The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association.
Last month you spent 60 seconds with the U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. This month we have invited the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, to tell us a little bit more about themselves, their interests, the way they made it into academia and, crucially, their top advice for new academics.
Where are you right now?
It’s Sunday evening, I’m on the sofa with the laptop as I’ve been marking exams all day and got to the end and suddenly remembered that I hadn’t answered your questions….I’m trying hard not to work on weekends but obviously not succeeding very well.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
I’d go to one of the New Masses costume balls held at Webster Hall the 1930s, dance to the best swing bands in New York and interview all the editors and artists of the magazine to get an idea of what really went on that will otherwise remain occluded.
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
After said ball (see above) musicians, artists and writers would all come with me to a diner on the lower east side and talk revolution while I would try my best to keep quiet about the tragedies about to happen in the world: the Nazi-Soviet pact, the Holocaust and the failure of Soviet communism for starters… in fact, thinking about it, it would be a terrible thing to be there with hindsight.
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
I’d take the largest book ever made and live inside it. I’m a practical person at heart and I could use the spaces between lines to write my own thoughts down. It might also collapse on me and put me out of my misery if things got too much.
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
I have a terrible memory but just getting there and staying the course shouldn’t be underestimated. Books, graduations, fellowships, prizes, grant awards, quiet days when the writing goes well: they are all nice.
What advice would you give to early career academics?
Try to put family, friends, having a life, first.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
Hmmm. Going to Latitude in a few weeks.
How did you come to your current area of research?
A seed of the idea was planted by my Professor when I was an undergraduate 25 years ago — and I just got around to working on it. That’s gestation for you.
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
Gardening and/or beekeeping. Preferably both.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
A book on Beekeeping I picked up at the Amnesty bookshop – it’s incredibly relaxing as I’ll never actually have space to keep bees so will never have to deal with the reality. I’m also half-way through Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day. There are 2 reserves waiting for my attention for summer reading: Faulkner’s Light in August and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping.
Be honest; how long have they been there?
A fair while: my eyes fall shut five minutes into reading each night and then I have to reread from the start again the next night. It’s slow going.
What’s in your fridge right now?
It’s difficult to say exactly: I have teenage sons and it’s like having fridge locusts. I know there’s a cold beer and a World Cup game about to start….