Will

It is clear at this point that, no matter how hard I work for the rest of my life, I will not succeed in bringing to fruition the majority of writing projects that I already have, and that I will not be able to oversee them being published.

I am composing this list for my family and friends to know what to publish after I am dead. I would like to have my writings see the light. I will add things here as time passes.

I hope my husband and especially my son will make sure that these writings are being out in the world. If that is not possible to publish them on paper, they must at least be uploaded in the electronic form; that is at any rate possible.

I would expect the author’s marginalia to be deleted from the text, the manuscript copyread. Please work with the last versions; they are all dated (with negligible exceptions), some have numbers after the name of the title, use the file with the biggest number.

 

  • Debris of Utopia: Soviet Childhood and the Ruins of the Future
  • Pale Automaton (book of poems)
  • Compendium of Fieldnotes
  • On Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology: Production of Ethnography Through Observation, Recollection, and, Occasionally, Forgetting
  • Meanderings (particularly the third part, Texas Landscape; TL can also go as a separate text)
  • Handwriting project (with photos)–just type the handwritten text and let C.C. write the preface
  • Siberian Photo Diary
    Things below are in the folder MainProjects:
  • hologram and flamingo superimposed
  • Introduction to (delete the list of names at the beginning)
  • Notes 2018
  • Selfie
  • Soft Sheen
  • The Book of Lovers
  • Letters from the Depths of Solitude (including Alfonsina, Countess of Dolyna, and Monstrous Abbess–these are all in one file)
  • Sybil’s Book
  • System of Mirrors
  • Writing (text titled “Writing” in the folder “Writing”)
  • Episodes
  • The King of Autumn
  • Cities of the Future: Infrastructure of Nostalgia and Hope in Post-Industrial Eastern Siberia (I am actively working on this one right now and I certainly hope to make it work, but if I die tomorrow, it can be made into a PDF and uploaded anyway, this one with marginalia because such marginalia can help my fellow travelers).
  • Poems (let’s make sure that they are not only on Tumblr because platforms die)
  • One girl (https://twitter.com/onegirrrl)
    These are out there, but if the platforms that host them collapse, I would like them to still be accessible:
  • Anthro Notes
  • The Vicissitudes of Using English for the Purposes of Academic and Creative Writing in the Experience of a Non-Native Speaker: Convoluted Travelogue (Plus, Writer’s Change of Language: Nabokov and others–these can go together)
  • Lectures on Expressive Culture

    You can also publish shorter bits and pieces, as well as poems, as you please, except for the ones that I sealed for the next 100 years; please respect my wish and do not look into folders I marked such.

    Please maintain my website or make sure that the texts available there are available somewhere else (http://www.vasilinaorlova.com/publications.html). I don’t mind all the works above being published on my website as well. If the “website builder” collapses, redesign.

 

In Russian

  • ПЯТЬ ЛЕТ XXI ВЕКА: Дневники на компьютере (дневники), другие дневники 2004-2008.
  • Мальгратский дневник (отсканировать).
  • Блог blog 2007-2010_on_vassilina_cih_ru (на полетевшей платформе, я скопировала всё, но там много текстов ошибок).
  • “Техасский дневник” и вообще всё в блоге после Лондона, после записи 28 авг. 2011 (см. “Лондонский дневник”, Издательский дом “Выбор Сенчина”, 2017. (http://vassilina.cih.ru/blog/)). (Файл Texasskiy_dnevnik в папке Newest_Russian_prose)
  • “Севочка” (в папке Seva, файл Sevochka02)
  • Стихи на русском языке (https://t.me/vasssilina и в фейсбуке – “Императрицын цыкл”, цикл про Франциска Сан-Францисского и т.д.)
  • “Одна девочка” (https://t.me/onegirrl)
  • “Сны о России”
  • “Какаду”, “Золотое зеркало”

 

Тексты ряда опубликованных повестей в папке vse-teksty-vyverennie (кажется, я все повести потом всё равно правила в других местах, но, по крайней мере, многие из них есть в этой папке, если вдруг надо для переизданий).

~

I am pleased to announce that I am all set and now ready to die any moment nonchalant.

The last edition 5/17/2019

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Update: 2019

I am inviting everyone to follow my work by following my website www.vasilinaorlova.com, my pages on Academia.edu and ResearchGate.com, as well as my Twitter and Instagram.

The main event of 2018 was coming out of my book, Anthropology of Everydayness (Antropologia povsednevnosti), in Russian. Nezavisimaya Newspaper included it on the list of best nonfiction books of 2018 (even though it contains poetry, among other things–syncretic genres have always been my main vein of writing).

In 2018, I presented my work at the ASEEES conference in Boston, Massachusets.

I spent 7 months of 2018 in Russia in my field: Moscow, Irkutsk, the village of Anosovo (Irkutsk district) and visited more than ten towns and villages on my ways throughout the region.

One of the significant parts of my travel was the train journey Moscow-Irkutsk. The last and only time I took this journey before was in 1998, that is to say, exactly twenty years ago. Back in 1998, I was taking notes even more copious and detailed as I do now as an ethnographer, and I am wishing for this valley of time where I can superimpose these two almost week-long train travels following the same route with the distance of twenty years in one work.

