31 March 2007


(that's the sound of my head hitting the desk -- exhaustion)

I did finish the second afghan square.

It's beautiful.

No time to photograph.

Been working very hard.

It's gets harder with every passing moment.

Must turn in final revision this week.


Can't formulate sentences anymore.

Trying to also put together pictures for appendix.

Found lots of beautiful pictures that almost make me interested in this subject again, but they won't fit in the diss.

So here are some of them.

View of the countryside surrounding Vladimir, Russia.

Inside the fortress at Rostov-the-Great.

A hidden nook of the Rostov fortress.

The sign names the village that was once owned by the family I'm writing about. The name could mean "dear place." Or it could also mean "by the road."

From a reconstructed peasant house, now a museum, near Suzdal'.

Looks like wool to me...

23 March 2007


Um, okay, wow - where to begin. The Yarn Harlot's "Represent" book launch / "Woodstock of our people" (to quote Amy Singer) was one of the most amazing events I've ever been to. In fact, I can't think of anything like it I've ever experienced (but then, I haven't been to Rhinebeck yet!) And needless to say it was EXACTLY what I needed in my life lately. First, a caveat - I only took a few pictures and they're crappy, because I couldn't find a seat along the aisle and as it was I made this very nice couple who had a violin and several bags with them (not to mention their knitting) get up twice to let me by, so I just couldn't get up and run around taking pictures.

Luckily, the awesome candle goddess and incredibly cool person and great friend Wendy turned out to be seated just across the aisle from me, and I saw that she was taking lots of pictures with what looked like a much better camera than mine. Indeed! Go look at her account of the event now! We had been hoping to see each other there, and when I first walked in I looked around for some minutes trying to spot Wendy or anyone else I might 'know'. Funnily enough, I must have been standing right next to her when I was 'looking around', so that when I gave up and sat down in the nearest empty seat, then looked up again a minute later, there was Wendy! Did you see that I got to have my picture taken with Amy Singer for the second time? This was great fun, and Wendy is brilliant. (For the record, it was a nice size 17 wooden needle).

Okay, back up, I need to start from the beginning. I missed the Central Park sock picture, which was really unfortunate. I had my sock with me just in case (still just that toe...), but my meeting with the prof ran to 1pm and the meetup was at noon. Bummer. Now, I had scheduled this day very tightly. As my first "day out" for anything but groceries or other necessary errands in a really long time, and likely the last one for another long time, I wanted to pack it with many things. I also wanted to make sure my mind would be fully occupied until bedtime, so I wouldn't have a chance to think about the meeting with the prof until it had already receded a bit (it wasn't that awful, but there were still a number of insanely infuriating moments which I'm trying not to recall even now). So once I realized I'd missed the sock photo-op in the park, I called up a very good friend of mine who I haven't been seeing enough of (who also finished her diss last spring in similarly awful circumstances), and we did some much-needed shopping (had no jeans left) and even more needed whining and bitching over lunch. I just barely had time to run over to the 1 train uptown to FIT in time for the talk (I should point out that by this time I was carrying three heavily annotated chapter drafts, the camera, the sock, two new pairs of jeans, the icarus, a sweater, a coat, and a bottle of water in my over-loaded arms because the temperature had gone up from the 40 degrees it was when I set out to a very balmy, humid, almost-hot 70-something - to the people who sat next to me, I apologize for the smell).

I arrived at FIT hot, sweaty, but delirious with anticipation. As I walked up 27th looking for the C-building, I heard several women behind me speaking with a certain familiar degree of that bouncy, joyous glow that can only come from having just bought yarn and looking forward to hearing what Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has to say. I knew I was in the right place.

The place was HUGE. And PACKED. Since my current temp job is event planning for a regional studies institute, I can tell you that a major Russian author on his first-ever trip to the US cannot hope to command even a third this many people, even while there's an important literary event happening the same week (but not conflicting) to draw people from out of town.

There were people there to see the Harlot from Switzerland. From London. From Texas (which I sometimes think must be even farther away). Unlike the book-signing I went to before, a lot of people seemed to have brought their SOs to this event. And since they had put a ball of yarn and needles on every seat so you could knit an afghan square for charity during the event, all the SOs I saw in my vicinity were dutifully at least making the attempt to learn to knit. It was lovely to watch. Also, it was soon revealed that I was sitting next to the Sock Tsarina! I got to see her blue stocking sock up close! The woman who dyed the yarn for it (link to come, I hope) was also sitting right next to me! I so need to make a pair of those socks...not only have I always identified with the good old nineteenth-century bluestockings, but they'd be perfect for the KnitBlue KAL!

While everyone was getting seated, there was a slide-show on the stage featuring some very familiar (and some not so familiar) photos of Stephanie's socks in various locations:

Just that fact that 750 (or was it more like 800?) people were sitting in a room looking at pictures of half-finished socks traveling around the country almost made me teary-eyed. Seriously. Okay, maybe I was a little overwrought, but this was the best vibe I've ever encountered in any group anywhere, and all without benefit of mind-altering substances (unless you count newly-purchased sock yarn as a mind-altering substance?)

