When I was in high school, my very pompous English teacher assigned “Lord Jim”. The school was one of New York’s special schools, and the student body was a driven, nerdy bunch. On the first day of Senior English, the teacher proclaimed proudly that no one in his class ever failed the English Regents (a New York statewide exam, which you have to pass to graduate). Well, the Regents exams for most subjects were a lot easier than most of the regular tests, and it was hardly likely that any of us would fail it—so instead of slapping himself on the back, he should have been thanking his lucky stars for having 45 such eager students. The class was a colossal bore, turning into dross the golden language of wonderful writers. Instead of inspiring us to look for meaning and beauty, we got tested on the most inane minutiae. The quizzes after a required book were written on 3 x 5 index cards, and they were intended to see if we read the book. So after a month or so, by time my brain was totally numb during every minute I spent in the class, he told us to read “Lord Jim”. When I saw how short it was, I figured that I didn’t need to leave much time for it. So Sunday, the evening before the index-card quiz, I read “Lord Jim”. In an hour. I failed the test. I didn’t even warm up to “Lord Jim” when it was a movie starring Peter O’Toole. And I never read anything by Joseph Conrad again.
Now why am I telling you this in a knitting blog? The not-so-mysterious answer is that I have discovered books on CD, and I’m about to start “Nostromo”. And I’ll probably reserve “Heart of Darkness” and “The Secret Agent”. I read about knitting to recorded books in the Yarn Harlot’s “Knitting Rules”. I didn’t think much of the advice. I can be snobbish, and when I saw that, I thought, “ugh, popular fiction”. Please don’t think I’m disparaging your reading choices if you like light, entertainment reading. I spend my entire workday reading college textbooks, which is what I mostly edit for a living, and so when I read for fun, it has to be something truly terrific. I need complex, beautiful, well-wrought prose, just so I can really see what the English language is capable of. But just a while ago, I came upon Anne’s January 9th post, and I thought, “Hmm. This book sounds good. I wonder what books there really are on CD.” My local library has a few shelves of recorded books, and an unusual mix of CDs. I wasn’t sure if I should aspire to great literature, listen to something fun (a mystery—I do love watching mysteries dramatized on public TV or in the movies), or something in between. I started with Maugham’s “Razor’s Edge”, which although not as great as some books, is certainly well-written and engrossing. And then I checked my countywide system, which allows library patrons to borrow from any county library. There are 6000+ books on CD (and more on tape), and some amazing options among them. (I’ve got to listen to Jeremy Irons reading “Lolita”.) So am I forsaking primetime TV as background for nightly knitting? Not quite, because DH likes it and I’m not sure unless I see it with my own eyes whether Jack Bauer will save the world or whether a tire track or bit of “trace” will help Grissom and Catherine nail a killer. But there is a lot less TV “watching” going on now.
To keep this from being a pictureless post, I will show you what my February/March Project Spectrum projects will be. I’ve selected gray as my color, and I’ll be knitting Elsebeth Lavold’s Thora Sweater (in Knitter’s Fall 1999—a terrific issue—reprinted in Arans and Celtics). And if possible, I will finally sew up one of my many pieces of Liberty of London wool challis as a matching skirt. If I have enough fabric, it will be a circle skirt with a hand-rolled hem (if not, then perhaps a half circle). And since I don’t have a serger, I’ll be doing French seams. I’ve always loved the Art Deco design, and this fabric dates from the mid-1970s, so I guess it is “vintage” now. This fabric really flows, and I think it will carry the line of the sweater down to the bottom of the garment.