The main problem with having class only one day a week is that I always think "eh, I've got a while yet to do <whatever>," I put things off, and then I spend Thursdays, especially between classes, in a maelstrom of frantically completing readings/translations/presentations/
whatever. It's a little exhausting. Today's assignment du jour was a presentation for Occitan class, which I had, of course, put off. I will give myself minor props for having responsibly done Actual Library Research on Tuesday to choose my poem to present, but then I sort of didn't do anything on Wednesday. Wise move, Bierschenk, very wise. So, I didn't really get much of the reading for today done, being too busy finishing up a translation/minor analysis/blah sheet (you know, the sketchy notes you write to yourself to help prod your brain into regurgitating the crap it's been tossing up like a Yellowstone mudpot while you work on the piece to be presented). And then Carla, oh Carla, she went first and gave a dazzling presentation that pulled in bloody Julia Kristeva and made casual reference to Lacan and Marx (to be fair we've dabbled in some Lacanian and Marxist theory in class, so that's not too out of wack). Great. I wing this shit, dammit.
Nevertheless, the presentation went off pretty well. I did have a moment of panic when Stone asked me if reading the poem (which enlightens class tensions between noble and non-noble trobadors) had clarified my understanding of "The Kohler"... I blinked while my brain scurried rapidly around inside my skull, trying desperately to figure out what the bloody hell he was talking about. Eventually some perceptive synapse mentioned to the others that this was probably the Marxist article that I had unaccountably failed to read despite my best intentions. Some rapid hemming and hawing eventually led me to the code of courtly love compiled by <insert name of monk that's in my notes here>, which made, if not an apt surrogate, at least a reasonable diversion that I could expound upon. (Dr. Stone, if you ever happen to read this, er... oops?). Also I again mixed up the verbs jazer and jauzer, which is just getting stupid, and I think I'll get them tattooed with proper translation, one on each inner forearm. Since one means 'to sleep with' and the other, basically, 'to cum' (honestly couldn't tell you which is which), that will be quite the conversation starter. As a sidenote to the ja(u)zer thing, I started blushing furiously when he pointed out the resultant translation error. This had absolutely nothing to do with the content -- I can talk about pretty much anything in an academic context without anything more than an amused smirk on my face, just ask my Pynchon class of Spring Qtr 2004 -- but rather with being wrong. I can't help it, and it drives me absolutely nuts! If I'm wrong, I'm not even usually too upset about being wrong, cause hey, it happens and life's too short to care too deeply about it, but nevertheless my face erupts in an upswelling of blood that I can feel. It's beyond ridiculous. Feh.
Carla said to me after class that I should stop "putting [my]self down" after presentations (I said something to the effect of "and, as usual, my presentation just sort of trails off into the dust" to finish tonight). She said "I used to do the same thing, to make myself look better, but I'll tell you the same thing a friend told me: you don't need to, your presentations are great." She's got a point, I'm sure, except that I'm not being self-deprecating in a reverse-self-aggrandizement manouver, at least not consciously (there's no accounting for the subconscious), I'm just... that way. And in this particular case, I just honestly hadn't planned out an ending, and I figured humor was better than saying "Uh, that's it." Hard to make people understand, really.
The upside to the once-a-week thing is that I usually feel relieved on Thursday night. Not relaxed as such, mind you, but generally relieved. I actually do feel relaxed tonight, having eaten my chicken w/ black bean sauce and curled up in bed with Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour: In search of the perfect meal
. I adore Bourdain's writing. He's the same one who did Kitchen Confidential
(now adapted into another in a long line of good shows canned by the braintrust at FOX). He is quite possibly the funniest food writer I know of, and certainly the most vulgar. He curses, heaps aspersions on other cooks, rhapsodizes on loving oysters, generally fails to give a fuck. I love it. None of that pretension garbage. Anyway, read his books. A+++ WOULD READ AGAIN.
Also in the recommended reading category, a book I finished a couple of days ago, Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated
. It's the story of the narrator, Jonathan Safran Foer's, trip to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The interleaving storylines, the interplay among metanarratives, the use of language as a far more malleable and expressive medium than it's usually understood as... it's beautiful. It's brilliant. It's deeply moving. I nearly cried in Highland Coffees when I finished it, because there was such a delicate bittersweetness in its conclusion that I was honestly surprised. The characters unfold slowly, almost imperceptibly, throughout the novel, such that although they're utterly familiar at the end we can hardly recognize them as the same strangers we met in the opening scenes. And despite my talk of interleaving and metanarrative, it's beautifully clear and lucid, with none of the emotionless, highfalutin formal experimentation that mars so many "brilliant" recent novels. Everyone can love this book. You need to read it, now. If you live in BR, I'll lend it to you on the condition that I will require its return. I cannot stress enough how serious I am in this recommendation: I avoided the book for, literally, years because I didn't believe it could possibly live up to the hype, but I was totally and completely wrong.
In terms of other fine literary stuff, we were discussing Cajun poetry in Ancelet's class today, and I started to read a chunk of one of ZR's most powerful poems, "La vérité va peut-être te faire du mal" ("The truth might hurt you"), and I accidentally got dragged into it, not only reading but reciting, performing a whole page of text. I had so much fun, it was so wonderful. God I love poetry.
To close this long and disjointed entry, I'll leave you with Dr. Stone's translation of a Medieval Occitan poem that he gave us last week. It's an alternating discussion between two speakers on a moral question, a genre called partimen
. It is untitled (most medieval poems are), but I'll title it ( "The Ass-wind" )ETA:
I just had to add this. This is a part of my life that most none of y'all know about, since I've only gotten really obsessive since I moved down here, and usually the computer's already powered down when it happens. In fact I just booted back up to add this. I have gotten, in the past couple of years, quite persnickety about the state of my oro-nasal cavity at bedtime. In the bathroom, after peeing, I brush extensively. I scrub the back of my tongue until I set off my gag reflex twice (and I have a quite atrophied gag reflex). I snort and hock like nobody's business. I'm sure Kregg, whose bedroom is across the hall, must think that I have to extract, nightly, some sort of primordial creature with suckers and tentacles from my sinuses. It verges on both the ridiculous and the vile. But when I go to bed, at least for long enough to go to sleep, I can usually breathe halfway clearly through my nose. That's worth it. Plus the nose-octopi are a pernicious infestation which must be rooted out vigilantly.