The roar that came when the Harlot stepped on to the stage was incredible:

Not that we don't love our Harlot, but SHE WAS WEARING THE BOHUS!!!! So, yes, a large percentage of the roar was for the sweater. So, since you can imagine how much 750 knitters can roar for their Harlot, add the Bohus, and you'll see what kind of response it was. Poor Stephanie did look of rather small stature up on that big stage, but her hair looked terrific (which is a lot more than I could say in that humidity!), so did her pants, and the sweater was glowing perfection of fit and design.

And then...guess what? JOE WAS THERE!!!! In a total surprise to Stephanie, Joe was planted in the front row. Her reaction was incredibly endearing to watch, though I worried a little bit for poor Joe, finding himself in a room full of 750 knitters who 'feel like they know him'! He seemed to handle it very well though. (On that note, I was able to wave madly at Wendy's SO, Marty, from across the aisle. I think he must have thought I was insane, but it was still fun after hearing so many great things about him on Wendy's blog. Oh - and Wendy's birthday-present necklace from Marty was gorgeous - I did notice!)

So, the talk. Hilarious, of course. Heartwarming and not a little bit political, too. All in a way that was so inclusive, constructive, and good-humored. I couldn't help thinking that in this terrible, terrible era in US and (to a lesser but real extent) world history, THIS is what we all need. Knitting, Harry Potter, and a Yarn Harlot to occasionally remind us what it all means and how important it is. And make us laugh.

Magnificent Juno was there to collect money for Knitters without Borders and hand out pins (I got my pin!). I can't tell you how awesome it was watching her walk up the aisles, unable to even know where to turn amidst the "Juno! Over here!" calls coming from every direction, along with arms waving money, sometimes with knitting in the same hand. And then to see Juno dance past Stephanie at the stage, waving her jar and saying, "look at all the money!"

Meanwhile, we were all knitting our afghan squares. The donated yarn - brace yourselves, people - was Paton's SWS!!!! All natural fibers, wool and soy. The yarn I have been most dying to try lately (thanks to Laura at Affiknitty!). I got the "Natural Earth" colorway, which is exactly what I would have chosen given a choice. I LOVED working with it and am now even more anxious to go out and get some for myself. I managed to finish a square just as Stephanie reached the end of her talk:

The pamphlet that came with it from Warm Up America listed several patterns, so I picked one that I hadn't done before, "shadow triangles" or something like that. I figured I should let the newbie SOs in the room do garter stitch. On the other hand, my ability to concentrate on stitches amidst all this excitement and hilarity - or even to read the pattern, actually - was zilch, so I have no idea what I actually did, but it looks pretty (thanks to the yarn!) and at least it's rectilinear.

While we're talking about kindness and good deeds. Wendy came with a present for me. A present! For me! Out of nowhere, she handed me a bag containing a beautiful porcelein tart burner and a variety pack of her soy tarts. The incredible random acts of kindness I have benefited from since becoming involved in the knitting community just blows my mind. No other people anywhere are like knitters, really. Wendy knew I'd really been wanting to try her tarts, because a little while ago, not being able to justify buying them for myself, I got them for my mom for her birthday. I'd sent her one of Wendy's candles for christmas and she'd really loved it. She used to burn the run-of-the-mill Target-type scented candles (being blessed by no headaches), but she told me after she tried Wendy's "tranquility" candle that she had no idea what she'd been missing. No more Target for Mom. So I figured a tart burner was a good idea for her, and that way I could send her new tarts every once in a while and try out all the scents vicariously through her (or just bring a whole bucketful when I visit!). She absolutely loved the burner and all the scents. The weird thing is that so did her dog. Honestly, the dog was completely indifferent to any other candles (which of course are always kept well above her reach), but kept hanging out under the counter where the tart burner was sitting, clearly enjoying the atmosphere there. Really funny. So now I have a tart burner of my very own thanks to Wendy!! I'm burning my first tart, "wild spruce" right now. It really fills the room, which is amazing considering that it's a big open living/dining/kitchen and entry way. The tarts definitely seem to reach further than a single candle, plus I like having the option of inexpensively trying out lots of different scents. Each one lasts for hours and hours and hours. We've had wild spruce going all morning, and Hubbster loves it as much as I do.

Have you ever tried organic raw sugar or organic eggs, exclusively, for some period of time, and then gone back to the regular commercial white sugar or eggs again? And realized that by comparison they taste like solid chemical waste? That's what it's like with Wendy's candles. They smell like the real thing. You can't go back.

