The object of my affection

Well it’s been a long time.

7 months to be more precise. Pretty spectacular failure on the book progress blog and indeed on the book. But I have an excuse, and a pretty good one I think. I broke my leg. I didn’t just have a mini-break, but more of a round the world trip of breaks, my age and other factors adding to the number of stop-overs and detours associated with my recovery.

I discovered that I could manage most things to do with work with a broken leg. Indeed being in the University Hospital of the university where you work means that it’s quite easy to have meetings by your bed. And of course the internet means communication with anyone, anywhere is possible almost anytime. That is once you have convinced the good people at the hospital to give you back the laptop, ipad, and phone you had with you when you fell and broke your leg, and which remarkably sustained no damage whatsoever.

And wheelchairs and crutches and good colleagues (and Uber) mean that it is possible to get to and from and around the University to go to meetings, teach etc etc.

But it was almost impossible for me to think deeply and creatively. My mind just wouldn’t do it. The slightest effort in that direction resulted in fatigue and general mind fog. So I focused on other things, one of which was getting a new job.

This of course presents its own challenges, including, if not especially, to the book. I have been in this position before, on a number of occasions and each time the book project is the one that has suffered as I settled in, got to grips with, devoted myself to and then got completely absorbed in the new job, project etc.

A stark choice faced me. Should I be guided by my past experience and just give the book up now? Or should I try and use the time I have between jobs to devote myself to it and see what I can achieve?

Wise heads might suggest giving up. But here’s the thing. I love the idea of this book. Over the many years I have been wrestling with what I want the book to be about, and for the most part writing and publishing on all manner of other things, this book just refuses to dislodge itself from my head. It sits there and sits there representing itself to me as what Lauren Berlant (2011) describes an object of desire ‘a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us’. To phrase ’the object of desire’ as a cluster of promises is ‘to allow us to encounter what’s incoherent or enigmatic in our attachments, not as confirmation of our irrationality but as an explanation of our sense of our endurance in the object, insofar as proximity to the object means proximity to the cluster of things that the object promises, some of which may be clear to us and good for us, while others, not so much’ (pp23-24).

This seems to me to be a pretty good assessment of how I feel about the book, my book, as yet still  very incomplete.

The reference to ‘objects of desire’ is taken from  Berlant’s book  Cruel Optimism (Duke UP 2011). Cruel optimism is a relation that exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. Now I don’t want to think about my book in this way but there is a risk that it has/could become that. Another good reason for focusing on it for this short period and seeing whether there really is anything there, and if not, then calling a halt and focusing on flourishing.

The theme of this blog is not unsurprisingly connected to one of the chapters I have been working on this last week or so, a chapter on objects in collaboration. I have sent a first draft off to a critical friend for a review, so here’s hoping that unlike Mr Casaubon my great project is not doomed to failure.


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