Or close the wall up with our International dead.
In rest there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest reading and travel:
But when the blast of school blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Open the Lib’ries, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with coffee fueled rage;
That lend the pens a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the words o’erwhelm it
As formulae, markets, and metrics
O’erhang and jutty your confounded brain,
Swill’d the wild wasteful ocean of beer.
(Long apologies to William Shakespeare. This is about how I’m feeling about the return to classes tomorrow).
Tomorrow I start off Hilary, or HELL-ary, term. This is when we have 5 classes (I’m also auditing Finance II, but only because they won’t let me actually take it), our Entrepreneurial Project, where we do a business plan, try to find a job, as well as keep up with the stuff we started off. This is where it all comes to a head and I find myself, once again, procrastinating.
I closed the book on my final between-term reading. I’m pretty lucky to have had a bunch of winners, no small thanks to Sara and Steve on Co Clare. They gave me a pile of books after I’d blown through all of my books in the first few days. Reviews at the end for those who are interested/care.
One upside to this term: Fewer books (to buy and carry around). Many, many more assignments, however. And there are four groups to work with (and schedule around) instead of one. It’s all going to be exciting. I’m filled with some trepidation (I fell asleep three times doing my OM reading) but I’m excited about the prospect of being back to work and in the swing of things. I don’t slow down so well, really.
The past week was filled with a lot of noise around the upcoming EP project and presentations about our electives for Trinity term. It’s a little scary that I’m choosing the last courses I’ll do on my MBA and I haven’t even gotten my grades from my first term yet… I am, however, very excited about the classes offered. Doug Holt is teaching two classes on branding. There’s a course on “High-impact Social ventures”– basically, profitable entrepreneurship with a social focus. Entrepreneurial and Social finance. Loads of stuff– and, interestingly, stuff I wouldn’t have asked for, necessarily, but probably more directly appropriate to the work I want to do.
A small group of us did a few mini pub crawls– Several of us are trying to hit all the pubs in Oxford this year– there are about 65 of them, so it’s a quite reasonable goal. And we finished “Nought week” with a Pembroke Pink Pub Crawl. My college‘s colors are navy, grey, and cerise, an awful colo(u)r we wear with great pride. We pub crawled with about half Pembrokian grads and half MBAs (where there’s drink, there are MBAs). A good time had by all, though I had forgotten that the average glass of wine (and generally not particularly good wine) in Oxford is £4. Ouch! Reminds me why I stick to beer. Though, by the end of the night, I was desperately trying to get hit by a truck loaded down with Campari and soda. Typical.
What I read over my break, if you’re interested, in no particular order:
A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon. This is the guy who also wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night-time, which is a good follow-up. The theme this time, rather than getting inside the head of a child with Asperger’s, is a somewhat soap-operatic story (there’s a family, wedding, the meaning of love, etc), but the trick here is that one of the players is going quietly and very British-ly mad. You get inside the heads of all the characters. A real page-turner, but one that doesn’t leave you feeling dirty at the end of it. This is probably, for me, a pretty close example of a perfect airplane book. You can pick it up and put it down, and it keeps your attention.
Redemption Falls, by Joseph O’Connor. I read Star of the Sea a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it. It was a good page-turner but with a bit of weight, and I was definitely interested in reading more work. O’Connor did journalism and non-fiction before turning to fiction, much like several of my favorite and most well-respected authors, such as Neil Gaiman, Tom Wolfe, Martin Amis. I think that does something good to these guys– gives them the experience and the skill to churn words out with accuracy, conciseness, etc. In any case, Star of the Sea was very enjoyable, but I fell in love with Redemption Falls. I was starved for literature and sweeping description, but O’Connor here is an Irish author writing about a wide range of people in the aftermath of the US Civil War. He paints vivid pictures and brings in stylistic tricks from Southern American writers while making them his own. It’s another broad story that takes in a wide range of people, and tears at your heart while it makes you proud of these forbears. I generally don’t seek out historical fiction, but this one really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
Belfast Confidential, Colin Bateman. Page-turner, in the style of Christopher Brookmyre or Carl Hiaasen. Fun to read, especially when you just want something to read. And perhaps you need to escape from the blood, limblessness, smoke, death, and poverty of the pre-reconstruction time.
Human Traces, Sebastian Faulks. This was one that Sara (now pregnant! Congrats!) gave me. I put off reading it at first but got completely sucked in to it on the train from Udine to Milan. Another historical fiction novel. Two young men working as early psychiatrists, trying to discover what it means to be human. They don’t, yet at the same time they just may. This is a beautiful book and even got me a bit misty. One of my group members for Financial Management mentioned to me that Faulks was one of his favourite authors. I’m very much looking forward to other works by Faulks. Particularly On Green Dolphin Street.
The Undercover Economist, Tim Hartford: This is a really good look at economics. It also clarified a few things I was a bit fuzzy on just before the end of last term (and my econ exam). Written for the layperson, it generally helps you get a handle on why, for instance, Apple can charge so much more for its computers and still gain market share. It’s cool stuff.
Bonus: This interview by the FT with Jeffrey Eugenides (who wrote the excellent Virgin Suicides and the even better Middlesex). My favorite bit is the first question, as I think my answer may be the same:
FT: What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?
JE: The Information by Martin Amis.
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