So, after Stephanie finished her planned talk, she opened the floor for questions. There were wonderful, hilarious comments and questions from the audience, and Stephanie's responses had us all rolling...but, sadly, I didn't get to stay to hear all of it. Have no idea how long it went on, actually - I wouldn't be surprised if it was hours! But, according to my plan to pack the day as fully as possible, I had arranged to meet Hubbster later for a movie he really wanted to see. By the time the Q&A was underway, he'd already been standing outside the theater for half an hour. I was so torn - and you know how very much I adore my Hubbster, so it's really saying something that I lingered and lingered and felt really really torn about going to rescue poor Hubbster (as I soon found out, it was also raining by this time!). But in the end, knowing that the only book he'd brought with him was for his oral exams and that he doesn't knit, I decided I needed to be merciful and go to him. So, I dropped off my afghan square and sprinted to the movie theater a few blocks downtown, making it just in time to slip into seats as the movie was starting.

Um. First I'd better explain something about Hubbster. He loves, loves, loves ancient history and so he can't resist seeing any movie set in any time or place more than 500 years ago, even though he has yet to see even one that meets his high standards, and even though the vast majority of such movies are total crap. Since meeting Hubbster I've seen a lot of movies that I would never have gone to otherwise. Last night, we saw 300. A greater contrast between that sick, bloody propaganda-fest and the Yarn Harlot event there could not be. Seriously, it was like intellectual whiplash. While it was possible to sit through 300 and kind of enjoy it by giggling at all the unintentional humor and waiting to see whether it was really going to break out and turn into the gay porn flick it was so clearly dying to be, by the end I could only be surprised that it didn't have a little "Paid for by the Coalition for America" tagline at the bottom of the screen. Seriously. It was pretty to look at (very pretty) and the Persians had some hot, hot, hot piercings which I admired, but everything else had the quality, nuance, and message of a Republican campaign ad. Afterwards Hubbster agreed to three things: 1. Next time the Harlot is in town, he's coming with me. 2. I get to choose the movies we see from now on. And 3. All the world should learn to knit.

If you want to see a good movie, see The Curse of the Golden Flower. A lot of people look at the promos and assume it's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon all over again, but it's not. This time the whole formula came together and it's done right. It has all the grandeur and terrible inevitability of a Shakespeare tragedy, but the beauty comes from the visuals and the acting instead of the language. Everything fits, and I think for what it does it's perfect. (Don't ask me about Apocalypto. Please. Sitting through it was enough.)

I have enough SWS yarn left for a second square, and last night after we got home I got halfway through it -- plain, with a cable in the middle. These squares will probably be my first and only FOs of this terrible dissertation-finishing season. That feels right.

21 March 2007

Representing on Thursday

Hey guys. Just a quick note to say I'm planning to attend the Yarn Harlot's "Represent" event tomorrow. I have a meeting with one of my advisors (the out-of-town, not-quite-as-bad-as-the-other one) that day, so I decided that it was not only legitimate, but required that I go to the Harlot talk, because it may be the only thing powerful enough to shake me out of my stupor of misery so I can work productively again. So I just wanted to let you all know to look for me if you're there too - I'll try to remember to wear my red Icarus so you'll know who I am. Sadly, I won't be able to be part of the Central Park sock picture or take part in any of the other events, but at least I'll make it to the talk! I'll bring my camera and report back in full, I promise (though maybe not immediately as I do need to work all weekend).

In the meantime, go visit Ayla and say hi - she was going to go to the Harlot talk too, but had to cancel because she lost her job. :-(

19 March 2007

Yarnival and (*Gasp*) Some Knitting

First, a new Yarnival came out while I wasn't looking. I totally missed it, until I received a comment from someone who found me there! So I went and looked, and indeed there's a new and wonderful Yarnival over at NotScarlett. Check it out!

NotScarlett chose to include my post about the Stages of Diss Writing and Knitting. I think I'm now ready to add Stage Eight:

Writing: Wha? It's all crap. Hate it. Looking at the damn thing makes me literally sick to my stomach. Even the names of my advisors, never mind anything they actually say, can put me instantly in a state of prostration and/or hysteria. Yet, somehow, I keep slogging through it. Remember how I was once looking forward to the revision stage? I've always loved this part. The problem is entirely the profs who don't read anything but on whom everything depends. How do they sleep at night? Probably like babies, I know. [BTW - huge thank you to whoever it was who recommended PhD Comics to me (sorry, I can't seem to find you again...) - VERY therapeutic stuff!]

Knitting: For the most part I have been completely unable to do anything but play computer solitaire in the hour or so before giving up on the self-torture known as "revising" and falling asleep. Note that I'm not even playing regular computer solitaire (it's too challenging and makes me want to cry), but "spider solitaire," because it's almost impossible to lose. Note also that this hour before collapse each night takes place between around 2:30 and 3:30 am. And then I toss and turn all night, dreaming of professorial firing squads and tangled yarn. What is this doing under the heading "knitting" you ask? Well, last night I achieved two more rows on this sock, and consider it a major emotional triumph:

That's the wildflower pattern from f.pea. I think the effect is probably better with more wildly-colored yarn, but it's a fun technique. I wouldn't try it with needles any less pointy than Knit Picks', though.