The next year promises to be even more fruitful in terms of the collecting of data. Because I won the Wenner-Gren dissertation fieldwork grant (and I uploaded my winning proposal for the benefit of my colleagues seeking information on the grant writing process and favorable result), I get to spend another year in Russia beginning May 2019 and ending possibly May 2020 (or later, depending on circumstances).

Meanwhile, I began deciphering and transcribing my field recordings. I have 828 recordings collected in 2018 alone (smaller numbers for 2017 and 2016). Some of my recordings are no longer than several minutes, others stretch for hours (sometimes with embedded long pauses). Transcribing is a long and meticulous work that requires supreme attention to the details of the speech texture. I made the decision to transcribe my recordings just as they were made: in Russian first, and only then to translate (of course, not all, but some of them, most interesting little fragments). I am transcribing in Russian for two reasons: translation will obliterate the greatest part of the unique value of the speech. It is only possible to translate a silhouette of the speech, as it were. Perhaps I will include the Russian original alongside the English translation as Don Kulick did it with the language(s) he was working in Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture Among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes (1998); I find this attention to the language instructive even when I don’t speak the language. The second reason why I am transcribing my recordings in Russian is that they are valuable as is, and I am open to the possibility to consider that they in themselves are more precious than anything that I will be able to write about or around them. In the end, working through these recordings–deciphering, careful editing of them to eliminate repeated words and leave what needs to be left, cutting things that distract attention, introducing the speakers and providing descriptions for the settings could be my main work as an anthropologist and a writer.

The Spring semester at UT I am teaching Expressive Culture course. Together with my students, I am planning to (re)read some of the foundational works in anthropology that allow us to understand the differences between cultures. I am therefore anticipating the beginning of the semester with excitement, and I am planning to upload to Academia.edu the syllabus that I am still tweaking.

I have a big chunk of my dissertation written when it comes to the initial framing–I anticipate a lot of the writing that I already have will serve me in this capacity–but absolutely unedited. My dissertation is not my concern though, my concern is writing articles introducing my work to the anthropological public. I have been writing steadily beginning with 2014-2015 when I started writing prose and started writing ethnographically in English, and I continue organizing my material. The nature of anthropological work is such that it takes time; unfortunately, there is no way around it, one has to be ready to invest a lot of effort and be patient. No quick results are possible in this field.

 

In the photo: the cover of my book Anthropology of Everydayness (Moscow, Nookratia, 2018)

My List of Books and Resources On How To Write

How does one write ethnographic notes? How does one write, and how does one produce a thing: an article, a book? This is what a scholar does: she writes. She writes, and, characteristically, not aimlessly, but with a clear purpose, goal, and structure in mind.

My first lessons on how to write were from the Russian books on the subject. Maxim Gorky’s fragments of letters to young writers were my first, at the age of 11, opening to the realization that writing might and must be perfected. Another book in Russian that I want to mention, I don’t think it is translated, is the Soviet journalist Valery Agranovsky’s book For the Sake of a Single Word (Radi edinogo slova).

Writing is the most potent instrument that you possess even if there are other tools at your disposal. With writing, you can do a lot. You can make people do what you want and to change immediate social reality. It may sound too good to be true, but Austin’s theory of performatives shows this. Word is an extremely powerful instrument. Moreover, it is the only instrument anyone has to make oneself understood.

I compiled a list of books and resources that will propel a writer to a greater precision and quality of their work. These are simple “how to” books. Ethnographic writing should move. It can be suspenseful, it can be creative, and it can be pretty much anything you want. Now that fiction has to compete with the web and social media, in addition to movies, it shrinks in sales and therefore, presumably, in numbers of books that people read. But nonfiction is going surprisingly strong. My guess is, it is promotional books (“how to take 10 steps in 10 steps”), and not prose-leaning narratives that seized the day. But it is also curious to observe how previously marginal genres, like memoirs and collections of short twitterlike notes, have been gaining prominence. Against this backdrop, ethnographic writing and anthropological theory of all sorts have a great opportunity to flourish. Anthropology has many things to offer to the world, particularly if it does not become esoteric but still retains its depth. There are books on how to write ethnography, but here I am going to list the books that simply teach how to write and how to publish. I have always been far less interested in the latter (perhaps not a good thing to admit), so I don’t comment on the soundness of publishing advice. Fiction, nonfiction, academic, and non-academic writing: ethnography can consume the best of all and will still remain hungry for more.

Stephen King, On Writing. A master of suspense-driven novels (not plot-driven, as you’ll learn from this book), King portrays his passion about writing though a personal story and shares the surprisingly not arcane secrets of his mastery. I found his idea of novel as a fossil that remains hidden until you write it, unearth it, compelling. The book is also invigorating because it is a story of success, and if there is something appealing to a broad audience, it is success. Stephen King could have written anything on the subject of writing and still end up with a bestseller after he wrote and sold so many bestselling novels, but he’s making a horror novel out of a how-to book, from the material of his own life. It is an autoethnography of the writer’s life, infused with reflections on writing. I found it funny that there are traces of, what do I call it, regrets or perhaps even shame that the author’s talent was spent on fast-reading, trade-literature books. There is a curious defensiveness about it. But this book is the one that positions Stephen King, if he wasn’t there already, among the classics of the American letters, makes him look very reasonable on a bookshelf somewhere between Kerouac and Joseph Heller.

