Although I’ve been avoiding it all day, I finally got around to packing for a work retreat — a seminar on teaching — that I have to go this week. I’ll be gone from Monday through Thursday. Believe me, I’d much rather stay home and read and sleep, and it makes me feel worse that this is a retreat I don’t actually have to go on. A colleague talked me into going two years ago, last year they put me on staff, and this year I agreed to be a staff member again. So yes, not only do I have to go to this thing, but I have to be enthusiastic about it.
The truth is, once I’m there I’ll be fine, but at the moment I’m not into it.
Although I won’t have much time for reading, I will bring some books along anyway. I’m taking Anne Fadiman’s excellent essay collection At Large and At Small, which I’m already over half way through. It’s an excellent little book — about all kinds of random things, but it doesn’t matter what she writes about, because she makes everything so fascinating. Her literary essays have made me want to read more Charles Lamb and to start reading Richard Holmes’s biography of Coleridge, which I have on my shelves.
I’ll also take Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge, which I’ve almost finished but won’t quite get to the end of before I leave. I’ve found this a very strange book, and I’m not particularly liking it, although it’s given me a lot to think about. Has anybody else out there read it? It’s just … odd. More on that later.
I’ll also be taking the next Slaves of Golconda book, Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude. We’ll see if I get a chance to crack it open.
I’m also taking my bike, which may provide a much-needed escape for an hour or so now and then, although I’m guessing other people attending will also be bringing their bikes, so it may not be an escape at all. If necessary, though, I can probably tell everybody I need to train hard for my next race and then proceed to leave them far behind. That would be kind of fun.
Okay — see you at the end of the week!
12 responses to “The week ahead”
“The Razor’s Edge” left me fairly bewildered as I read it, but by the end… I’m not sure how, but I felt like I’d enjoyed the book a lot more than I really had. It’s like the opposite of “The Painted Veil”, where the ending was such a letdown. I think the point of “The Razor’s Edge” is just to present the characters and let them do their own thing. And while the book also made me think, I have a feeling that if the style had been slightly less dull in the beginning, I might have enjoyed it more throughout. It is indeed a strange little book.
Can’t wait to hear more about the Fadiman essays – and hope you enjoy the retreat despite not wanting to go.
I hope the retreat ends up being fun. I read Razor’s Edge for the Outmoded Classics challenge a couple years ago. It was an odd book, but I did enjoy it however much I never quite understood Larry (hope I got the name right) though the end helps clarify things a bit.
I hope your retreat turns out okay (at least you have some good books and your bike along)–sometimes these work things can be a drag. Does this mean when you get back you’re on your summer vacation? Something to look forward to afterwards!
ugh. Work retreats. NOT a fan of them. But you are so right – the anticipation of them is generally much worse than the events themselves. See you when you get back!
I feel for you. It’s bad enough to have to attend, but to be obliged into enthusiasm is insult to injury.
I have read The Razor’s Edge, and actually I really enjoyed it. I loved all that searching for life’s meaning through different philosophies stuff, and I was entertained by the awkward, dislikeable women characters and the dodgy narrator, Uncle Whatsisname – Eliot, isn’t it? But mostly I liked it because I think Maugham writes beautiful sentences. I could be too easily pleased.
I hope your week goes by fast and you can find little times to escape before then! See you when you get back!
Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris is one of my favorite books about books.
Hope the retreat is going well! And, hope you can sneak in some reading time too 🙂
I read The Razor’s Edge years ago, maybe even in my late teens or early twenties, and I remember loving it. I’ve long been a WSM fan, and this is one of my favs. It is probably one of the most existential/philosophical of his novels.
I hope you are getting to the end of the retreat now. I read Razor’s Edge quite recently and I think of all Maugham’s books that I have read, it is the one I liked least. I simply could not find a way into it. And I agree, it is weird.
Biblibio — I found the beginning a little slow too, but with me, I enjoyed the beginning more than the end. It started out odd and intriguing and went downhill from there. I’ll post more on the book soon.
Verbivore — I did enjoy the retreat after all, and I just finished the Fadiman book last night and will post on it fairly soon. It was really enjoyable!
Stefanie — Larry is a strange character. I came to like him over time, but for me, it was the narrator I couldn’t ever warm up to. Things do come clearer at the end, but by that point I wasn’t enjoying it much.
Danielle — the retreat ended up being fun, and now I’m sort of on my vacation. I have an online class to teach, but still it feels like a huge break, as I don’t have to drive to campus anymore. Yay!
Courtney — fortunately this retreat was different than most work retreats, I think, and I did end up having fun. I think next year I may even be able to avoid the dread!
Litlove — generally I love the philosophical stuff too, but this time it didn’t work for me. I had trouble with the dodgy narrator — mostly because I couldn’t quite see him as amusing and came to find him more and more annoying over time. It might be a matter of expectations — the narrator claims to be Maugham himself, and so I set out wanting to like and trust him and just couldn’t. I agree that Elliot is a great character!
Debby — the week DID go by fast, and now I’m so grateful to be home and comfortable again! I’ll see you soon!
Mike B. — I read Ex Libris a while back and loved it too. I wouldn’t mind reading it again.
Iliana — well, I didn’t sneak in much reading time, but I did get a chance to ride my bike twice, and that was comforting. I just couldn’t settle down enough to read. But I’m home now and can read all I like.
Arti — I’m a Maugham fan too, but this one won’t be my favorite. I’m intrigued by all the religious stuff, but for me the book just didn’t come together very well. But I will continue to read Maugham because I’m sure this one is an aberration for me.
Musings — yes, it’s hard to find a way into it. It felt disjointed and all over the place. I had trouble with the narrator, who claims to be Maugham, but whom I hope is very different from Maugham, because I didn’t like him very much.