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Monday, November 12, 2018

Getting it in Under the Wire

No school today, which meant no work, so I took the opportunity to sew on the borders to the Minecraft quilt:

Woohoo, done! Well, I still have to mail it to the quilter, and soon. And when I get it back, make binding strips from the rest of the dark grey fabric and sew it on. But still: almost there!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Book Round-Up: Spooky Edition

The Bone Key by Sarah Monette: A collection of stories in the style of H.P. Lovecraft, minus the racism, sexism, and nihilism. They center around an intelligent, introverted, snobbish loner, whose job as an archivist at a New England museum puts him into contact with all sorts of mysterious, dangerous artifacts. The stories are chilling and poignant, just what I was looking for. I hope Monette writes more.

The Casebook of Newberry and Hobbes by George Mann: a collection of short stories involving the characters from Mann's Sherlockian, steampunky novels. In general I enjoyed the stories, but I found the writing to be repetitive, and I'm getting sick of brilliant, somewhat jerky, bon vivant-types.

The Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti: I picked this up to read "The Goblin Market," a romantic fairy tale with creepy undertones, but i enjoyed several other poems, too (I didn't read all). The short biography by her brother was enlightening, and gave much insight into her character and beliefs.

The Gobins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle: A modern retelling of "The Goblin Market,"set in Puget Sound and with a couple of romances thrown in. It was an enjoyable read; Ringle did an excellent job of using goblin spells as a metaphor for depression, and there were some clever touches (goblins are named after the first thing they steal, for example).

Nightmares & Fairy Tales vol. 1 by Serena Valentino: A collection of six short comics, some original, some retellings of fairy tales, with a horror/gothic spin. The early stories especially are a bit cliche-ridden, but the art (by FSc) is distinctive, creepy, and sometimes cute.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Blog Hop

 Happy Halloween, and welcome to the next stop on Jo's bloghop! My letter is:

I didn't get as much stitching done as I'd like -- a busier-than-usual fall, post-season baseball (woohoo, Red Sox won!), the Minecraft quilt, and some commissioned bracelets kept me from picking up the needle.  But I made some progress on "Millicent Finds a Mask" (Just Cross Stitch's 2013 Halloween issue):

And "13 Days of Halloween" (Just Cross Stitch's 2017 Halloween issue):

I also have a couple of finishes. I framed my sampler from the Stitchy Box Halloween box:

This design, "Fall Pumpkins Fob," I sewed up on the machine and then covered the seam with Palestrina stitch, one of my favorites.

I also added some beaded trim around my much-altered skull stitch, although I'm not thrilled with how it came out:

On to the next stop: Beth's Needlework Stash! I look forward to seeing what you all have been working on.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic is the first book of the season for the Inspired by Reading group, and a good choice for October. It's a sequel to Hoffman's Practical Magic, and while there were some contradictions between the books and the timeline doesn't make sense, I enjoyed it as much as the first one.

The story centers around Jet and Franny (the aunts from Practical Magic) and their brother Vincent as they grow up and come to terms with their magical and familial legacies. Despite the lush prose, there is a lot of ugliness and violence depicted – the Vietnam war, the way outcasts are treated, the innocent people who suffer from the results of ill-advised spells, the birds killed for a heart or broken wing. But also a lot of beauty – the gardens and parks the characters keep returning to, the love they feel for each other, and most movingly, the true grace shown over the course of Jet and the Reverend’s relationship. It's that love for another, whatever form it takes, that makes life worth living in the face of suffering.

Franny and Jet make a living growing herbs and selling potions, and my inspiration came from that. I filled a tiny bottle with dried rosemary and lavender bud, adding a sprinkling of seed beads for sparkle. I strung the vial on brass chain and a length of purple faceted glass.

Hoffman has indicated she has other stories to tell about the Owens family; I look forward to reading more.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Almost There ...

It just needs a skinny border (dark grey, if I can get more of the fabric easily) and an outer border (blocks of the different colors):
(I miss having a clothes line to display quilt tops.)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Just in Time

Since we apparently are going straight from summer to winter, I decided I'd better get cracking on a new hat for myself. So while watching/surviving the baseball playoffs I crocheted this:
It's the Chunky Chain hat from Annie's Christmas 2018. It stitched up quite a bit faster, and more easily, than the green hat, although because I have a giant head I did have to remake it a few times before I found the right number of stitches to adjust the size.

And look! The perfect button was in my stash:

The Red Sox are going to the World Series, yay!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

This was a project, both mentally (it took months of concentrated reading) and physically (that 15 minute walk to and from the subway with the book in my bag killed my back), but it was worth it. I've been a fan of DFW since I first read his essays, not only for his subject matter (Cruises! State fairs! Grammar! Criticizing Updike and male writers of his ilk! Math!) but his digressive, maximalist writing style, which bears some resemblance to how my brain works. His fiction was next, and I got it into my head that Infinite Jest would make a good summer read.

Infinite Jest has been called an encyclopedic novel by some critics, and its subject matter bears this out, comprised as it is of such disparate narrative strands as the Incandenza family saga (which owes much to Hamlet), the students at an elite tennis academy, the travails of various addicts in the Boston area, a cadre of murderous wheelchaired Quebecois terrorists, the government agents trying to foil their plot, and a mysterious movie that renders viewers incapable of doing anything else, not to mention a number of digressions into film-making, pharmacology, math, and whatever else DFW happened to know a lot about.  Moreover, the narrative flips from viewpoint to viewpoint and jumps around the timeline. As a result, at first the novel seems disjointed, although soon enough things come together and the connections (thematic and plot-related) between the sections become apparent.

Because of his status as a man of letters, some, uh, questionable behavior in his personal life, and the fanboys who've developed a cultish following around him, DFW is often lumped in with other dudebro authors, which is a great injustice in my opinion. Whatever his personal failings, DFW was a supremely sensitive writer who laid bare every weakness, flaw, and insecurity of his characters without an ounce of condescension or contempt. No matter how ugly the narrative got, how awfully a character behaved, the depiction was profoundly humane. Don Gately, the heart of the novel, is a perfect example of this.  When we meet him, his burglary of a house in an attempt to fund his addiction goes horribly wrong, resulting in the death of an innocent man. When we see him next he is in a recovery house, humbly dedicated to helping others. By the end, we have witnessed his heartbreaking childhood, promising adolescence squashed, and debased stint as an addict. It's a phenomenal portrait of a human life, hard to read in some sections, and by far my favorite part of the narrative.

Addiction in all its forms and the human drive to find happiness of some kind are obvious themes of the novel, but the difficulty of communicating with another person recurs throughout. Maranthe and Agent Steeply talk for hours on a mountain attempting to overcome ideological and cultural differences so as to understand each other's goals. The addicts in recovery spend a lot of time figuring out how to tell their stories and listen to others'. Mario is a sensitive person and perceptive in his own way, but has trouble understanding other people because of his intellectual delays. Joelle hosts a radio show, speaking opaquely into the ether as a way of coping with what has happened to her; her dedicated fans project onto her their own issues. James Incandenza spent years trying to express himself and reach others (especially his youngest son) through his numerous films. And Hal, the book's protagonist (but see: Gately) struggles most of all; at times the disparity between what he thinks he is expressing and what others perceive is subtle but startling.  In this way, the novel has much in common with Batuman's The Idiot, although their styles could not be more different.

There's so much more I could write. I spent hours on various websites reading what others had to say about the themes and the characters, reconstructing the timeline and events, and otherwise trying to figure out every element I could. It's the kind of book I wish I were still in school for, and I recommend it heartily. It's not for the faint of heart, but for those up for the challenge will find it rewarding.