Tag: books

Unraveled Wednesday: Summer Reads and the End of the Fade 13

School here starts on Monday, and this week is full of orientation week events. It already feels like things are in full swing, so before I get totally swept up in the current of a new academic year, I want to tell you about a few things I’ve read since my last Unraveled Wednesday post.

The biggie is Les Miserables.* This book is huge in every way. I almost feel like if I keep reading it I’ll eventually find all the answers to everything. The “digressions” are insane–we’re talking thirty, forty, fifty pages. But just about the time I’d start to feel frustrated with the side path Hugo was taking, I’d realize that he was heading toward the absolute heart of everything. He talks about the “spectacle of the human soul,” the “infinity that each man carries within him,” and he digs into the details. The way Hugo manages to put so much of life that seemed beyond language into words is staggering. I can’t begin to describe here the experience of reading this book, and I won’t go on about it. For the record, though, it will be alive in me forever, and I plan to read it again, and again, and probably again after that.

The other notable book I read was Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This is one of those books that it seems like everyone has read bits of but that not that many people have actually taken the time to read cover to cover. Having read it cover to cover, I can see why. In a lot of it, Campell’s focus is on giving examples to flesh out his idea of what he calls the Monomyth. In many cases he doesn’t explain the logic by which he chooses which myths to include in his analysis, and it almost feels like he’s picking the things that work to support his idea and ignoring the things that don’t. That said, there are parts of the book that are downright, bedrock, life-changing interesting! I’ll just give you one example.

The first chapter includes a fascinating account of how psychoanalysis now does what myth and ritual did for people of the past. Campbell points to Freud’s conception of the Oedipus complex as the main cause of our “adult failure to behave like rational beings,” and he says:

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind–whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin’s caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. . . . They are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry the keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self.

Riveting stuff!

Finally, I wanted to mention Charles Frazier’s Varina about the life Varina Davis, wife of confederate president Jefferson Davis. I didn’t like this book well as Cold Mountain, but I’m glad I read it. It was not what I expected, and I learned some things I didn’t know.

Now, on to KNITTING!!

I have just added the last color to my Find Your Fade shawl.

My plan is to join Dana over at Yards of Happiness for her Tecumseh knit along. That starts after Labor Day, so I’m setting September 2nd as my Fade deadline. Normally, that would not seem at all difficult, but with the craziness of school’s starting I’m not so sure. Wish me luck! I cannot WAIT to wear this beast!

Be sure to head over to As Kat Knits to see what others are reading and knitting this week!

 

*Julie Rose’s translation is incredible. Unless you’re reading this in French, I can’t imagine a better way to go.

Unraveled Wednesday Update 4

Summer teaching is in full swing, so progress on both the knitting and reading fronts has been slow. My Fade is coming along, though, and what a fun knit! The pattern is easy, but you’ve always got the next color shift to anticipate, so it doesn’t get boring. I’m just about halfway through.

As for reading, I am inching toward the end of Les Misérables but will save talking about that for another post. Two books that I finished before summer school started but didn’t manage to tell you about are The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, and Celine, by Peter Heller.

Peter Heller’s The Painter is one of my all-time favorite novels, so I read anything he writes. Celine is entertaining, but it’s no The Painter. I liked the characters and found the story compelling, but it was like watching an episode of Law and Order and trying to compare it to The Godfather. The two books are worlds apart. I’m glad I read Celine, but it’s not going to hang around in my brain.


As for The Little Stranger, I loved the “The House of Usher” vibe, and the story held my attention all the way through, but the ending . . . meh. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t go into detail. I’ll just say that with a stronger finish it could have been exceptional. As with Celine, I’m not sorry I read it, but I was hoping for more.

That’s it for me today. I’m off to grade papers. Check out Unraveled Wednesday over at As Kat Knits to see what other people are knitting and reading this week. Be well, my friends.

Unraveled Wednesday’s Knitting and Reading 16

Hello, Friends! I’m still here. Still knitting, reading, teaching, doing each next thing. As usual on Wednesdays, I’m rushing to get everything ready for my marathon teaching day on Thursday, but I did want to pop in for Unraveled Wednesday.

The log cabin squares continue to be every bit as wonderful to knit now that I’m on square seventeen as they were on square one. I’ve started thinking of them as my portable happy place. I might have to knit them forever.

