Bills paid. Finished reading Shaping the Nation: England 1360-1461, which I’ve been working on all summer. It’s 563 pages, and I read the whole thing. I’ve never been very good at “gutting” a book. I may try, but if it’s at all interesting I wind up reading it properly, and thinking about it. I think I was better at skimming in graduate school, where (at least in the taking-classes stage) there were usually other people around reading the same things, and if I read only chapter 2 carefully, someone else had usually paid more attention to chapter 3, and so as we went around the table we’d all get a good sense of the book. Now, if I’m going to grasp anything, I have to do all the work myself.

And have talked to three contractors and need to return the call of a fourth. It’s all progress.

As for the current project (have I managed to attract a Never-Ending-Project-Of-Doom here?), it still proceeds in fits and starts. As in, I start, and then something about it gives me fits. This morning I figured out the end of a marginal comment I hadn’t deciphered before, which is totally immaterial as far as my argument goes, but gives me great satisfaction and makes me feel I’ve done something when I haven’t, not really. I have also established that that comment is definitely not the same as another hand, which I knew, but now I can prove it. That is a very tiny step forward.

Jonathan Mayhew keeps writing about metaphors: for your book, for your writing process (same post), for your work. My initial reaction was to deny thinking metaphorically. And then I remembered the Octopus Touch, and what is that if not a metaphor? An unhelpful one, because while I’m sure octopoi are lovely when you get to know them, they’re in my mental category of “things with too many limbs to be cuddly” and, in fact, when I pursue the image’s associations in my mind, they include a giant octopus embracing a tiny schooner and pulling it down to Davy Jones’ Locker. I do not want to be a sailor on that ship. Unfortunately, now that I have identified the octopus metaphor, the image persists. I am trying to find a more inspiring metaphor with equal staying power.