Also in the last few days, I tried starting some EZ garter-stitch booties to match the BSJ, since I have plenty of leftover yarn.

I got that far in one evening's work, and haven't been able to get back to it.

And then, one day I had a fit of temporary insanity (this happens to me regularly lately) while taking a quickie mental-health break to look at my bloglines. I came across this amazing pattern. First, I love that you can memorize the entire pattern in about 30 seconds, even in a state of mind like mine. Second, I love that it fits on my knitting cheat sheet in 2 lines. Third, I love the idea of wearable, interesting, cute slippers that I can make in no time at all out of almost any yarn. Fourth, I absolutely adore the lime green ones I came across on someone's blog that led me to the pattern in the first place (except, sadly, I can't remember which blog it was or find it on google - sorry!). So, revisions forgotten, I ran to my stash to see what I had that would work. No lime green, and nothing woolly that was both appropriate for this project and not already earmarked for something else. I wanted something random, that I didn't have much of anyway, so that I wouldn't be taking yarn away from a more complicated or bigger project. I found some crazy pink cotton from Russia that's too wild to wear on anything but the feet, and has the double advantage of being soft and sturdy. So, still in the initial frenzy, I got this far:

I got as far as just the first two rows of ribbing. And then I realized that of course ribbing in cotton won't contract and make it look all cute like a miniature purse when it's not on the foot. And I did the increases in YOs, thinking it was pretty, which it is, without thinking about how I'd have to do matching YOs with all the decreases on the other side, which will get to be a major pain (literally) with bulky cotton yarn at this gauge. So, all at once, I ran out of gas, dropped the slipper, and got back to my revisions. I think I'll probably frog it and do it again in some more sensible yarn.

16 March 2007

Addendums and Details

First - thanks to everyone for the excellent recommendations! I love that I'll have this list, with your comments and additions, waiting for me next time I can't decide what to read. (Of course, I'm also very much looking forward to the day when I can read for pleasure again!) One major 'Doh!' was revealed - I can't believe I left Jasper Fforde off my list! I'm a complete idiot! He's one of my all-time favorites (whom I usually remember - he's on my blogger profile even), and I love The Eyre Affair especially!! So strange that it never leapt to my mind even while mentioning Jane Eyre (or, for that matter, Great Expectations, which I want to read solely on the basis of Jasper Fforde's use of it in the sequels to Eyre Affair) - what can I say, it was a brain fart. The other books you guys mentioned as recommendations, though, have somehow never come up in my experience so I'm really thankful to you all!

Also, a further note about Anna Karenina for Beth: yet another major thing we have in common! Actually, one of the first things Hubbster and I bonded over was that we both like poor Karenin more than any other character in the whole book. I can't stand Anna through the whole first 2/3 or so while she's seeing Vronsky - Vronsky is such a friggin' putz how could any woman in her right mind want to bother??! - but you really do have to read to the end, because somehow, despite himself, Tolstoy managed to write what I think is an incredibly moving and right portrayal of the consequences of "society" for women, but only in the final third of the book. To me, the last few chapters about Anna (after stupid old Vronsky is out of the way) are what put Anna Karenina above, say, Madame Bovary (which, at the risk again of offending others, I really hated). There are other reasons I like AK better than War & Peace...first, no anachronism issues, second, Karenin rocks so there's at least one character I really like (okay, so he gets treated like crap through the whole novel...this is Russian fiction after all!). Also, a lot of the stuff I really hated the first time I tried to read it when I was 16 (Levin, Kitty, the endless passages about Russian farming) suddenly became fascinating when I re-read it in college after a few courses in imperial Russian history that allowed me to put it in context. I've always wanted to cut up AK into three novels, each of which would be great, and perfect, for three different audiences: a psychological novel about Anna and her husband, another one about the social dilemmas of nineteenth-century Russia, and still another full of juicy, depressing gossip about vapid, manipulative people (which would be the one I'd skip but would fit right in with other books that are very popular).

I also unaccountably forgot to list my favorite Dostoevsky novel and one of my favorite classic novels ever - The Idiot. Now, for those of you who slogged through Crime & Punishment or tried to, this novel is a completely different animal. I couldn't put it down - I actually stayed up all night to finish it! It's awesome. It's probably better if you do have some background knowledge, but even without it's a proper novel unlike other Dostoevsky works. (As for C&P - my personal, idiosyncratic opinion is that Notes from the Underground says everything worth saying in a much pithier and more readable way. No one should have let old Fedor get out of control and ramble about his every last neurosis with quite so much excess as C&P. Everything interesting about Dostoevsky's worldview that isn't in Notes from the Underground is in Brothers K or The Idiot, again in a much more readable form.)

Also should have been on that list - Master & Margarita, Bulgakov. Fabulous book.

