Monday, February 23, 2009

Book 1 is Done!

Book 1 is done! I finished on Saturday and mailed it out around 12.15 (the post office closes at 12.30), and am just filling out a few publicity forms to email to my publisher right now. In the end it was 358 pages and 4 1/2 years of my life. In a few months I should get proofs from the publisher - to approve the copyeditor's work and compile the index - and it should be published in 2009. I'd tell you what it is but, not only is this an anonymous blog, it's a specialised book that few of you would want to read anyway. I'm just being realistic, not modest, here.

At the moment I just feel tired and a bit stunned, when I suppose I should be more like... Hooray! Champagne all round! In fact, there has been no champagne yet. MCM was away for the weekend. On Saturday evening I went over Mazarine's place for a casual dinner and pretty much collapsed as soon as I got there (yes, I'm a blast); Mr Mazarine came to my rescue with a soothing glass of a fruity Roussillon wine, and we had a nice, fun, chilled out night. Just what I needed.

MCM thinks we need to plan a decent night out to celebrate, and I am trying to figure out where to try to book a table. We want someplace reasonably priced and delicious, and probably more hearty than refined. Cafe Panique sounds good and is right near MCM's office, but I wonder if it looks a bit austere for a celebration. Bistrot Paul Bert comes up on everyone's list of most wonderful places - including NYC-Parisian goddess Dorie Greenspan's website - but I've also read a lot of bad reviews from "ordinary" people who claim that it has lost its sparkle and standards have plummeted. We shall see. I really love the idea of a great big steak frites, a robust red wine, and a yummy dessert. There is, though, a chance that MCM will be away this coming weekend, too, in which case I will probably dine Chez Picard. Such is life.

But if you, on the other hand, have been struggling to find an excuse to drink champagne, let me humbly suggest that you drink to my book. Hey, glad I could help. (Try this - we love it. You won't find it in a wine shop so order directly from them by the case; it's a light, agrume [citrusy] champagne that's very nice as an aperitif.)

Finishing Book 1 (and please don't ask, "Then when will you finish Book 2?") has brought into focus some of the big existential questions I've been asking myself - and most people within earshot - about my life and career. In theory, I'm an academic: I have a terminal degree, a book in press with an academic publisher (wow! That's still sinking in), and I am actively applying for academic jobs. The problem is that I live in Paris. And I have had a major epiphany: I like Paris. In fact, I don't really want to leave. But there is very little chance of getting a serious academic job in France: it's a very closed shop, my subject is not taught in many places, and the jobs that do exist are not comparable in terms of pay, benefits and responsibilities, anyway. Over the past few months French university staff, faculty and students have been going on intermittant strikes over pay, teaching, facilities, whatever. I am pretty sure that I do not have a serious future in a French university - I might be able to get temporary or part-time work through some serious networking, but I don't think I could get something equivalent to a US assistant professorship or a UK lectureship.

I therefore have the following options:
1. Keep applying like a maniac for jobs outside of France, and if (big if) and when I get one, take it, knowing that I might be going it alone at first, if MCM has a job here and can't find anything in a new location. The pros and cons are quite obvious here.
2. Give up on the academic job search and choose to do something else. The problems are that I love academia, I don't know what else I want to do, and I'd feel like I might be wasting my education and/or talents. I considered other paths before I went to graduate school, and if I had wanted to be a diplomat/administrator/lawyer/NGO worker, I would have just done it then. But I am trying to be open-minded.
3. Be creative and try to carve out my own intellectual life involving part-time teaching (maybe at French universities), occasional lecturing, consultancy, and trying to write more accessible, commercial books. This sounds like the perfect compromise, but it comes with major drawbacks: no colleagues (which I really miss), no job security, and always having to hustle for work. Being self-employed sounds wonderful to people who've never tried it before - all that freedom! working at home in pajamas! - but in reality it also demands huge amounts of persistence, imagination and determination. It means never getting paid vacation and having little control over your long-term planning. You have to accept that you could work as hard as you can and still end up with nothing but a very strange tax return.

And one that is not an option:
4. Just put this all out of my mind and try again in a few years. Sorry! Unfortunately, academia doesn't work that way: it's hard enough to get a job when you're "in" the system; once you're out, it's nearly impossible. In order to get a job you need to publish like crazy, too, so if I would need to keep writing anyway. This might be my one and only shot at getting an academic job, and if I don't get one within the next year it's probably time to give up.

At the moment I am doing a combination of 1 and 3. I'm still applying for jobs but I'm also trying to be entrepreneurial. It makes it difficult to live in the moment and enjoy Paris now; I'm afraid I'll spend all my time here applying elsewhere and fretting, and then it will be time to leave and I won't have profited from Paris. At the same time, I don't want to make a decision that will negatively affect my career for the next 35 years, all because I wanted to have fun in Paris in 2009.

Fun. What is fun? I need to get me some of that. Where did that Champagne go...?


  1. Yay! Congratulations on the finished book!

  2. just popped on yr blog. Being a Parisian myself born here and all, I'm sorry to read on yt profile that you have such a hard time trying to love it. It's a hard city, I know, I lived in Madrid myself and it took me some time to readjust to the weather, grouchy people etc.
    But is is so beautiful, I crossed le pont des arts a few days ago and I could'nt believe how much I was feeling at home, again...

  3. Congratulations; this is certainly a momentous occasion deserving of fine food and wine. Please let us know where you end up celebrating!

    I don't envy your professional dilemma; I was once there and picked a very different path than you probably will. But I don't believe there's only one correct answer. Believe that whatever you do, it will be the right thing!

  4. Go to "Je Thé...Me"!! The think I gave you the card - it's in the 15th.

    A hearty, delicious meal for 2 with excellent wine and coffee will run you about 100 euro. The atmosphere is quaint, romantic, private, and friendly.


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