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 Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, and before that the lovely (ahem) U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. For the remainder of the summer we have invited our first contributors to tell us a little bit more about themselves, the moment they decided “this is the path for me,” and what keeps them going all these years –or months– later.
Where are you right now?
I’m sitting at my desk in my office at home. Yes! I have a home office. It’s probably my favourite room in the world.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
That’s a tough one because the moment that a lot of people would pick – President Obama’s inauguration – I was actually at. I might go back in time and put more thermals on because it was absolutely freezing that day and I ended up with a nasty cold. Hurray, history!
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Richard Yates (but I’d send him home before he got too morose), Allison Janney, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Marilynne Robinson, Terry Pratchett, Louise Brealey, Rufus Wainwright, Judy Garland.
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
This is a horrible, horrible question. I never have just one book with me. However, I’m going to pretend that my house is on fire and I can only rescue one. That would be my signed copy of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It’s my favourite book. It’s beautifully written and every time I read it I get something different from it.
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
Probably getting accepted to do the PhD. It was something that I had wanted to do for a very long time and for various different reasons it never worked out. The day I got the acceptance letter was quite emotional: joy, relief, excitement, terror…
What advice would you give to early career academics?
As I’m only halfway through my PhD I don’t think I’m really in a position to give advice to anyone! However, as I make my way through the maze that is academia, I’m learning the value of being intellectually generous. Share your work and talk to people.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
A research trip to the British Library in early June! I’m spending a whole week there doing some work on Richard Ford for the next stage of my thesis and I am ridiculously excited about.
How did you come to your current area of research?
Honestly? I can’t really remember. I started reading Richard Yates for “fun” and I ended up wanting to write about him because not enough people do. The thesis topic kind of grew out of that.
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
If age, ability, and money were no obstacles, I’d be a tennis player. As they are actually quite legitimate obstacles I’ll settle with owning a bookshop that sidelines into a bakery. Cake and books: what more could you need?
What book is currently on your bedside table?
I’ve got a few piled up, but I’m only reading one of them and that’s The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
Be honest; how long has it been there?
It’s been there since Christmas Day 2013 as it was a gift. I’m reading it really slowly because it is an absolute delight of a book and I don’t want it to end.
What’s in your fridge right now?
The fridge is quite well-stocked on account of it belonging to my parents so it contains everything. Not joking. Everything is in there. Might go raid it right now…