Monday, April 15, 2013

A Double Life

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked but really being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”
                ---- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

I lead a double life.

This may not seem surprising. After all, what writer doesn’t? Except for those fortunate few who can afford to make writing their careers, we all have to put down our pens (or shut our laptops) and get on with the normal business of working, parenting, or school.

For me, though, even my writing has fractured. Online, most of you know me as part of the YA literature scene. I write YA, blog about YA, and write reviews of YA novels. However, in “real” life, most people know me as the straight-A student who loves reading Shakespeare or Milton in her free time and has plans to do her PhD and be a professor. Those people are shocked that someone who reads The Wasteland for fun, or who can recite Yeats from memory would also have a shelf full of YA novels.

People normally see “high brow” and “low brow” literature as completely separate. They don’t think that Joyce’s Ulysses and Twilight could have anything in common.


Did I just suggest that one of the greatest novels in the English language is somehow similar to a teen vampire story?

Yes. Yes I did. While there are many differences between the two, they are, fundamentally, about what it means to be human. Leopold Bloom wanders aimlessly around Dublin, and Bella Swan falls in love with a sparkling vampire, but both are ordinary humans seeking fulfillment. Well-written or not, “teen trash” or highly literary, entertaining or tedious, these stories tell us something about the human condition.

For me, that’s the point of any and all literature. To reach out to other humans, to overcome, as Joseph Conrad would say, “the loneliness of innumerable hearts,” and to truly communicate with someone else.

That is why I can’t find any disconnect between my scholarly studies and my YA writing. Because whether I’m reading The Hunger Games or Beowulf, Paranormalcy or Pride and Prejudice, J. K. Rowling or Virginia Woolf, I’m still reading about fundamental human issues. The need to be loved. To have faith. To belong.

The style may be different. Yes, some styles may even be “better” (but that’s a completely different argument). But, at the core, they are the same.

That is why I can be both 100% YA author and 100% academic. Because I am also 100% a writer. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Not Quite Graduating

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper.
---- T. S. Eliot “The Hollow Men”

To begin on a cheerful note, the lines I just quoted from Eliot’s brilliant poem kind of reflect how I’m feeling right now. I have just a week left of classes, and I’m done at King’s forever. I’ll never have these profs again, or go to classes with many of my friends. When exams end in a month, I’ll never return as an undergraduate.

There should be ceremony. There should be speeches, and prizes, and fancy black hats, and flowers. Instead, I’m just sort of leaving. After all, I’m only done third year. I’m not even graduating. And yet, because I’m going to Scotland next year, I might as well be.

Maybe this is one of the reasons they don’t advise going on exchange in your fourth year (aside from the fact that getting all your required courses done can be a headache). There’s no closure. There’s no recognition of everything I’ve accomplished at King’s. Even next year I won’t be at the May convocation with the rest of my class since I’ll still be writing exams in Scotland. I’ll have to graduate in the fall, with all the kids who needed summer school to finish up. I’m just sort of slipping away.

I don’t regret deciding to go to Scotland. I’m beyond excited to head off, and I know I’ll have an amazing time. BUT… leaving King’s is a little bitter-sweet. I’ve only been here for two years, and it feels like I’m not really quite done yet. I could do another year.

Maybe it’s a good thing to leave now, when I’m still going to look back fondly on my years at King’s. I see so many of my fourth year classmates sighing “I can’t wait to get out of here!” and I completely understand their perspectives. Four years at the same school could get a little old. For me, I’ll have attended four different universities by the time I’m done my undergrad. I’ve had so many opportunities, and no time to get tired of anything.

I’m excited to move on, but I’ll definitely miss King’s. I guess that’s how life is, constantly mediating between the past and the future. But for the present, I’ll enjoy my last month at King’s, even if that last month is spent frantically writing exams. :)