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Showing posts from June, 2013

Read at Oxford

I’ve been scanning my notes from the last few years and presented with the big compost heap – the muddle – that makes one’s reading life. There have been times over the past three years when I’ve wondered (and other people have asked me) why I returned to university; As a literature student, surely it would have been prudent to have just saved my money and read everything on my own. This course of all courses is one which might suit the nominal autodidact. This may well be so, but there is no way I can imagine having the time (not leisure; not really) to read so much – or having the expertise to guide my reading – in three years without the structure of the course. (This is without the added benefits of tutorials, relentless essay-writing, the large libraries, societies, lectures, and other resources.)

Nevertheless, for those who are interested in what might read during three years at Oxford, I’ve compiled a list, which is equally a personal aide-mémoire, in all its raggedyness. I am e…


It is the last day of 8th week of Trinity Term. All the finalists are finished wearing sub fusc, trading carnations, reading weak-eyed in the afternoons and through the night, frantically flipping through their notes. They no longer have to be herded into the tent outside the exam schools where the shell-shocked students bleat in panic. There’re no more sober hours under the large round face of the clock in the North Schools, and all the dour faces of the ruffed portraits. The irregularities – a blood-curdling scream, the to-ing and fro-ing of a room of people continually going to the bathroom, the intrusion of rock music from the street – are all behind us and part of the pomp and circumstance of the whole event. Everyone has processed out the back door with their red carnations into the cobbled street behind the exam schools where friends wait with flowers, champagne, confetti, silly string, balloons, hats, flour, milk, water guns and in our unfortunate case, an uncooked trout, whi…