10 July 2006

Writer's Block

Here's an unanticipated (by me) phenomenon: my writer's block has carried over to the blog. I've been trying to find the right line to take for the introduction to the book - the last new material that I need to draft before going into full-scale editing mode, up and until Routledge's deadline in January. It's not that I have nothing to say in the introduction - and therefore this entry is probably mistitled; my problem is never blockage but an inability to control the flow. Rather, I have about 19 things to say and I should really only say 2 or 3 of them. At any rate, I've found myself so frustrated in my writing for the book that when it occurs to me to blog I get a similar wave of naseau as the one I've been feeling every morning and so I move on to something else. As an upshot, this means I get a lot of reading done.

So...if you picked up a book titled, Troubling Politics: The Political Theory of Judith Butler (I know, that's a huge if but this is a blog and I'm entitled to my hypotheticals), what would you want to read in the introduction? Should it start with contemporary politics or with Butler? (The former seems almost random, while the latter sounds boring in a typically academic way.) Should it try to make the case for the general thesis implied in the subtitle, or should it simply direct you to the 7 substantive chapters of the book wherein that case will be made through specific interventions and arguments? (The latter looks like a copout, but the former proves impossible since that thesis is too general.)

Hmm...perhaps if I reallly wanted to reduce the readership of this blog from its current high watermark of half a dozen folks down to zero, I could just do an entry each day of the week that takes up a different prospective intro line. (Don't worry, I wouldn't.)

Next: Blogging from London!!!
Later: Great British Television -
This Life


Tarn said...

Yes, that IF for me is gargantuanly huge, but let's just say it so for giggles' sake... I generally don't read introductions (because they're usually really boring -- cop out, academic, summarizing, etc.) But I will tell you this: the introductions that I have read that actually hooked me into further interest into actually reading the book have almost always been less of the stuff that lies further on in the book, and moreso in fact, was the personal stuff -- not personal like "this is my life" "this is my wife" type personal -- but the kind of personal that got me into the author's brain, the passion, the whole raison d'etre behind the book. Usually, the writing style was totally out of sync with the rest of the book, and less academic. The details will come. It's the hook that sinks the meat.

In my humble opinion.

dan said...

I love the title: Troubling Politics. I'll be ready for the intro to get me either really "troubled," or really engaged with what is "troubling" or allows me to experience the troubling in a productive way, which, of course, would get me really excited. I mean, I hear JB is really smart and out there and lots of people seem to get really enthusiastic when they're "around" her. What's so troubling? Who/what is she troubling? Why is she troubled? I can't wait to find out!

Sam said...

Thanks you two - very helpful thoughts! Dan, you can rest assured: I've got a whole long thing on the various ways to read the phrase 'troubling politics'. Tarn, I like the personal angle, and I have one for this book, e.g. opening line: 'I've wanted to write this book for more than a decade'. It's complicated, however, by the fact that it's a co-authored volume. Still, I'll ponder a way to overcome that difficulty and still create the 'hook' - which is what I've been looking for and the reason why I have 19 different threads for the intro...

david cameron said...

I agree with Dan, that you want to trace out "troubling" and its significance/various meanings with respect to Butler's work, but I would do it in an off-hand way, rather than in some sort of Kantian academic autopsy of the word, say, like starting with some pleasing & engaging anecdote from Prime Minister's question time or the Teri Schaivo debate or Oscar Wilde's life and then trace out the different modalities of toublesomeness, from a Butlerian perspective, in your anecdote (and then end with a boring outline of the coming chapters in three sentences or less per chapter).

sageblue said...

Yes, I agree: open with interesting anecdote. OK, I did it with my diss, so I'm partial.

Can we also talk about how others haven't troubled Butler enough? Or too much? Call people out? I love that.

Ruth said...

Definitely the opening anecdote. Although, frankly, "I've wanted to write this book for more than a decade" doesn't make me jump out of my seat. Which, since you want me to keep reading, may be a good thing. So let's say, instead, that it doesn't inspire me to STAY in my seat.

Deirdre David's Rule Brittania preface and introduction are ones I particularly like: she uses the preface to tell the anecdote ("London. Implacable November Weather. Mud in the streets, soot in the air, fog in the nostrils."), then the intro to explain why the anecdote matters. It's all about tropical fruit in Brixton, which is the metaphor she uses for the interpenetration of colony and metropole. I don't know why, precisely, but the whole package just works for me: it's catchy, clear, but also informative.

I would respectfully disagree w/Tam, though, and say that some of the details DO matter. I really find a discursive chapter-by-chapter summary at the end of the intro to be terribly helpful -- it functions, frankly, like a longer back-of-book blurb in helping me decide whether it's worth my time to read, or buy, or assign, a book.

Ooh -- another one I remember liking, for a much more pop book, was Guns, Germs, and Steel. Again, story and explanation. I even taught that one in Comp (whic isn't necessarily a recommendation, I realize).

115 in the shop today, for anyone who cares. Just thought I'd throw that in.