I wrapped up my winter term courses last week. It’s always a bit discombobulating after the final grades are submitted and I look around and realize the pressure is off. It hasn’t been my busiest term ever–fall was much busier, for instance–but even so there’s that constant awareness of something to get done, those weekends with Monday’s 9:30 class looming over the horizon, the steady of hum of guilt in the background when reading ‘for fun’–and all those odds and ends of bureaucratic business: things to post to Blackboard, doctor’s notes to collate with attendance records, reading responses to alphabetize, record, and return… And then there’s not! Hooray! And, now what?
Well, for starters, I usually treat myself to two things at the end of term: some housecleaning in my office, and some guilt-free down time. This time, that included breezing through some books by long-time favorites Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker. My public library has got quite a good selection of both authors now in their e-books, so all I have to do is point and click and I can load them up on my Sony Reader. I finally got God Save the Child, which I haven’t reread in ages–it’s the second one, right after The Godwulf Manuscript. Just one book later, it’s already more like the Spenser series I came to know and love, but most important, it’s where we first meet Susan Silverman. Spenser does a lot of cooking, and everyone wears fab seventies clothes described in tedious and inexplicable detail. I’m glad Parker started paring things down. Now I’m reading Sixkill, the last Spenser novel Parker finished before he died. The Dick Francis novels I read through were Reflex, Banker, and Decider–all good ones, but of these I think I liked Decider the best. Like Parker, Francis has a formula, but another way to think of a formula is as a recipe: if it works, why not make it again? I like the later Dick Francis books better than the earlier ones that were more closely focused on racing. Though horses are still always involved somehow, the protagonist usually has some interesting job that we get to learn all about: he may be a chef (Dead Heat) or a painter (To the Hilt, one of my favorites) or a glass blower (Shattered, another favorite). As a character, he’s pretty much the same every time: an everyday guy of relentless integrity who rises to the occasion and proves himself, not exactly a hero, but certainly heroic. Best of all, he always admires and usually falls in love with strong, intelligent, independent women. It’s true that, as in the Spenser books, it’s a man’s game overall, but that’s OK because if I get tired of looking at the world from that direction I can always skip over to my collection of Sara Paretsky or Sue Grafton mysteries!
I mentioned on Twitter that I enjoyed Francis’s incorporation of various exotic (to me) professions and my Romance-Land buddies suggested I might find something similar in some of Nora Roberts’s novels. So another book I downloaded was Vision in White, featuring a leading lady who’s a wedding photographer (side note: Nora Roberts is sure popular! pretty much all of her many, many books are checked out from the library’s e-book collection, most with multiple holds on them! I had to wait a few days for Vision in White too). I did enjoy the technical stuff, and I confess that though I’ve never been much of a wedding junkie, the wedding planner business was also entertainingly presented, though I don’t think I could stay interested in it for a whole series. My favorite part of Vision in White was definitely the cute English teacher, though as usual when anyone or anything remotely academic is presented I find it equal parts funny and annoying that the details are usually so inaccurate (not only does this guy enjoy marking student papers, but no distinction is drawn between being a literary scholar and being a creative writer–he has a Ph.D. but “of course” has a short story on the go, just for instance). Hmmm. Maybe all the glass blowing and haute cuisine and banking and architecture stuff in Dick Francis looks just as lame to professionals in those fields! No. Impossible–heresy!
I have been doing some work, including working through some of a revised thesis chapter on which I owe comments and also warming up (but definitely not warming up to) our latest installation of Blackboard. And I’ve had several hours of meetings, including a three-hour appeal hearing this morning, and I’ve had some reference letters to do, all for students I think very highly of and all for the same position–that’s a rhetorically tricky situation, I must say. Now it’s time to adjust to the new reality and start making up to-do lists and setting goals for the time between now and when classes start again. I’m not very good at summers, so I’m going to try and set up some structure for myself…starting tomorrow!