Thursday, April 30, 2009

Revolutionary Road

This 1961 novel by Richard Yates follows the slow falling apart of the marriage of Frank and April Wheeler. Living in the suburbs, they both yearn for something more, something less conventional, but are unable to escape the confines of their life.

Through most of the book, there just wasn't a whole lot going on and I didn't especially enjoy it. Yet it was oddly compelling, and I think it's because there was an underlying current of anticipation that the story was building towards something. It was, of course, and the ending did not disappoint. The characters weren't especially interesting to me, or likeable, and the children were like extras - two-dimensional people who existed only as logistical problems that needed to be dealt with. But that makes sense in the context of the story. The writing was good though, and that really pulled me along. As much as I wouldn't want to be friends with any of these people, Yates did a great job of making them realistic and bringing their flaws to the forefront. In a way, reading this book was like watching a bad accident in really slow motion.

As much as I don't really want to experience it all again, I may break down and watch the movie. I wonder why this book was picked out of relative obscurity and adapted to the screen - it doesn't seem like it would translate well since so much of it is internal, but that only makes me more curious to see it.

I have conflicting feelings about this book, but my final verdict is that although it wasn't very pleasant to read, I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Leyburns are the socks of Satan.

Previously I mentioned trouble getting the stitch pattern to come out correctly after the heel. That was fixed easily enough - I just knit 3 extra stitches before starting the round. The first stitch in the pattern needs to line up with the top of the ^ in the previous row, which turned out to be a relatively simple adjustment.

I then slogged my way through the leg of the sock. The stitch pattern is fiddly and cumbersome and not especially pleasant to knit. In part of the stitch pattern, you must slip 5 stitches in a row, and someone on Ravelry mentioned that it went much faster when she began slipping them all at once, rather than one at a time. I, however, couldn't get my needle into all 5 stitches at once. So, it's been slow going for me the whole way.

Then I got to the cuff. The instructions have you end with a sewn bind-off. Easy enough - I've done it many times. The suggestion is to cut the yarn 3 times the length of your bind-off edge, and I cut it to 4 times the length, just to be sure.

Do you see that? It's about 16 more stitches and not nearly enough yarn to bind them off. Hence the reason I believe these socks are cursed. Don't be fooled by their cuteness!

Last Saturday I spent part of my lovely sunny day un-binding-off the socks, and then binding them off tighter in hopes that the yarn would last. Miraculously, I had enough yarn the second time and the cuff is still plenty stretchy.

I almost don't dare to start the second sock. What new problems will befall me?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New projects

I'm still working on my first Leyburn Sock and seaming the Marseilles Pullover, but I've also started some non-purple projects.

Here is a plain stockinette sock made with Knitterly Things Vesper Sock yarn in the colorway Algae.

The light today is terrible for photos. You'll see it in all its prettiness when I'm done.

I've also started the Lucy In the Sky Cardigan from cosmicpluto knits.

I'm especially excited about this cardigan. I need more cardigans and I'm using one of my favorite yarns, Lamb's Pride, and I'm happy to be working on something less uncomplicated after the Marseilles Pullover. Which is not to say that it's easy - in fact, for every 4 or 5 rows I've knit, I've probably ripped back 2. It's just a series of knits and purls, but there's a chart and counting is involved which never goes well for me. It's coming out quite lovely so far though, isn't it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell: a review

In the aftermath of World War II, 15-year-old Evie grows up fast in this unusual coming-of-age novel. On an impromptu vacation to Palm Beach, Evie's parents befriend the Graysons and become involved in a rather shady business deal. Meanwhile, Evie falls for Peter, a 23-year-old who coincidentally (or not) served with Evie's stepfather in the war. For the first time Evie disobeys her parents by continuing to see Peter whenever she can. After a deadly boating accident and an inquest, Evie must reconsider her assumptions about everyone in her life and make a difficult choice.