William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style. It is one of the books that Stephen King recommends in his On Writing, and by far The Elements is probably most popular and well-known book on how to write in the American culture. It is an acclaimed (and short, like a stub) book that has the strangest history: co-authors, a professor and his student, did not work side by side on a manuscript, but with a distance in 40 years. It is a story behind this book that I find poignant (and also questionable from the point of view of the primate of the authorship) that makes it matter in addition to the quality of advice given there. The passage on the dangling participle made me exclaim: “Yes! Please, make every American / British /Canadian / Australian etc. writer read it!”:

“Sentences violating Rule 11 are often ludicrous: 

<…>

Wandering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.”

Les Edgerton, Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go. This book makes an important argument: stories told today must accommodate to the quickness with which the reader switches attention. No one has time for lengthy introductions and background stories: throw your character (I’d add, all the more so if your character is a theoretic notion) into a density of events and see how they fare. Make them work around the clock trying to resolve an urgent conflict.

John Ciardi, Ciardi Himself: Fifteen Essays in the Reading, Writing, and Teaching of Poetry.  Ciardi Himself is a collection of essay on writing that will be slightly out of this “how to” list. But it is a book that does not concern itself with how to sell the writing, but rather with how to gain a metaphysical victory.

Chandler Bolt, Book Launch: How to Write, Market & Publish Your First Bestseller in Three Months or Less AND Use it to Start and Grow a Six Figure Business. The title of this book sounds shallow, and it makes no secret out of the fact that it is aimed to appeal to the widest audience of forever unsuccessful writers. But this is, surprisingly, one of the clearest and simplest books on the subject that I ever encountered.

 

Additionally, I want to offer you a list of resources on how to write.

Resources:

https://jerryjenkins.com/ – tips, in fact, a collection of instructions on how to write things of different genres. My favorite instruction is how to write a memoir, found on the website, downloaded for free, by Jerry Jenkins;

https://academicmuse.org/ – academic writing, explained by Alan Klima;

http://theprofessorisin.com/pearlsofwisdom/ – blog of Karen Kelsky, the author of the book with the same title, The Professor Is In. Karen Kelsky’s has written on a wide array of academic writing, including some of the most daunting ones, like grant proposals and research statements. A must-read for every student of academic writing out there.

The three writers mentioned above, in the Resources section, organize writing seminars providing schedule and systems of accountability, advise and support for those enrolled. These services are paid; I cannot tell if it is worth it because I do my writing on my own. I can write anywhere in any medium (and you can do it too), and I find agglomerations of writers distracting rather than helpful. But it can be a good idea to attend a writing seminar, for many reasons.

Finally, I have written on methods in socio-cultural anthropology, and should the subject be of interest to you, I invite you to read On Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology: Production of Ethnography Through Observation, Recollection, and, Occasionally, Forgetting.

In the photo: the author taking field notes on the shore of Lake Baikal in a company of fishermen in 2006

To the Cultural Differences in Writing

In the book titled “Getting Your Writing Out of the Door: Strategies of Publishing in International Journals for European Social Scientists” (don’t ask; some books I read it will be even more embarrassing to admit I did) there is a universally familiar, palpable sense of superiority of the American thought in regard to any other thought.
 
“‘We’re different, we’re different, as you can clearly see,’ and just as clearly you can see that we’re better in every aspect.”
 
But, apart from it, there is one thing that I found curious: the author insists that there are major cultural differences in the ways scholarly writings are structured in “the West” and anywhere else.
 
In the Eastern cultures (the writer vaguely waves her hand towards “the East,” uniting it generously into one region), it is an affront to the reader’s intelligence to say everything you meant exactly like you meant it. There are beautiful digressions, anecdotes, and stories, and fragments that leave you genuinely puzzled by how they got there and what functions they bear. The reader is supposed to be an active participant in reconstructing the meaning of the text. The reader is supposed to put the book away and contemplate the universe gazing at the landscape framed by her window, slowly sipping tea with jasmine sitting on her straw mat, while cicadas around cool her forehead with paper fans.
 
In the West, says our writer, if you don’t explain at least three times what it is that you’re trying to say, exhaustively, first and foremost things that seem obvious to you, you’re not doing a good job as a writer. There are no digressions. Anecdotes and stories may be present, on occasion, but they know their place; they play the role of the evidence and illustrations to your main point. In the West, the reader has no time for tea. She is dressed in the robotic uniform and is too busy mopping the floor. The reader is supposed to put the book away and know exactly how to mop the floor, what instruments to use, and why she needs to mop the floor in the first place. She might be told how much more often those who mop the floor find themselves distracted by reading than they find themselves finishing their work on time, but that requires a separate article.
 
~
Interesting observation… I wonder where’s my green tea with jasmine. I think I had a tiny, beautiful octagonal tin box somewhere in this house.