We have been on Thanksgiving Break since Friday evening, and I believe that sometime tomorrow some part of me will start to uncoil a bit, resting into the week. For now, I am making my way through the piles of grading that I wanted to finish before break but finally had to admit there would be no time for until break. What's exceptionally good this semester is that my students are, by and large, dedicated and talented critical writers--which means that I can't whip through their ten-page papers swiftly, but which also means that I don't mind their taking good time to get through. And so I immerse myself in one student's thoughts after another's, watching readings unfold, suggesting places where greater nuance might be constructed, looking for the fissures where an argument wanted to come into being but didn't quite make it. I count down: of the 76 pieces of writing I carried into the break with me, 26 are now marked (9 of those representing nearly half the long papers before me). Once the other 14 long papers are done, the 36 things left before me will be no more than five pages long. And 22 of those pieces can wait until next weekend, if that's what's necessary. All of which is to say, a week out of the classroom (and a trip, soon, to see my family) is going to bring me back to (or at least back near) a reasonable place, as far as grading is concerned.
I retain fantasies that I will also read fabulous amounts of writing not produced by my students, though I'm not quite sure when those fantasies will play out. So far today, however, I have found, in the interstices of my grading projects, time for chunks of A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, Stanislas Dehaene's Reading in the Brain, and (by far my least favorite of the lot) Will Self's Dorian. The last of these hopped the queue because I'm teaching Wilde's Dorian Gray once we're back from the break, and I've been meaning to give Self's "update" a look. So far, I've gleaned from it a lot more about 1980s drug slang than anything else, and if I had fainter praise with which to damn it, I'd probably deploy it now.