And I should recommend to those contemplating reading Eugene Onegin - also read Pushkin's Tatiana by Olga Peters Hasty. I don't normally recommend (or even read) criticism, but the gender stuff going on in EO is incredible, and really much richer if you have a guide (in part because the translations are all vastly inadequate)

Blogless Kathryn asked about my thoughts on a top-100 non-fiction or poetry. I have very few thoughts about poetry, I'm ashamed to say, because I'm an impatient reader. The only poets who have consistently reached me through my hopeless prosaic-ness and impatience have been: Gerard Manley Hopkins, e.e. cummings, Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova, and Afanasii Fet. It's tricky with the Russians because I know just enough Russian to know I'm missing about 80% of what's great about the poetry. But if you know a little Russian you can read Obolensky's dual-language collection (A Heritage of Russian Verse), which completely rocked my world.

A word on translations from Russian: never, ever read a Constance Garnett translation, unless it's Turgenev. Turgenev had a very British-sounding voice anyway, so he comes out okay, but Garnett made everybody else, no matter how they actually wrote, sound like a British realist classic. The new translations coming out for many Russian classics by Pevear and Volokhonsky open up a totally new world for English-speaking readers. Try 'em.

As for non-fiction - I can really only speak about history books, because history and memoirs/letters (of people dead at least 50 years) is pretty much the only non-fiction I read that didn't come from salon.com, reuters, or the daily show. And my historical interests are almost always tied to gender and/or cultural history. My stand-by recommendation for non-academic readers who like history are the classic micro-histories:

everything ever written by Emmanuel Leroy LaDurie
The Cheese & the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg
A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

A few other really great, readable history texts are:

The Death of Woman Wang by Jonathan Spence
The Free Women of Petersburg by Suzanne Lebsock
The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery
Aristocrats by Stella Tillyard
The Ghost of an Executed Engineer by Loren Graham
Stalin's Peasants by Sheila Fitzpatrick

There are other, more obvious books, especially on American and French history, which I've either not read or that don't come to mind immediately, but the ones listed above are ones that should be on anybody's top-whatever list, but maybe aren't because they're a bit under the radar for one reason or another. If you looked at the linked lists or recommendations on the Amazon page for each, I bet you'd soon have a top-200 list of readable, interesting historical monographs in no time. Isn't the internet great?

Finally, because it's been too long since I've posted a picture (and because I still don't have any knitting worth showing) here are some pictures taken on my research trip to Vladimir, Russia, that won't go into the dissertation but really ought to inspire some knitting:

12 March 2007

A Change of Topic Is Needed...

...So, since I haven't knitted squat in days (*sniff*), and in honor of this disturbing news, I present you with a meme about books. I did this here and there while working my temp job today, and it served its purpose in keeping me from screaming during the odd moments of calm when those were basically my two options.

A meme, stolen from Ruth’s Place.

(Caveat: What follows is really, really long, so sorry I can’t use that “after the jump” feature here on blogger. As far as I’m concerned, though, I’m not so unhappy to have the previous unhappy posts relegated to the archives as soon as possible – let’s hope that symbolic act helps me to push it all out of my head!)

This meme reminds me so much of a game I vaguely remember from David Lodge’s novels about British and American Academe – I think it was called “Humiliation” and the point was somehow to admit which major books you hadn’t actually read. Although as it turns out I’ve read more from the initial top 100 than I would have thought (though still only 35) – after many years of sadly neglecting the literature of my own cultural tradition in favor of Russian lit and 1920s detective novels (my personal favorite genre of all time), I’ve been gradually making up for it. Oddly enough, that started when I was living in the Russia the first time, because the only free English-language books I had access to were from the American Center Library, and were therefore all American classics (though, strangely, they were all secondary classics – like Winter of Our Discontent instead of Grapes of Wrath, Tar Baby instead of Beloved, etc). That got me started, and it kept up while I’ve been in grad school (until lately when all I’ve been capable of is re-reading children’s books for an hour or two here and there).

I’ll also admit here to two shockers. 1. I still haven’t gotten all the way through War & Peace. This is awful not only because I’m a Russianist, but also because it’s set right in my period. But that’s the whole problem – it’s set in my period but written a few decades later, and the whole period setting was a way for Tolstoy to make his political points but make them seem (to the censors) like a harmless romance about bygone times. The thing is, though, that there’s not even the slightest attempt on Tolstoy’s part to be accurate about the bygone times (with good reason I admit), so that the book just drives me crazy every single time I try to read it. Not that Tolstoy isn’t fully capable of driving me crazy even without the anachronisms, but I have managed to read straight through Anna Karenina twice (that’s because somehow Anna is a great character DESPITE Tolstoy – that’s writer’s genius for you). I probably have read the whole of War & Peace by now, in pieces, but I’ve never been able to get through beginning to end.

