Climactic moments and anticlimactic ones

When I last wrote, it was to declare the removal of myself from academia. And to be honest, I haven’t had the nerve to write anything else yet because I’m pretty sure anything I have to write in the wake of that post will be a bit of a letdown for my readers. It was a post that garnered more hits than I’d ever anticipated, and some people even signed up to follow this blog (and have probably felt rather taken in as the result of my rampant failure to post anything new). This blog does not usually aspire to profound observations regarding the sordid side of academia. Its aims are far more humble: to provide occasional updates about the progress of my professional life and some musings on it. Hence, this will be an anticlimactic post (and hence, also, the anticlimacticity of the post title). Apologies all around.

Much has happened since I last wrote. I finished the manuscript of what I jokingly call my second failed novel. (The first novel is still under representation with Jacaranda Literary Agency, and I’m keeping my dreams of writerly fame and fortune in check to avoid any hopes being dashed beyond repair.) It’s a very different novel from my first. The first is rather whimsical and humorous and set in Singapore. The second, however, is a dark and brooding and dreamish thing set between Jakarta, Indonesia and California. I spent the second part of last year writing it and the first months of this year revising it. And I’ve sent it to my agent. Part of me still can’t believe it’s done. And the best part of it all is that I’m satisfied with it. You know that feeling, when you reread something you’ve written long enough ago for it to be unfamiliar and for you to have forgotten the way the words go, and you think how amazing it is and then you catch yourself remembering that you wrote it and you smile? It’s that kind of feeling I have when I reread it. Even more happy-fying, though, is the fact that a friend whose judgment and taste I trust kindly consented to read the manuscript and said that she loved it. So this is exciting. But I know enough from my experience after writing my first novel that finishing the novel can be rather anticlimactic. The hard work is done, but unless you already have a publisher beating down the door to get it out to the public (those lucky writers!), it’ll take you a long time to see the fruits of your labor on display in stores, if the fruits ever make it there at all. So, in the meantime, I wait.

And there’s much to keep me occupied while I wait. A climactic event–genuinely climactic–did occur recently. I write this as the mother of a five-week-old baby boy. And his arrival was anything but anticlimactic. It came two weeks before the expected due date (a tremendous surprise) and he is much crankier and louder and screamier than we had anticipated. (Our little bundle of joy! we grimace to each other over the shrieks that seem to broadcast to the neighbors that we’ve just pulled out all his toenails rather than fed him and changed him, which is what we have actually done). We suspect that we have what is generally known as a “difficult” baby…which doesn’t change the fact that we love him and think him adorable, but one has to face the facts about such things. In any case, he is anything but an anticlimax, though probably more interesting to me than to others who are never as interested in one’s own baby as one’s own self tends to be.

In other news:

Asymptote, the journal I’m Indonesia Editor-at-Large at, just won the London Book Fair’s International Literary Translation Initiative award! Wowza! That would come under…climactic!

An article I wrote on the politics of portraying indigenous people in contemporary Indonesian literature has been accepted by PMLA…more than a year later. As happy as I am that the article finally found a home, news of its acceptance bordered on the anticlimactic: apart from the fact that it took longer to place this article than for an entirely new human being to be created, it came after I made the decision to cease my tiring and unrewarding pursuit of an academic career. Thus, I’m less excited about it than I probably would be if I were still playing the Academia Game, which is less unapologetically evil than the Great Game of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, and not as dangerous as “The Most Dangerous Game,” but nonetheless bad in its own way to those who play it ill.

And on that note…

(Get it? Get it?)


  1. Chris Clark

    Congratulations on motherhood – it will be everything you thought it would be and more. Babies are exciting things to produce and usually arrive to much more immediate acclaim than writing! I start my PhD next Monday – not without misgivings but I have waited long enough. I won the Faculty Medal for my Honours Degree and am about to have my first article published in the JASA journal, Sensibilities. My baby just turned 26 (!!) so you and I are at opposite ends of our respective academic and mothering journeys. I wish you much happiness, luck (which never hurts) and love xxxx

  2. Congratulations Tiffany!

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