23 April, 2012

My Brain on Post-Thesis Turn-in Day

Last night I turned in my final presentation PowerPoint and presentation outline for my Master's in Teaching. There are still some things to do - I need to finish my Teacher Preparedness Assessment #4, which is the write-up portion of the lesson I video recorded back in June, and I need to actually present my Action Research to the school panel. So I'm not done-done, but I'm done for a day or two and there are no more hard deadlines. Hurrah!

Today I've been tidying my house and thinking about the two wedding shawls I need to finish this fall. When my cousin Perfect Phillip announced his engagement to his adorable now-fiance last month, I decided immediately that the Rosebud Shawl I started last year would be my wedding gift to her; an added bonus to me as a fairly scattered knitter is that the shawl is somewhere around 30% finished right now. However, back at the end of December I went on a massive house-cleaning streak

And Put Everything Away.

The problem with this is that I am an extremely visual person, which is a nice way of saying that I'm pretty much an "out of sight, out of mind" type. So all of those carefully packed boxes under my bed? They're there to keep massive cat-hair bunnies from taking over my room. All those stacks of paper that I tucked away in boxes? As good as recycled. And all those half-finished knitting projects that used to live on my coffee table were tucked away as well - some of them several boxes away from their patterns.

So, I spent the last week idly looking for both the Rosebud Shawl - tucked into one of the under-bed boxes - and then looking slightly more frantically for the marked-up pattern. It wasn't in the bag with the shawl where it should have been, it wasn't in the envelope with the original version, it wasn't in the stack of papers in the box in the closet (although there were approximately 50 other patterns tucked between school work and handouts). I dug through more boxes under the bed and discovered a plethora of knitting I'd forgotten, most of it with needles still in and some of it even with a recognizable goal.

I can think of at least 2 more projects that aren't pictured here, but I don't know where they are...

I dug through the decorative basket next to my couch that now holds my knitting-in-progress (instead of the coffee table). After finding a hojillion projects in various states of completion and therefore completely overwhelming myself with the extent of my knitting polygamy (shawls and sweaters and socks, oh my!), I pulled the Rosebud Shawl out of its fabric bag to see if there was any way I'd be able to figure out where I was. And there, tucked neatly into the bottom of the bag, was the pattern.

I'm going to pour a glass of wine and photograph the actually completed knitting I discovered along with the unfinished objects, then spend the rest of the week catching up on The Woman in White and either ripping out or finishing some of this pile.

17 April, 2012

The Woman in White - Part 1

Last Sunday I was riding home from two lovely weeks in San Jose and finishing up Walter Hartright's narrative. Chapter 15 ended just as the train pulled into the Davis station, where My Nadia was waiting to pick me up and take me back to my poor neglected kitty, who has been sleeping by my head ever since.

I managed to finish all 15 chapters via audiobook, despite starting a day late and at least two nights filled with infamously pink cocktails.

I have been informed that these are a Hangover in a Glass. They are also delicious. In the spirit (hah) of full disclosure, we didn't drink the WHOLE bottle - there are a couple of shots left. 
Once I got back to Sacramento, motivation to move back to the Bay Area ASAP fully in place,* the "Woman in White Part I" posts started showing up in my Google reader, and I dutifully ignored them so I could formulate my own opinions - I had even bookmarked lines and stuff to talk about on the audiobook! I was so prepared to write that post on time, guys. And then... I didn't.
I have none.
I didn't start the next chunk of the read-a-long because I didn't want to color what I thought about the first part before writing about it, and now I'm not only behind in reading and posting but also in my Google reader.

Let us jump in to The Woman in White so I can start catching up. Wilkie Collins may have been a womanizing jerk with a giant forehead, but he was also at least moderately hilarious and for the First Sensation Novel Ever** he did a pretty good job of building tension - especially when Hartright is walking back to London from his mother and sister's house all alone in the middle of the night through looming hedges. The first time I heard that scene, I was driving home from MY mother's house all alone in the middle of the night through a looming forest, and when a hand reached out and grabbed his arm, I shrieked and nearly ran off the road. Scary bits of books are not my finest hour, keeping-it-together-wise.

One of the greatest aspects of this book upon a second and a half reading is that I cheer the entrance of every new character, even when I already know and either love or love-to-hate them.

There's Pesca, the quintessential Italian Anglophile. He's my favorite sympathetic character, and Collins wisely took us away from him early in the narrative lest readers become so enamored of him that they forget who the real hero is (*cough*Marian*cough). If you never read this novel (you really ought to) do yourself the favor of reading Chapter 3, right-all-right!

