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Of Grace, Lord Byron, and Vampires: A New Year in the Lives of the English Majors

I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to let so much time fly by since my last post. But part of what was occupying me and Michael was the Modern Language Association Convention, which is always held between Christmas and New Years Day, and which was held in San Francisco this year.

For those of you who don’t know, the MLA is the Major Yearly Confab for college English teachers and the recruiting site for next year’s job openings in the profession — attended this year by (among others) our Son the Victorianist, who stayed with us while charting his self-possessed and elegantly suited-and-tied course through interview hell (about which we shall speak no more in this post, as there are further interviews and campus visits for him to negotiate before his next year’s fate is decided).

But even with all the jobsearch stress and uncertainty it was a delight to have him at home with us, and also to get together with him and other dear friends in the English professor biz — 2 generations of ’em now!

While an additional pleasure for me was going to hear Benjamin Markovits read from A Quiet Adjustment, the second novel in his Byron trilogy (this time centering around the much-wronged and resentful Lady Byron), after which he discussed his work with a room full of Byron scholars.

I’ve already blogged here and here at History Hoydens about the first book of the trilogy: Imposture is about John Polidori, Byron’s physician and the author of The Vampyre, a landmark work in early vampire fiction, perhaps partly plagiarized from Byron.

But then, isn’t a certain unclarity as to boundaries always a component of the vampire mystique? Isn’t that why a vampire has to be invited, for example, before he or she can enter someone’s home? The vampire mythology implies an impure line of demarcation between the dead and the living, our home in the world open and vulnerable to menacing presences and influences, identity and personality gone soft, freakish, hazy, insubstantial.

Imposture isn’t really about vampirism in any direct way. But indirectly I found it deeply and painfully revealing (as I expect to find A Quiet Adjustment) of what it feels like to find oneself wanting in depth, substance, brilliance. Because who couldn’t come up against the all-too-real Lord Byron (the third book of the trilogy will get to him directly) and not find oneself dissipating into misty, resentful haze?

Or as Markovits put it (I’m paraphrasing here): what does it feel like to know you don’t write as well as, say… Lord Byron? (Or even — Pam might interject — to write as well as Benjamin Markovits?)

It’s to feel graceless.

And what is grace?

Markovits puts it somewhere between the religious and the athletic.

But I’ve been thinking that perhaps grace is also the ability to make so a subtle, excellent, and well-thought an observation…

…which has kept me mulling and considering into the New Year…

…and wishing my readers, myself, the Young Victorianist in our family, and everyone I love a good and graceful 2009.

5 Comments

  1. Here’s wishing good stuff to the Young Victorianist and his doting parental units, for this year and always.

  2. And to you, Janet. And to azteclady and everyone else. I wept at my laptop in Mexico, watching the inauguration.

    Here’s to new beginnings, cautious optimism, and the wonder that is Aretha Franklin’s voice. And hat.

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