On the reading front, I picked up Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coban at the airport. Exit West has a fascinating set up and some crazy good writing. It is unusual in that there is a significant piece of fantasy—doors opening to other places on the planet—that guides everything in the plot, but this is the only fantasy element in the story. I like my fiction set firmly in the real world, so it was interesting to notice how this single fantastic element affected my level of interest in the book. The story takes a hard look at communities and borders and things like what it means to be a native and a migrant. It was good enough that I’d definitely read something else by Hamid.

Don’t Let Go is the first of Harlan Coban’s books I’ve read. I regularly see his name listed alongside other writers whose books I enjoy, but for some reason it took needing a book to read in the airport and running across this one to make me actually start something by him. Don’t Let Go was good! It wasn’t life changing by any means, but it was a well-plotted, fast-paced, entertaining read.

The other book on my mind these days is Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich.* Holy moly. I’m teaching it to twenty-year-olds who are pretty sure they’ve seen it all, and even they are blown away. Apparently, after reading it near the end of his life, Maupassant said: “I realize that everything I have done now was to no purpose, and that my ten volumes are worthless.” I totally get it.

Check out what everyone else is knitting and reading on this Unraveled Wednesday over at As Kat Knits!

 

 

*The Peter Carson translation is my favorite.

Unraveled Wednesday 7

Hi, Friends! I’m checking in for Unraveled Wednesday. It’s felt like I was one of the few people on the planet who hadn’t read All the Light We Cannot See, but no more. I’ve got just a few pages left, and I now understand why my mom and my aunt and my friends have been talking about it so much. It’s a great read!

I kept meaning to pick it up, but something in the back of my mind kept telling me the plot seemed contrived. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The blind girl and the model making father and the radio boy genius are presented and brought together so beautifully by the author that the narrative that results in their meeting seems like the most natural thing in the world. Plus, there are all kinds of fascinating details about life in occupied France during World War II, and there’s a mystery that plays out involving a hidden diamond. I absolutely recommend this book.

On the knitting front, I’ve cast on for Caffeinated. This is my first try at brioche, so I had a couple of false starts, but now that I’ve got the hang of it, I’m really enjoying it. Caffeinated includes both brioche and double knitting. I can’t wait to see how they come together!

I’ve got a ton of work to do to prepare for my marathon work Thursday, so I’ll keep this brief. I hope everyone is making it through the last of winter okay and getting in LOTS OF KNITTING!!

Joining in for Unraveled Wednesdays 17

Remember the Yarn Along hosted by Ginny Sheller on her blog Small Things? If you do, you’ll know that in March of last year, Ginny decided it was time to move on to other things, and she brought her weekly reading and knitting check-ins to an end. I was sad to see them go and have missed keeping up with everyone’s reading and knitting, but I was too crazed with trips back and forth to Texas and then teaching in the Fall to figure out what to do about it.

As it turns out, Kat, of AsKatKnits, picked up right where Ginny left off and has been hosting Unraveled Wednesdays for nearly a year now. Thanks to her, all of us knitter-readers out here still have a place to meet up. I’m joining in with the little stack of finished books that’s sitting on the chair by my bed.

A Man Called Ove was a joy to read—laugh-out-loud funny and tender and uplifting. Backman’s descriptive powers are insane. I kept thinking that passage after passage would be perfect to show my Comp I students so they could see how great descriptive writing works.

I’ve also been enjoying J.K. Rowling’s alter ego, Robert Galbraith. The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm aren’t the absolute best crime fiction I’ve ever read, but they’re definitely engaging and full of many of the things I love about J.K. Rowling’s writing–deeply considered characters and lots of thinking about the big, important parts of being human. With the Galbraith books, you also get a nice does of suspense, which is fun.

Earlier this week, I finished Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. It doesn’t seem like something that will hang around in my brain for years, but it was entertaining and very well written.

 

Alright, back to getting ready for tomorrow’s crazy day of classes. I teach from 8:00 AM until 9:05 PM on Thursdays, so it’s pretty intense. You know I’ll have my knitting with me for the in-between times, though! I’ll be working on Log Cabin squares. You can see them in both of today’s book pictures. Look for a post about my Log Cabin project soon.

Be sure to check out AsKatKnits if you haven’t already. Kat writes about all kinds of interesting things in addition to knitting and reading. And her photography is gorgeous.

 

 

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Still Yarning Along . . . 8

Despite the sad demise of the Yarn Along, knitting and reading continue as always here at Casa Knit Potion.

It was cause for celebration when Anne Lamott’s new book arrived on my doorstep the day before yesterday.

