Saturday, January 2, 2010

a new decade's resolution

After a full week of sitting in Cambridge cafes, banished from the libraries (closed for the holidays) and with no friends around, I got to thinking... this dissertation stuff can be kind of isolating! Not a novel thought, I readily admit, but an important one nonetheless. And so I've made a resolution for the new year. To read two books a week: one non-fiction and one fiction. My resolution does commit me, I admit, to more alone time, but it's a new kind of solitude - it engages different parts of the mind and the imagination.

I've started this week with Jane Kamensky's The Exchange Artist, a work of non-fiction that might as well be a novel, it's written with such superb skill. It tells the tale of Andrew Dexter, Jr., a speculating capitalist who lived in the early Republic and built an empire on paper bills. It's a boom and bust story that we can still learn from in the 21st century.

My work of fiction this week is Ian McEwan's A Child in Time. McEwan is a long-time favorite of mine. Atonement is probably my favorite book. I think what I admire most about McEwan is his skillful development of character and his eery ability to manipulate his readers.

As the theme of this post indicates, I've also decided to widen the angle of this blog to include all aspects of the dissertation process... including my writing/research blocks and the solutions I (hopefully) come up with to get over them. So, here we are: the beginning of the dissertation, and the first frustrations are already surfacing! So here's to a new year and a new decade: may there be many solutions and much fiction in the dissertation-writing years to come!


  1. 'this dissertation stuff can be kind of isolating!'

    Don't I just know it.

  2. Hi,
    with great interest I've recognized your blog. My own research deals with the Moravian Brethren too. I'm writing my dissertation about the abolition of slavery in the Moravian Church and their approach to the emancipation of the slaves. In detail my thesis compares two Moravian communities, one on St. Croix and one in Surinam. Until know I've only visited archives in Europe (Herrnhut, Copenhagen, Utrecht) but I hope to get the funding for an archive trip to Bethlehem and Paramaribo. It would be nice to get some information on your research, if you're intrested I would send you my exposé.