I will admit up front that I chose this book based entirely on the cover, and it lived up to my expectations. It is both dark and retro, with 1940's slang and plenty of intrigue. Fast-paced and stylish, despite it's distinct flavor it still retains the feelings of yearning and alienation teens will identify with.

Speaking of YA novels, today is Support Teen Literature Day. Check the link for more information and ideas about how to promote YA books.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guacamole Socks

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A.
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy in the (misnamed) colorway Spring Tickle
Needles: Addi Turbo size 1, magic looped

I'm rather ashamed at how long these socks took me to knit. According to my Ravelry info, I began them on February 11th and finished on April 8th. This is shameful because Monkey is SUCH a quick pattern to knit and the Smooshy sock yarn is so nice to work with. There is just no excuse. (But there is a reason, which is that I've been spending lots of time on the Marseilles Pullover. More about that later!)

This is my second, and far superior, pair of Monkeys. The first were made with Tofutsies yarn in a shade I believe is called Circus Vomit Nightmare. (I like Tofutsies yarn; it just wasn't a good color choice, especially for this pattern.) I wish I had used size 0 needles. The socks fit fine, but I do prefer a bit more snugness. All in all, I love them!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick: a review

Ralph Truitt, alone for 20 years since the death of his wife and daughter, runs a newspaper ad looking for a "reliable wife" to keep him company. The ad is answered by Catherine Land who describes herself as a "simple, honest woman." But when she comes to Wisconsin late in 1907 we find that she is anything but simple or honest. Catherine has a plan for her marriage, a plan to acquire all of Ralph's wealth and share it with the young lover she has left behind in the city.

There are many secrets and plot twists in this story. In the background runs an undercurrent of desperation and despair, peppered with accounts of townspeople going crazy, killing others and themselves, with the casual commentary "Such things happen." These acts come closer and closer to the main characters, building into an inevitable climax that I found quite satisfying. The author was inspired by Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip, an account of crimes and other desperate acts in a town in Wisconsin around the turn of the century. I loved how he lifted this bit of little-known (at least to me) history and created a novel around it.

Catherine's personality was very uneven, and I found it a little confusing in some places. I had a difficult time reconciling the Catherine at Ralph Truitt's house with the Catherine in St. Louis or the pre-Truitt Catherine. Initially I thought it was just sloppy writing, but now I think it was intentional, because it added so greatly to the unpredictability of the novel. Catherine could very well do anything. Ralph Truitt wasn't without his own secrets, either, but it felt like that part of his life was a bit more firmly in the past and therefore his personality was more strongly and set.

A bit melodramatic at times, but the mystery and intrigue really made up for the novel's few shortcomings. I couldn't stop reading.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blocking Marseilles

A couple of pieces of it anyway. I have discussed the magic of blocking before, but it makes me so happy I wish to show you it again.

The front and back are knit up exactly the same, so we are comparing apples to apples here. As should be obvious, the one on the right is the blocked piece and the bumpy shriveled-looking (though sun-dappled!) one on the left had not yet been blocked. A couple of days later, and they are both pretty much the same size. Magic! (It has been too dreary to take post-blocking photos so you will have to imagine this magic.)

You may notice that both pieces still have live stitches at the top. In this pattern, the instructions say to put just the shoulder stitches on stitch holders and bind off the neck. Then you attach the front and back shoulder stitches in a 3-needle bind-off. But it seems that the numbers they give you for the shoulders and neck create a really wide neckline and I'm not interested in a strap-revealing Flashdance-style top (sexy though it might be). I will instead attach and bind off starting from each shoulder edge until I decide the neck is narrow enough, and then just bind off the remaining neck stitches.

Last night I began this process but got distracted, probably by something shiny, and didn't go back to it. I should be able to finish in the next day or so. Also, I have started a sleeve! And let me tell you, the p4 k1 rib goes MUCH faster than the heavily cabled body of the sweater. I may actually finish this sweater before summer.