Here’s the quote from the back cover:

I’m not sure I even recognize the ever-presence of mercy anymore, the divine and the human; the messy, crippled, transforming, heartbreaking, lovely, devastating presence of mercy. But I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, and my world is too.

This.

My knitting is the English Mesh Lace Scarf I started at least a year ago. I think it’s going to be a favorite when I finish it in about 2050. I do a pattern repeat once a month or so. It’s the Kidsilk Haze. I don’t love knitting with it.

What I am loving knitting is this Dog Sweater. I started it last night and should finish up this evening while I’m catching up on The Americans. I’m making it for my cousin’s precious, little, one-eyed dog, Bandit. My track record with dog sweaters isn’t the best, but I’m ever hopeful.

I took this picture while we were waiting for dinner at our local Thai restaurant. Paul and I went there after an evening walk. We both needed some fresh air, so we drove over to a very pretty, hilly trail that winds around above town. The National Cemetery sits down below.

And the redbuds are in bloom.

It was nice.

In other news the #yarnlovechallengeapril is underway on Instagram, and the prompts are inspired. Today’s was “hands.” These were a couple of my favorite photos.

 

Yarn Along 1

I’m racing a storm to get this posted before the power goes out, so I’ll just leave this with no additional commentary other than that I highly recommend both the pattern, Inlet, and the book, Michael Pollan’s Second Nature!

 

 

P.S. Doh! I’m a day early!!!! I’ll update tomorrow with a link to the Small Things blog where everyone else will be posting about what they are reading and knitting.

P.P.S. Wow . . . The Yarn Along has come to an end. I’m so sad. Take a look at this post for Ginny Sheller’s perfectly reasonable explanation of why she’s no longer going to be hosting it. I really do understand. But I’m still sad.

Yarn Along: Inlet and The Yellow Birds 10

Reading and knitting are both turning out to be deeply rewarding this week. A good friend told me about The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. My godson was reading it for school, and my friend decided to read along with him. I should mention that she is one of the very few people whose reading recommendations I accept without question. She said the book was a must read and shared the following comment from the author.

“The impulse to write The Yellow Birds came from a desire to look for some truth that I hoped could be found at the core of that most extreme of human experiences [war]. I also thought that by placing the emphasis on the language, using it to demonstrate the main character’s perpetual, unbearable sense of awe and wonder, I’d have at least a chance of connecting to another human being on an emotional level. I wanted to engage with the imagination above all else, because I believe that empathy is an imaginative act.”

I ordered the book right away, and I started reading it today. As always, my friend was right. The first sentence blew me away, and it’s been like that every page since. The writing is absolutely incredible.

My knitting has been on Inlet. Peace Fleece is one of my favorite yarns, and this “Mourning Dove” colorway is gorgeous. It changes depending on the light, so every time I look at it, it’s like I’m seeing something new. I’ve just started the waist shaping on the back. Generally, I don’t do a lot of shaping, but it turns out I’m kind of enjoying it with this.

Be well, my friends! And stop by the Small Things blog to see what other people are knitting and reading this week.

Yarn Along 8

I really love the Wednesday Yarn Along. Ginny Sheller hosts this weekly what-you’re-knitting and what-you’re-reading photo op on her blog, Small Things. Stop by for links to what are usually close to a hundred blog posts on the topic. It’s guaranteed to give you a lift.

This week I’m reading If Nights Could Talk, a memoir written by my immensely talented friend Marsha Recknagel. The story reads like a thriller. Marsha is a poet, though, so she writes in a way that constantly startles me by offering up real and important things that I knew, but didn’t know I knew, because I didn’t have words to name them. Every time I come away from reading the book, my world is bigger.

 

 

On the knitting front, I’m onto the sleeves of Paul’s Tea with Jam and Bread sweater and am trying a new thing. I’m knitting seamless sleeves two at a time. I’ve done this a lot with sweaters where the sleeves are knit separately, but it occurred to me that it should work equally well when the sleeves are already attached. It was kind of fiddly at first, but as soon as I got a little length on the sleeves, it evened out, and now I’m really liking it. Does anyone else knit sleeves this way?

 

Yarn Along: Sweater and Coates 11

Here I am posting just under the wire for the Wednesday Yarn Along!

This week I’m knitting the Tea with Jam and Bread sweater for Paul and reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Both are substantial and important in a million million ways.

 

Be sure to stop by Ginny Sheller’s Small Things blog for links to what lots of other people are knitting and reading this week.