 'chav' (I think of her as looking like Little Britain's Vicky Pollard) is really just trying to get by in a world that doesn't give her a fair go.  This is a book about life either side of the poverty line.  It is a book about tolerance.  It is a book about selfish people, and the tragedies that can come from their lack of compassion.

Have tissues on hand.

4 out of 5 ballot papers.

Summer Reading List: The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife
Paula McLain

It is infrequent that a contemporary work of fiction moves me to such lengths as could be described as obsession, but Paula McLain's account of the ill fated love story of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson achieved just that.

McLain paints a picture of Jazz Age Paris which is peopled with the figures of literary mythology, from the Fitzgeralds to Gertrude Stein.  (I myself am fascinated by Zelda Fitzgerald.)  The extravagance, the drinking and the infidelity make that world sparkle, but also colour it with pain and heartbreak.  All in all, the book makes a poignant statement about the nature of heartbreak that will have you sobbing in sympathy.

The writing style is well paced and suitably decorative, without a hint of cliche or purple prose.  This is a rare combination in a book which, while classified as literary fiction, is ostensibly a romance.  It is a perfect introduction to the writing of the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway himself, and it will have you wanting to dance the charleston and drink absinthe until morning.

I give this book 5 out of 5 charging bulls.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Diary of an Honours Student: Three Weeks To Go

Dear Me-Three Weeks From Now


I hope you know how significant what you have achieved this year has been.  You don't have your results yet, and they may well be disappointing but right now, I want you to sit down and take a few deep breaths.  There are things for you to consider, so don't think about the future and don't think about the past.  Think about this moment.

This year you wrote a major research assignment, largely on your own.  Your supervisors supervised.  Your friends were there for moral support and epic bitch sessions.  Your mother was there for the brunt of the emotional breakdowns.  But no one opened those books for you, no one wrote the words that were on that final copy that you handed in, and no one lovingly (misguidedly?) picked the topic that you felt so strongly about but you.  You are awesome and possibility rushes towards you.

I'll keep this letter brief.  I have things to do.  I am becoming you!  I am working hard on your thesis so that you might exist, you carefree, happy thing.  I hope that you are doing all the things you planned.  I hope you read as many books a day as you wish.  I hope you've gotten your nails done, been to the beach.  I hope you had a cocktail for me.  Your life has felt like it was falling apart a few times this year, but you've held it together.  You always deserve to be proud of what you accomplished.

Lots of love from,


(Location:  The desk, surrounded by papers and empty tea-mugs
Status:  Editing.
Hair:  Messy)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

If You Only Watch One Thing Today...

J.K. Rowling's life is inspiring at the best of times, but right now with four months to go until my thesis is due, hearing her talk about how failing can sometimes be just what you need, she is especially my hero.  I'm also reading The Casual Vacancy, which so far I love but I'm not even 100 pages in yet so don't quote me.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Diary of an Honours Student: God Only Knows What Week It Is!

Today, I went on campus to attend my weekly yoga class, and I had a horrible feeling that the university campus was no longer my campus.

The end is in sight.  Now that October the first has been and gone, November the first is less than a month away in any sense of the word month, whether it be a matter of four weeks, or a matter of flipping the page in your calendar.  Less than a month from now, I will be binding two copies of the colossal research paper known as my thesis, handing them in, and then going out to celebrate.

I can see this happening, too.  I'm stressed, but focussed.  Every morning I get up and I just want to get to it.  I know that I have to polish my concluding chapter, rewrite the short story chapter based on notes from my creative writing supervisor, write a commentary that ties the story to the thesis.  There are also a tonne of books by West Australian authors sitting on my desk waiting for me to review them for you all, but you're just going to have to keep your trousers on in regard to that!

Finishing seems so real that I have started to plan for things to do when it's over:

* Read books
* Wear pretty clothes
* Go to gigs
* Go to Melbourne
* Go to Paris
* Get a real job

How's your end of year workload treating you?  What are your plans?