Second shocker (I hope this doesn’t alienate too many people) I hated Wuthering Heights. I really, totally, hated it as a terrible read and a not very well-conceived book. I can see why it still has a very important place in the history of literature, but why anybody still reads it, much less loves it with a passion, is totally beyond me. I thought every single character was whiny, shallow and annoying in the extreme, without serving any meaningful purpose except to say, “look, people can be merely whiny, shallow and annoying” (and I already knew that, even if it hadn’t been portrayed in anything like mainstream literature at the time it was written). The plot seemed contrived, dull, and not at all tragic since I didn’t give a flying…well, you know…about any of those people. It kind of felt like hanging out in a trailer park in the Midwest of my youth, but with better clothes and better landscape (but worse weather).(Of course, I felt exactly that same way about the recent film Closer, which a lot of people also loved.) I’m not a huge fan of Jane Eyre, either, although I liked it a general kind of way and much better than Wuthering Heights. So I guess I’m just not a Bronte girl (even though I liked Villette very much and would like to someday try Shirley and Tenant of Wildfell Hall). I hope that doesn’t offend anyone – it shouldn’t, as it’s just my personal read with not even the slightest pretense of being anything more and has nothing to do with anyone else. I’ll still adore and respect the many people who love it (a list which includes my mother for godssake). Everything else that’s been bolded on these lists counts as a personal favorite, though, I think. Some of the ones on the top 100 that I didn’t italicize (meaning I want to read them) was because I’ve never heard of them, though I also admit that some of the ones I don’t actually care to read are in that category because I’ve heard too much about them – they’ve been not just overhyped, but hyped in ways that suggest I wouldn’t be into it. In other cases, I’ve read something else by the same author and wasn’t overly thrilled. There are a lot of books out in the world, and there’s only so much time….(and now I have a handy list next time I’m wondering what to read!)

With no further ado (you thought I'd never get there, didn't you?), the meme:

Look at the list of (100) books below.
Bold the ones you’ve read.
Italicize the ones you want to read.
Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.
Movies don’t count.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25 . Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)

47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)

55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)

79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

I would like to add the following, a combination of books I’ve read that I think belong on any top-100 list (even though that would put any such list well over 100) and books I really want to read (there are legions of those, but strangely not that many of them were on the original meme list).

101. The Sandman (Neil Gaiman)
102. American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
103. Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)
104. Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

105. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
Artemis Fowl: The Criminal Mastermind Collection (Eoin Colfer)
107. His Dark Materials (Trilogy, Philip Pullman)
108. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
109. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
110. Eugene Onegin (Aleksandr Pushkin)
111. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

112. Middlemarch (George Eliot)
113. Silas Marner (Georg Eliot)
114. Indiana (George Sand)

115. Changing Places (David Lodge)
116. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark)

117. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh)
118. Psmith in the City (P.G. Wodehouse)
119. The Story of the Treasure Seekers (Edith Nesbit)
120. Swallows and Amazons (
Arthur Ransome)
121. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
122. Dead Souls (Nikolai Gogol)
123. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
124. The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
125. The Custom of the Country (Edith Wharton)
126. The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)
127. Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton)

128. Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust (Nathanael West)
129. A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)
130. Evelina (Frances Burney)
131. Gaudy Night (Dorothy L. Sayers)
132. The Talisman Ring (Georgette Heyer)
133. A Civil Contract (Georgette Heyer)
134. The Sherwood Ring (Elizabeth Marie Pope)

135. The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe)
136. Castle Rackrent (Maria Edgeworth)
137. Emile, Or On Education (Jean Jacques Rousseau)
138. Pamela or Virtue Rewarded (Samuel Richardson)

139. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
140. Collected Plays (Tom Stoppard)
141. The Red and the Black (Stendahl)

142.Washington Square (Henry James)
143. The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
144. Orlando (Virginia Woolf)

145. Tar Baby (Toni Morrison)
146. Testament of Youth (Vera Brittain, technically a memoir)

147. Possession (A.S. Byatt)
148. Mary Barton (Elizabeth Gaskell)

149.Little House on the Prairie (Series, Laura Ingalls Wilder)
150. Earthsea Trilogy (and beyond, Ursula K. Leguin)

151. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
152. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers)
153.The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)
154. The House of Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
155. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

156. Collected Stories (Grace Paley)
157. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
158. Letters of Madame de Stael
159. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
160. Chronicles of Barsetshire (Anthony Trollope)
161. Kristin Lavransdatter novels (Sigrud Undset)
162. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy)
163. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
164. Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)

165. Dawn’s Early Light (Elswyth Thane)
166. Burr (Gore Vidal)
167. Room Temperature (Nicholson Baker)
168. Father Brown Stories (G.K. Chesterton)

169. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)
170. Monstrous Regiment (Terry Pratchett)
171. Pastors and Masters (Ivy Compton-Burnett)
172. A Passage to India (E.M. Forster)

173. The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck (James Branch Cabell)
174. Happy All the Time (Laurie Colwin)
175. Death in a Tenured Position (Amanda Cross)

