In the spirit of “casual Fridays,” I intend to post a Friday musing each week that veers a bit off course from typical historical fare. My inaugural attempt is below.
What I’ve done lately to get my creative juices flowing:
- On a recent roadtrip our family listened to Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, which caused me to ponder: who makes best-seller history (NPR hosts?), how to weave one’s own phobias and passions into a compelling historical narrative, and why the underbelly of history (murder, mayhem, and sexual experimentation) is always popular. I suspect that reading AV in an undergraduate class would be huge fun–my teenage kids thought Vowell’s book was a better listen than previous audiobook choices by fantasy authors Garth Nix and Philip Pullman.
- I’ve been taking pictures. As a historian I find myself analyzing the photo-making and photo-taking process on many levels–such as how do pictures create emotion and how do they portray (or obfuscate) reality? What are the ramifications of living in a digital age with the accessibility of flickr and youtube? My spouse, John, recently launched a flickr challenge group,“A Certain Slant of Light,” that will undoubtedly motivate me and its other participants towards greater creativity.
- On my nightstand right now is Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science & Sex, (a perfectly apropos book for one’s bedside, I suppose). Roach’s somewhat unobjective historical analysis of sex research is funniest in the footnotes. Her own forays into sexual experiments (yes, she participates in several of the studies that she describes) might ‘inspire’ me to become more, um, engaged in my dissertation subject matter (or not). Next on my reading list is Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I’m thinking that Chabon might have a few things to teach me about historical writing–even if I never try my hand at fiction.
What is inspiring you right now?