SBD: side-tracked

Monday again.  Ho hum.  Beth has rung the bell on SBD.  She’s reading more of the Twilight series.  After her post last week, I went hunting for my copy of Twilight and pulled it out for this month’s TBR Challenge.  Sadly, I haven’t cracked the book open yet.  Instead, I’ve read other stuff.  Such as…

I read Erin McCarthy’s Hard and Fast last week. It wasn’t bad. The pacing was a little uneven if you compare the first half and second halves, but still, not bad at all. The hero and heroine had great chemistry, and their dialogue sparkled. (It’s such a cliché, but it really did.  They clearly enjoyed talking to each other and listening to each other, and playing some word games.) The Big Conflict was not a huge surprise, but I though the heroine really stuck her foot in her mouth. In fact, I thought she needed to grovel, and that never really happened. SPOILER: see, the hero is dyslexic and she’s Smart and Educated, and when he reveals his disability, she immediately announces how she’s going to help him. What the hell? He’s been successful at helping himself; frankly, the way she wanted to “help” him (fix him, really) struck me as a little patronizing and judgmental, and outright ignorant in terms of the treatment, if that’s the right word, of dyslexia. Still, they apologized to each other and went off to live happily ever after.  

As I read, I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what the heroine was doing as an academic, and what she did, if anything, before becoming at teaching assistant in North Carolina. She works for another character, who was an instructor of some sort at the local university. I say instructor because the other character has “only” a Master’s Degree, and I believe “professor” is reserved for those with Ph.D.’s, no? There’s such a variety of labels in academia: lecturer, instructor, adjunct, assistant, professor. I know there’s a hierarchy applied to them, but I’m not entirely sure how both education, longevity, employer/employee relationship with the university, etc., apply.  Anyhow, the heroine is an assistant to this instructor. She talks about her thesis project, but her work is also referred to as a dissertation project and/or doctoral research.  I thought thesis = Masters, dissertation = Ph.D. Yes? No? Despite the confusion in terminology, it becomes clear that the heroine is working on her M.A. in Sociology.  Which leads back to my original question:  she’s twenty eight years old and has been presented as a career academic, studying in New York; what has she been doing for 6 years that she is only working on her thesis now? That seems like an awfully long time for a dedicated student to still be M.A.-less. Was she working, and this is a return to academia? Was she working on a degree in some other field of study? Inquiring minds want to know.

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy this book; really I did.   I’m just distracted by a detail.

Unrelated sidenote: my copy of Joseph McAleer’s Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon has arrived at last – only took a month and a half! The cover is gorgeous, composed of the cover art of old M&B books. I’m going to have to look for copies to read, based entirely on the art and titles.  There’s even another book cover on the back cover, Roberta Leigh’s Too Young To Love.

And the back cover copy: 

The fascinating story behind Mills & Boon, the household name for romantic fiction, and twentieth century cultural phenomenon.

An animated account of the establishment and development of the company, exposing the personalities who played a part in Mills & Boon’s often dramatic past.

Draws upon a long-lost archive of over 50,000 remarkable letters to reveal the intimate relationship between editorial policy, sales and morality.

An entertaining look at the famous Mills & Boon ‘formula’, and a lively investigation into the ingredients which make the novels so addictive.

Right now I’m reading L. Jon Wertheim’s Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, but Passion’s Fortune is next on the TBR, along with Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart.



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9 responses to “SBD: side-tracked

  1. Maybe it’s different in the US, but in the UK, TAs (we call them tutors) are usually PhD students, or recently graduated PhD students.
    I do believe you need a PhD before you can earn a professorship, but you don’t have to have a PhD to lecture at a university-level.
    Even in the US, most Masters don’t take more than 2 years full-time. Part-time, it depends, but 4-5 would probably be pushing it, I’d say.
    MA is usually a ‘taught’ Masters where you take a certain number of classes, and write a thesis over about 6 months.
    Dissertation and thesis are the same thing, I think. But obviously the level of work is different for a Masters and a PhD — most PhDs are pretty close to book-length. My cousin’s doing a PhD at the moment, and I was talking to her about stuff like that because I have one in sights for myself.
    MA+PhD is usually about 6 years — 18 months to 2 years for the MA, and then 4-5 years for a PhD if one passes the viva one the first go-around. If you are super-smart and dedicated, it’s not unheard of for people to earn a PhD right out of high school in 6 years — so basically undergrad plus PhD, because if you are smart enough, you skip the Masters first.
    Haven’t read the book, but McCarthy doesn’t sound like she knew what she was talking about.

    • Thanks for the rundown of the UK higher education hierarchy.
      In the US, going from high school to PhD in six years would mean you were some sort of genius, I think, since it would be compressing about 10 years of university into 6.
      I haven’t checked out McCarthy’s website or read her backlist other than these two contemporaries, so I don’t know much about her plotting or her process, but I think the academic careers were chosen to highlight their separation from the heroines from the racing world and to take advantage of the Opposites Attract trope.

      • In the UK, you’d be a genius too.
        The only reason why I brought it up is because I know somebody who’s got a decent chance of doing so.
        (I wish I was her…because it’s going to take me about 10 years, not including breaks in between LOL.)
        I haven’t read McCarthy, though I’ve seen some decent reviews, because she seems to be light/funny contemp, which isn’t my thing on most days.

  2. Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Pagliasotti book.

  3. Oh, God, this bugs the crap out of me. It’s not that difficult to get right, and getting it wrong is like getting military rank wrong.
    Assistant Professor (no tenure), Associate Professor (tenure), and Professor (big smarty-pants) are all tenure-track positions. The Holy Grail of academia. Lecturers are adjunct professors, or just-finished Ph.D. students still trying to get job and are both NOT TT.
    No adjunct/lecturer is going to have grad student minion. No masters recipient will be sociology professor. Sociology needs a Ph.D. to get TT job to get minions.
    Thesis=masters. Dissertation=Ph.D. A Ph.D. diss can be called a thesis, but a Masters thesis /= dissertation.
    It’s like La Nora in Birthright (brilliant otherwise) giving her characters tenured positions at 30. Um, no. Tenure takes 6 years after you get TT job. Assuming undergrad completion at 21, add at least 5 years for Ph.D. (and you’re a genius), then another 6 years for tenure (can’t be sped up), and you’re at 32, no matter what. I’m 35 and two years away from actually HAVING tenure, and I went straight from undergrad to grad and only took 7 years on MA/Ph.D. and another year to find job, which is not unusual.

    • Thanks for the rundown!
      Re: Birthright, when I read that book, I wondered about the tenured heroine. I even posted a question about the timeline/age factor on the old AAR boards about it, and was rebuked for my skepticism and told that of course that timeline was possible. I guess I should’ve asked if it was probable rather than at all possible.

  4. Anonymous

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the Hard & Fast story despite the distractions. I thought the dialogue was great and that the two really enjoyed each other’s company, even out of bed.

    • The dialogue made the book for me.
      The distractions were all me — I get stuck on a detail and CANNOT let it go. This is a problem I have across the board, not just in my leisure reading.

  5. Anonymous

    “Thesis=masters. Dissertation=Ph.D.”
    Not everywhere, even within the US. However, that doesn’t mean the author has a clue.

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