176. Shiloh (Shelby Foote)
177. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Laurie R. King)
178. Motherless Brooklyn (Jonathan Lethem)
179. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
180. The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
181. Call it Sleep (Henry Roth)

182. Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger)
183. The Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)
184. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Gertrude Stein)

185. The Enormous Room (e.e. cummings)

10 March 2007


Lauren asked how I was doing, three days into meltdown, so I thought I'd better jump in and let you all know I'm still alive, in part no doubt due to the truly wonderful, supportive and encouraging comments you all left. Thank you!!! It really did help me get through the next morning / day and beyond, which was no small feat, since I spent it finishing off some revisions that I brought to my other advisor for a meeting yesterday. I've been spending today working on little, easy things that needed to be done for the appendices and such, so that I could get a little distance from all this before diving back into my revisions.

Today, taking my cue from Aidan, I read a little Harry Potter over my tea in the morning, and then did a little yoga.

P.S. Take this survey if you haven't already - it's a fun study break:

You filled out a questionnaire to assess your learning style along four scales: active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global.

Your learning styles are: reflective, intuitive, visual, global.

  • active: you learn by trying things out, and enjoy working in groups.
    reflective: you learn by thinking things through, and prefer working alone or with one or two familiar partners.
  • sensing: you are concrete, practical, and oriented toward facts and procedures.
    intuitive: you are conceptual, innovative, and oriented toward theories and underlying meanings.
  • visual: you prefer visual representations of presented material, such as pictures, diagrams, and flow charts.
    verbal: you prefer written and spoken explanations.
  • sequential: you have a linear thinking process, and learn in incremental steps.
    global: you have a holistic thinking process, and learn in large leaps.

Your sense of humour is most similar to:

  • People in their 40's
  • People from: India
  • Of gender: Female
  • Who speak: Telugu
  • Your sense of humour is similar to those with a reflective, balanced sensing-intuitive, visual, and balanced sequential-global learning style.
If you'd like to take this survey, contact Eve Forster at Queen's University.

07 March 2007

Elizabethan Comfort

I finally got around to taking some pictures the other night, to catch you up on my knitting. Although there's been so little of that lately that it's not a whole lot to catch up on. Anyway, herewith some pictures, and minimal commentary:

Note the totally chaotic state of my knitting basket. The whole point of this basket was to only have one project at a time in it. Ha.

The long-promised shot of the BSJ from behind. It does have a very samurai look to it, doesn't it?

Some simple wristies and a neck warmer that I made for Hubbster at his request out of some leftovers of his very favorite alpaca. I finished them a long time ago, actually, but forgot all about them since they've been on Hubbster's neck and wrists ever since. It's still really, really cold here, especially in our apartment by the computer, which seems to be located in a drafty vortext of some sort.

So, since I kept borrowing his wristies and neck warmer, I made my own. I got the stitch pattern from Charlene Schurch's sock book. I like how it has a kind of Elizabethan look. It's made from my one skein of Debbie Bliss's cashmerino that I had been saving for fetching wristwarmers (now I think I'll make those out of something else...I wanted this softness for my neck...)

But lo and behold! After wearing this thing for the last two evenings, look what I found when I laid it out to be photographed! This is the VERY FIRST TIME that I've dropped a stitch and not actually noticed it in time to pick it up again. Damn!

I'm taking everybody's advice about the 3-ply Canadian Buffalo yarn and making a plain EPS sweater for Hubbster. Not much progress so far, though. Disregard the ribbed hem. I had started that way, but decided it was too bulky. I was too lazy or dishearted to rip it out right away so I just switched immediately to stockinette. Once I finish the body (or whenever I'm inclined) I'll snip and rip out the hem, then knit a turn row and knit the underside of the hem with a thinner yarn in a contrast color. This yarn is just too thick for *anything* but stockinette stitch I think...

Melon stitch scarf is somewhat longer than it was before. It's still the same color though - don't let this picture fool you.

And this is the current state of the EZ moccasin sock in handspun on US#1 needles. Yes, I know what it looks like. Stitch pattern is from Pepperknits' Anastasia socks.

The skirt is also going along, but miles of stockinette don't photograph well. Other stuff was too far buried in the basket or hasn't changed since you last saw it. Yes, don't laugh, of course there are more WIPs in there.

I'm meeting with my two main advisors at the end of this week. Unless they tell me to make major changes, I'm down to just polishing and fixing footnotes and bibliography, appendices, etc. ("just" - ha!). Finished the intro, wrote new beginnings and endings to everything, fixed the crappy parts, added topic sentences, etc. Should be feeling good right now except I'm too tired and dizzy to feel anything. Besides, nothing means anything until the profs say something nice, along the lines of "you're almost done." Which may not happen this week, or even soon. I'm really, really looking forward to hearing that, though.

