I am a woman obsessed. I just can’t stop reading! I haven’t felt this compelled to read since the release of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
We’re looking at a good 10 years here, and I love reading. I’m researching madly, post-it-ing everything and making diagrams. Diagrams: something else I haven’t done for 10 years. And why? It’s the summer of the dissertation... research. I have made a pact – with my sanity – that the core reading and mindless analysis will be conquered by the time I return to the pitiful establishment in October, upon which day I will thrash around with apparently academic words on a subject of which I have solely a personal interest. You can call me whatever you like but I’m sticking to it.
I can’t remember enjoying a project so much since my self-taught introduction to Evelyn Waugh, some years ago. It is no coincidence that Mr Waugh has raised his head for a second innings. Who’d have thought a research essay could cause such gaiety? It doesn’t feel like work because it’s fun, and that’s what I went to university for. I feel like an adulteress if I look at my half-read copy of ‘The Group’ (also on my reading list) or divert my eyes to a tube neighbour’s Standard away from my commute companion.
Unless you’re of the mad persuasion (i.e., me) you’ve probably spent your humanities degree thus far ignoring your future thesis’ very existence. Obviously I’m the weirdo that turned up to the pointless ‘Advanced Research Skills’ class last term with a plethora of notes and an over-achieving attitude that should be kept in Pandora’s Box. The compulsory 10,000 words – although I’m hardly being water-boarded – are relayed as educational legend, a concept terrifying at school when one imagined a mere 1,000 to be a rhetorical marathon. Scoff scoff. The dissertation is a beast that can’t be tamed so they say, one that people avoid feeding until the shark’s cage is bashing a chair in the library. And according to my tutors, it’s not supposed to be fun. But mine is! It’s my baby.
But it’s more than just being on time with deadline. I have embraced geekiness. And no, not those Topshop t-shirts. I’m talking about really enjoying books – whatever floats your boat. And what’s keeping mine upright is a certain niche of early-twentieth century wit. I keep saying how sick-making things are – after Waugh’s Agatha Runcible – calling everyone darling and how ‘awfully’ this and that everything is. It’s more than an essay; it’s a way of life.
On a recent Radio 4 show, a newspaper columnist debated whether men’s being funny is sexy. It was concluded that it is not funniness that maketh the man, but inherited intelligence. The methodology in which one becomes funny derives from a prescribed literary analogy or effortless manipulation of language. It’s not the joke, it’s the delivery. And with that, I am embracing clever, hunkering down in a bomb shelter away from the outer world in which shells of ignorance deign to attempt to penetrate my finally focused and centred literary mind. Because as Nancy Mitford says, there are currants in the cake, and this is one of them.
Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.