Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Narrative of Retirement Redux

A while ago, I posted something along the lines of "I don't need a narrative at the lake; instead I just have cyles of pleasure."  And that is--to some extent--true.  The first two and a half months up here at Lake Medora have been wonderful:  lots of friends here, lots of great company, lots of beautiful days in the water and on the deck.  But. . . .

I have come to realize that I have to have a project.  This summer I did actually work on a project, a book of Budapest photographs.  It was pretty large, something around 140 pictures, and all of them had to be resized in photoshop and often fiddled with.  Along with that I tried (and for the most successfully) to find the address of the buildings and the architect of each one.  This I did mainly for my own pleasure and as a thank you gift to our generous landlord.  But that's done now, and I'm thinking what next?

We will be at the lake til late in November.  Still a lot of summer and Indian summer left.  But not so many friends, not so many gorgeous days when just to be outside is to be happy.  I don't know if it's because as a teacher, I always started the year in the fall, or just my natural need to move towards something (there's that narrative again).  But I need to do something.  And I think I just might have a plan.

My professional life was bound up with writing and publishing.  Everything I have ever published has been in peer-reviewed scholrly journals or books.  Without peer-review, the work doesn't have the scholarly credential, and--at least in the world of tenured faculty--doesn't really count.  Except I no longer live in that world.  I could continue producing peer-reviewed scholarly work, as some of my emeritus-faculty friends are doing.  But I am tired of that game, at least for now.  But I am not tired of thinking and writing.  So where do I go?  Whence is my narrative of retirement?

I have decided to write a book about Hungarian Secessionist architecture.  Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am obsesssed with it: I lust for it.  I actually have learned quite a bit about it, over the years.  And I have thousands of pictures, all of which are my own intellectual property.  And there is really very little available in English on this (trust me) fascinating topic.  But my first problem is that I do not have the scholarly credentials to publish a peer-reviewed book in the field of art history.  And my second problem is that I don't read Hungarian, the language in which most of the published research is written. So no chance of a peer-reviewed book.

But I don't really need to write a peer-reviewed book.  I don't need to add any more peer-reviewed scholarship to my CV.  Thus, I have decided that I will write a book, but that I will self-publish the book, probably on Amazon.  I will set a low price, hoping to attract readers.  (The money is less important to me than a readership.)  It will be a quasi-scholarly book (based, that is, on everything I have learned in the 6 or 7 years in which I have been reading about and taking pictures of Secessionist architecture).  But it will be written for a general audience.  (That is, it will lack, except for a concluding bibliography, all the scholarly apparatus of the peer-reviewed product--and for those of you who have not wandered in this particular maze, the scholarly apparatus is of a truly scholarly peer-reviewed book is HUGE.)

People who are in academia will appreciate what a huge shift this is.  (I spent over 30 years chasing a dissertation then academic publications: it is who I was--and still am to a large degree.)  People not in academia will probably think what's the big deal.  (And I am starting to feel this way myself.)

I am grateful for the technology that allows one to easily self-publish.  However, I am not going to be lured into producing something that's equally easy to write.  I want the book to be good.  I am prepared to put the time in.  And then when it goes out (assuming I make it that far) see what it's worth.

This blog has been, and will continue to be, wonderful for trying out ideas.  So I plan to do more Budapest-themed posts. But I'm not going to make it into a rough draft for the book, so I will try to continue to post about other aspects of my life.  I have not been much of a blogger this summer: too much going on here in paradise.  But I'm now in a different rhythm and hope to be back to regular posting.  Next post will be about summer in the Keweenaw,



  1. You go, girl! As you know, I think this is a great idea and know that you will find it very satisfying. Can't wait to read (more of) it.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. I am now trying to figure a workflow for actually doing it!

  2. It's a dilemma isn't it? Does moving on from something you enjoyed doing and spent decades of your life pursuing minimise the value of those years? Is there a risk that in finding other things worthwhile and enjoyable to devote time to, you begin to look on your career as a life misspent? I haven't quite got those thoughts properly balanced just yet.

    1. Well Caree, you certainly have all the right questions. Retirement is definitely an ongoing process. Thanks for understanding

  3. Just wish I had the answers too! Think I might need to rely on you for those, in due course.

  4. Sorry your comment slipped through my cracks. I thought I had posted it, but. . . . Anyway, I definitely do not have the answers. Of that I am positive!