Academic Writing Put to the Sword

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…the sword of Damocles? No. The sword of Helen.  No – not that Helen. The Sword of Helen: Helen Sword. You ‘member! ‘Member?

I’ve come to realize that whether I like a book or not often depends on timing.  Is my book du jour a good fit for my current state of mind or not?  If it is, I may be more open to its positive qualities.  If it’s alien to my mood o’the day, it’s probably going to be extra critical and snarky.

Stylish Academic Writing is the perfect book for me to be reading right now.  I’m working on my graduate thesis and I need affirmation that I’m doing it right.  This book gives me just the affirmation that I need.  In addition to being a style guide, it’s also a book about research. 

I know:  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

But the thing is, Sword takes her own advice – writing clearly about complex things, and she managed to make her research sound interesting – to a person who is currently doing a lot of research.  I wonder how much I would have enjoyed reading Ch. 2 if I had just finished one of my umpteen papers that I’ve worked on these last two years.  Or if I didn’t have to do any at all!  Would I have shkipped it or admired the detail and moved on?

THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL! GET IT! YOU CAN WRITE BETTER ACADEMIC PAPERS.

I’ll tell you this for free – romance novels where the couples are always at odds?  Tiresome and tedious.  But if you are going through the same thing?  You are SO buying it.  Buying into the catharsis of it all.  Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying Sword’s book so much.  She did way more research than I have, but I really feel the drudgery of  it — both hers and mine.  Catharsis makes the difference. 

A book doesn’t have to be a work of fiction for catharsis to be possible.  There’s a little discovery I’ve made for myself.  So timing seems to affect the quality of catharsis when you read something.  If you’re lucky enough to read something that meshes with your mindset perfectly, that’s beautiful!  If you read something that is so alien to your mindset, it might be worth considering reading it some other time.

Another example:  the novel Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakiswas recommended to me by someone whom I thought was a kindred spirit, but who was really a vain, pretentious asshole.  So I was in a humbuggy mood when I read it.  Right off the bat – fault-finding.  Clumsy translation, dead-end scenes, trite male/female dynamics, etc.  Well, now it’s been a few years.  The asshole is history.  In light of what’s been going on in Egypt, I’m curious to give the novel another shot.  I think I may be able to find something in common with an ex-soldier whose life is an ill-fit and subsequently finds himself at odds with his environment.

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