Interlude: Knitting and reading

In between writing blog posts about the visual components of Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and the Andes; flying to and back from Seattle; shipping out packages and cartons of books; making up invoices; and wrestling the finances into order before and after a trip, I’ve been reading, thinking about reading, knitting, and thinking about knitting.

The Professor’s House

While in Seattle, I read Willa Cather‘s The Professor’s House (1925) and went along with my mother to her book group meeting. I’ve never been part of a book group at home; not enough time.

(Asides: The novel is available online from Project Gutenberg, although I have difficulty enjoying narratives like this in frames rather than on pages. I am very curious about who did the painting on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln page that I linked to from Cather’s name. The only credit I have found is to the Sheldon Art Gallery, but so far I am not managing to see the information on the Cather site or to locate it on the gallery’s site. Henri? Willa Cather, 1873-1947; Robert Henri, 1865-1929; both had Nebraska connections, although cursory research suggests not concurrently. I’d welcome insight. . . .)

The Professor’s House is structurally unusual, although the book itself is nowhere near as odd as Wikipedia’s discussion of it, which I’m linking to as a curiosity and not a recommendation.

It’s written in three parts: roughly 175 pages, 75 pages, 30 pages. The first and third parts are told in third person and concern the professor of the title, who is torn between his desire to do his own thinking-and-writing and his commitment to relationships with his family, colleagues, and students. This is in part echoed in the family’s move to a newer, nicer house and the professor’s stubborn refusal to vacate the old house, especially his uncomfortable and in some ways physically unsafe study. The center section, told in first person, recounts the history of one of the professor’s most able students, almost a family member, who died young (no, the student didn’t come back from the dead to speak; this section is introduced with a "this is what he told us, and how he said it" bridge from the first section).

One could write many papers on this novel; lots of folks already have. Today I suspect the manuscript would have a hard time getting published by a major house, even if its author had won a Pulitzer for another novel three years earlier (Cather won for One of Ours in 1922). It’s superficially disjointed and many statements and situations are left unresolved. That’s all on the surface, though.

At one of the possible reading levels, the general movement of the story explores how we make small decisions in our lives—the constant interplay of values in daily choices—and how those ultimately add up to the whole of an individual existence.

It’s a quiet book that hits in the gut if read with attention and an open mind.

Other books

Because I took time for The Professor’s House, I didn’t read any of the other four books I’d taken with me . . . books I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Three of them were novels that have been on the "intend to read" list for a couple of months because they’re too long or intricate for the twenty-minutes-before-bed routine.

The fourth is a nonfiction title, Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey through Bestselling Books, by Lisa Adams and John Heath. It was released a couple of weeks ago by independent publisher Sourcebooks.

I’m reading a galley (advance uncorrected proof). The publisher changed the subtitle at the last minute. In a way, the old subtitle gave a better clue to the content. I haven’t unpacked yet, but the old subtitle included thoughts about what bestseller lists reveal about "us," "us" in this case being the culture of the present-day United States. However, the first subtitle was, as is obvious, not easy to remember (I can’t remember it) and the book is, indeed, delightfully opinionated. It does examine bestseller lists—and the authors read a massive number of the books on the lists they studied—and draws conclusions about the people who would read these works that have been bought in large quantities.

I’ll have more to say when I finish it. It’s actually a book to savor, rather than charge through, although an uninterrupted reader could happily take it at one go.

Armed with a 50%-off-one-purchase coupon from the local independent bookstore, I placed some special orders.

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Thanks, Lola, for the tip about the book on the right: Fonts and Encodings by Yannis Haralambous. I won’t read it all, but the parts I will read will resolve major questions for me. I’ve been taking Linux for Non-Geeks by Rickford Grant out of the library (and repeatedly renewing it until they won’t let me renew any more) for over a year. It’s a few years old but deals with the version of Linux I run on one of my computers and about which I want to become more knowledgeable. Yogini: The Power of Women in Yoga, by Janice Gates, is for fun.

The knitting

On the left is the start of a new pair of socks. Yarn acquired in Seattle because I needed some brain-free, rewarding knitting. I will know what yarn it is as soon as I unpack and find the label.

On the right is a lace swatch, done in worsted weight although the result I have in mind will be fingering weight. This isn’t a gauge swatch, obviously! It’s a getting-acquainted-with-the-pattern swatch. The first couple of rows are in yellow because they’re set-up rows. Then I worked three repeats. The yarn is the Cascade 220 that was specified for the homework part of the Rovaniemi class I took in Seattle last weekend with Susanna Hansson.

Until tomorrow

I was not planning to work very much today. I think I’d better quit before the clock tells me it’s 10 p.m.

Tomorrow: another post on the Ethnic Knitting Discovery illustrations.

In a few days I will go back to my previous posting frequency, no doubt. . . .

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One Response

  1. I’m enjoying these essays, Deb. Had to stop for a minute to post a neat tip I just read somewhere. When swatching in the round, continue (over time) with all your various yarns and needle sizes and make a long tube. Two immediate uses come to mind, both of them stuffed. A draft catcher for the door and coiled with a rim for a kitty bed. No more “wasted” swatches. I’m so pragmatic, I can’t stand it. 😉

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