Monday, July 30, 2007

Questions, and Reading a Few Books At a Time

Well, the worst is over. I finished my Staff Appraisal this afternoon. Managed to keep my head cool and rein in that barbed tongue of mine. I've managed to get good overall ratings - thanks to my consistent work performance than my relationship with my manager.

The constant friction between my manager and myself is often due to my need to question her orders (and by implication, her authority.) I am capable of behaving - of pretending to abide by rules and regulations even when they are unfair or they don't make sense - but too often, I choose not to. I choose to speak up, to question - and I end up sabotaging myself. But the person that I am, I can't do anything else. To not speak up when things are unfair - it's cowardice. It's as though each time I choose not to speak up, I am relinquishing a bit of my soul and who I am.

Is there a better way - a middle path - to this problem? Am I just a hot-head who can't learn temperance, or I just need to learn to be more tactful? This is one of those eternal questions, isn't it? When to act, and when to keep still. I just have to try to figure things out by myself.

Oh well. Onwards with books:

I usually read a few books at a time, rotating them around on different days. Sometimes I bring two books to work - one to read on my way to work, another to read back from work. However last week, in my bid to outrun spoilers, I charged through Harry Potter 7. It has been a while since I've been so focus on finishing a book, so much so that straight after finishing Harry Potter, I was at a loss.

I didn't know what to read next, until I picked up my half-read copy of Florence King's Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady. I read it the way I read Harry Potter: with persistence that is uninterrupted by other books. Perhaps that's how I managed to finish reading it. Maybe I should just try to always read one book at a time. I might actually finish more books. But who am I kidding. I'm always going to be distracted by other books.

I've just resumed Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights today. The gang over at Slaves of Golconda will be gathering to discuss it this coming August. I'm not a member, but I thought I try to read it, see if I have anything to contribute to the discussion. If not, I can at least follow what they are posting. I'm still practicing participation via lurking. Heh.

It's a thin book, about 128 pages, and I'm only 34 pages into it. It's not a conventional novel, more like a series of journal entries, rumination on different topics, one sometimes spinning off into another. There is something smoke-like in its structure. I find the narrative voice articulate, the prose dreamy and elusive. It is interesting, but I wish I have something more substantial to write about the book. Will see how I like it later.

Oh, one piece of good news for me: my order for Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage has finally arrived.


Anonymous said...

I admit I'm having a hard time with Sleepless Nights. I think it's just me - I'm not in the mood for this type of book. Looking forward to the Slaves discussion. Oh and I tend to be a lurker too :)

darkorpheus said...

Let's just try our best and see how we go, yes? After the intense Harry Potter reading I'm a little overwhelmed by the dreamy lyricism in Sleepless Nights. It's beautiful, but hmmm...

Anonymous said...

i can relate with regards to reading a number of books at once. i normally read about 4 at a time, at least. it got really out of hand at one stage, though, when i had more than 10 books that were dragging on together...! thats when i had to cut down.

those tiny 130 - 140 page books are bloody deceptive. they're buggers. they're often very dense...

Anonymous said...

Yay! made it through staff appraisal and won't have to worry about it for another year. Speaking up is a good thing if you ask me. I've been lucky these last few years to have a boss who encourages it but she is leaving and I fear that is about to change. I like youre description of Sleepless Nights as dreamy and smoke-like.

jenclair said...

I read several books at a time, but usually settle on one to finish. Except for certain nonfiction that I'm content to return to only when I feel like it... I've been reading Flannery O'Connor's letters for months now, coming back to them for brief periods and always enjoying them.

darkorpheus said...

Jean Pierre How successful have you been at cutting them down? If you have any advice, please share - because I have too many books half-read, unfinished - that I really need to stop! :)

Stefanie Thanks! Yeah, I still have next year's appraisal to look forward to. *sigh*

I believe it takes a truly courageous person to take criticism, or at least someone who can set aside his/her ego enough to listen to questions without being defensive.

Which is why I want your boss - but I'm sorry she's leaving. Is this because of the changes at your workplace that you mentioned previously? Or is she just moving on?

Sleepless Nights - still working on it. It's nice, but I realise the only way to read it is to stop demanding a structure or any organisation. Just letting it be. So, I'm not even going to rush it.

Jenclair: The great thing is, you're disciplined enough to keep at it. I think I allow too many things to slip unfinished. Always wonder if I need to be more disciplined.

Anonymous said...


well, i've been fairly successful. at the moment i'm not going beyond the 5 book limit.

i think the reason why i'm doing all right at keeping how many i read to a minimum is the punishment that i devised for myself. (punishment!! ha! serious business, this reading...)

i had soo many books unfinished that it started to become quite stressful. and also, i was picking up books, that i had actually been enjoying quite a lot and then not being able to follow what was happening and having to trackback pages and pages. i decided that all this was a waste of time (having to trackback) and that i wasn't really getting the most out of these books, because the gaps were often very large between reading sessions.

so i decided that i will not pick up another book until i had finished all those i'd started. i think it was somewhere in the mid 10s, like 16 or something.

it was very hard indeed, but i knew it was the right thing to do. i think the experience of absolutely having to stick to that cluster of books made me appreciate being able to pick up new ones all the more. but i realised that i have to exercise some control or i'll just start about 10 new books every month! :)

so 5 is my compromise to myself - which myself thought was quite reasonable and agreed to.

darkorpheus said...

Jean Pierre Hmmm...I think I'll take your advice and see if I can keep to the list of my current books in progress. But this will have to include the book I just bought this evening. Heh.

Carl V. Anderson said...

As a manager of many staff who doesn't mind a bit of questioning, I would have to say that attitude...tact...goes a long way towards the way that something is interpreted and accepted. It is human nature to get to the point where one dismisses out of hand anything that comes from an employee whose attitude seems challenging or insubordinate or whiney, etc. I try very hard as a supervisor to not do that, but it is way too easy to dismiss those who don't try to learn to express themselves in a constructive manner.

Then again sometimes supervisors, and managers, are just poor at their positions and no matter how you broach them with ideas they treat you poorly.

Work sucks. ;)

darkorpheus said...

Carl I know what you're telling me, and I do appreciate the honesty. What little bit of self-awareness I have tells me I'm often direct to the point of being brusque, and so as a staff, I can be a handful.

Except I know I am not the only one with that problem with my manager. And I know I am good at my job. Which is perhaps why I often challenge my manager's decisions.

Deep down inside, I DO believe I can do her job better than her. I don't exactly respect her. It's no wonder she doesn't respect me.

Or maybe I'm just tired of doing her job when she's reading the newspapers in the office. And having her question my commitment to my job because I leave the office on time to rush for my yoga class.

Work sucks. Why can't I be rich like Paris Hilton?

Anonymous said...

oh yeah :) you'd definitely have to include the book you just bought - you can't go and NOT read that one now!