Very Little Knitting Here

Okay, because several of you have so sweetly inquired and because I’m still really bad at explaining it, I’m going to take a stab at saying what my dissertation is about in 500 words or less. Or maybe a few more. Whatever.

It’s a microhistory based on the private papers of a single Russian gentry family. Dating from 1820 to 1875, the archive includes diaries by both parents and one of their children, as well as the mother’s brother (who was also best friend to the father of the family). Supplementing the diaries are thousands of pages of letters, notebooks, and legal documents. My dissertation connects this family story to three major themes in the historiography of nineteenth-century Russia: 1. Gender roles and the structure/dynamics of the family among landed, serf-owning elites. (In Russia unlike western Europe and America at this time, married women retained ownership of property after marriage and it has recently been found that significant numbers of women also managed their own property and sometimes their husband’s also. My dissertation was motivated in part as a response to this work – I wanted to find out what it meant for marriage and family when women were running the family estates.) 2. How did differing gender roles and family dynamics affect how people interpreted major western European ideas like the Enlightenment, Romanticism, nationalism and domesticity (i.e., the notion of ‘separate spheres’ for men and women, closely related to myths of ideal motherhood). 3. Given that Russian elites frequently spoke about their state and many social institutions (from serfdom to schools) as metaphorical “families,” how does our understanding of these institutions need to shift once we realize that what Russian elites meant by “family” in the nineteenth century was actually quite different from the western European model that historians have long assumed they were merely imitating?

My argument, in short, is that among the Russia gentry landowners the “home” was understood to mean the entire village(s), encompassing not only the immediate family and its needs but also a hierarchal community of extended relations, paid servants, clergy and serfs along with the fields, mills, workshops, churches and village homes that made up an “estate.” While it was not a universal rule that the “mistress of the house” was also the manager of this entire self-sufficient universe, such was often the case and this work was considered a natural extension of a woman’s sphere. The mother of the family I’m studying (who shall remain nameless so that a google search done by a future job search committee won’t find this blog) was able to manage the family estates, including her own property and that of her husband, with remarkable success for several decades while their children were growing up. Her activities freed her husband to devote himself to what he considered a father’s role (which is also in sharp contrast to the western model): the intellectual and moral guidance of their children. Intellectual activity in general was highly prized by nineteenth-century Russian society, and the notion of moral education (“vospitanie”) especially so. The father of this family went on, after his children were grown, to develop his ideas about vospitanie into a sort of program for solving Russia’s increasingly dire social dilemmas (which he published in local journals), and my dissertation explores how his ideas developed out of the Enlightenment and Romanticism but through the peculiar lens of the Russian family model in which mothers were principally managers -- providing for the family’s material comfort -- while fathers were (supposed to be) nurturers and moral guides. This understanding of family was at the basis of how these people (at least) understood the nature of the village and the noble-serf relationship (in other words, a form of paternalism) as well as their own relationship to the tsar as his servitors but also his “children.” People like this family represented the backbone of conservative support for the monarchy, and their image of the village community was the basis for early Russian understandings of national identity. However, when the tsar emancipated the serfs in 1861 in such a way as to impoverish both the serfs and their former landowners and to destroy the ties that had bound villages together, the bulwark of rural national conservatism led by an educated and paternalistic gentry class was essentially atomized and alienated from the state and from each other. Thus, my dissertation also contributes to discussions about the development (or relative lack thereof) of Russian national identity and the effects of the serf emancipation of 1861.

Okay, that was probably a lot more than 500 words, and I didn’t even mention knitting. The mother of the family also knitted, mostly stockings and some scarves, mentioning knitting in nearly every entry of her diary along with her many other daily tasks. More about that elsewhere, I hope.

06 March 2007


Eve needs help - calling all cars! Help her by filling out a simple study about comics. I love comics.

Anyway. I would love for some knitters to read my dissertation (soon! soon!), but I would love even more to be able to publish somewhere some of my knitting-related material that won't fit into the dissertation. Workin' on it. That's as much hinting as I'm going to do for now. Ha.

In other news, I'm thinking maybe the dissertation shouldn't be written at all. Someone (I'm sorry, I forgot who as it was ages ago) commented on my dissertation progress bar, which reads "Dissertation (not knitted)." Shortly after that comment, a new knitty issue came out and made me think...What do you think my advisors would do if I distributed something a lot like this, instead of 400 double-spaced pages of text and footnotes?

04 March 2007

A Little Bit of Fun

I just typed the following citation into my dissertation: "Richard Rutt, A History of Handknitting."

You gotta love that. I hope somebody who knits will someday read this dissertation, if only so they can giggle with me over that footnote.

I'm strongly tempted to also cite the new book on Victorian lace knitting as well, even though it's got the same information (and actually got it from Rutt). Do you think the professors who read this thing will assume I knit, or that I don't and am just an incredibly thorough researcher??

Still starting more WIPs, when I knit at all, which is rarely. Sigh. Sorry.