But on to the quotes:
Nature has so much to do in this world, and is engaged in generating such a vast variety of co-existent productions, that she must surely be now and then too flurried and confused to distinguish between the different processes that she is carrying on at the same time. Starting from this point of view, it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the good lady suffered the consequences of a vegetable preoccupation in the mind of the mother of us all (49)
And then there's everyone's favorite invalid:
My morning's experience of Miss Halcombe had predisposed me to be pleased with everybody in the house; but my sympathies shut themselves up resolutely at the first sight of Mr. Fairlie... "So glad to possess you at Limeridge, Mr. Hartright," he said in a querulous, croaking voice, which combined, in anything but an agreeable manner, a discordantly high tone with a drowsily languid utterance. "Pray, sit down. And don't trouble yourself to move the chair, please. In the wretched state of my nerves, movement of any kind is exquisitely painful to me." (43) 

And then, of course, there is the fantastic Miss Marian Holcombe herself:
The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to adveance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window - and I said to myself, The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps - and I said to myself, The lady is young. She approached nearer - and I said to myself (with as sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly! (35)

Oh, WALTER. Thank heavens Marian is too smart to fall in love with you, you unmitigated ass. In contrast to her sister, Miss Laura Fairlie is a milksop, a milquetoast, a lackluster cardboard cutout of a girl who wears blue and white stripes and a straw hat, for god's sake! Collins is drawing an interesting parallel here between Walter, the ostensible hero of the story who acts mostly on Marian's suggestions and doesn't really do anything himself except lift heavy things, and Laura, whose only outstanding qualities are her beauty and placidity. I wonder if Collins did this on purpose in a similar way that Fitzgerald made Nick Carraway into nothing but a voice to illustrate the goings-on of West and East Egg. Then again, Laura and Anne Catherick are doppelgängers, so perhaps Anne got a double share of pluck when Nature was absorbed in something else.

And then there's Sir Perceval Glyde and Count Fosco: possibly the best, creepiest, jolliest villain EVER. But that must wait until the next part of the narrative, starting in 3..2..1..

*The lack of decent Thai food, pho, yarn stores, and proximity to old friends was overwhelming. It only took 2 1/2 years to figure it out.
**Again, Ann Radcliffe begs to differ. Henceforth, AWiW will be referred to as the First (Victorian) Sensation Novel Ever or Mme. Radcliffe's ghost might put Laurentina's skeleton in my closet.

03 April, 2012

The Woman in White Read-A-Long (Among Other Things)


I have been off Mae West-ing it in the last few months, but I have not forgotten that I owe you more than a snarky review about a book most of you will hopefully never read (because I read it for you).  I know you are all on absolute tenterhooks to know what I've been knitting, reading, and doing in the regular world. The first two are easy: I have been knitting late Christmas socks for my mens and a shawl for my Nadia, and I have been reading All The Things. But I am house-sitting in San Jose for my friend Auntie Social and thus do not have access to said knitted things to take pictures of, and this kitchen table isn't conducive to a lot of typing which is why I haven't done my homework yet.

Speaking of homework, I am finishing up my LAST CLASS for my Master's degree in three weeks, and then the Real World kicks in. If any of you need an executive assistant/event planner, let me know. Brie: call me when you win the lottery and I will move to Philly and be your nanny and we will have lovely crafty fun all the time instead of that whole executive assistant thing.

And now, the Woman in White RAL, as hosted by the hilarious Alice, with whom I would like to be friends and prowl the Chicago Library looking for sexy nerd men books.

This will be my second-and-a-half time through this book. The half time came first in an ill-judged attempt on my part to take a class on 19th c. British Literature from a professor with a brand new shiny PhD. It was only ill-judged because I didn't know at the time that new PhDs are the worst teachers because a) they have very little actual training in how to teach*, b) they are still thinking about nothing beyond their dissertation, which in this woman's case was in the Romantics - whom I cordially despise because I don't particularly like nature or philandering cads, and c) they have developed a habit of proving they are right, so any deviation from their train of thought tends to be frowned mightily upon.**

Y'anyway. I sorta read the book just enough to pass the essay, so it only counts for half. The first WHOLE time I read WiW was right around when Raych read it for her big project, and those sassy emails were a delight.

Ok. Let's talk about Wilkie Collins, whom I thought was a woman for the longest time.

Clearly not a chick.
I learned from Alice and Contractually Obligated to Like Books that he was dude-bros with Charles Dickens to the point of occasionally sharing women. Now, I have a group of friends who spent the majority of their late teens and early twenties diligently dating everyone else within that group of friends. There were break-ups and make-ups and fights, and now that we're older and mostly settled down (the latest wedding was in December and I just went to a baby shower where I was the only unmarried girl and one of only 3 unpregnant, and the other two were not for lack of trying if you catch my drift) we occasionally play the "remember when you were dating me? That was hilarious!" game.

I borrowed a dress from my friend to wear at her wedding to my ex-boyfriend, at which I sat next to his ex-girlfriend-before-me and the two of us shed happy tears. This wedding resulted in my "niece" Evelyn, who has made an appearance here in the past and who is expecting a baby sister in June (see above re. baby shower).
I really wish this were in focus.
I'm not really one to knock someone for a little trading amongst friends is what I'm saying, although I will throw out some censure for being married while they did it. Jerks. So, Collins and Dickens were buds and clearly somewhat douchey, which we will come back to more toward the end of the book.

Woman in White was published in Dickens' magazine and was a sensation - possibly on the same scale as Old Curiosity Shop, for which people famously lined up at the NY Pier to discover whether Little Nell was dead***. It is considered to be the first "detective" novel and one of the first "sensation" novels, although I think Anne Radcliffe and Catherine Morland would have something to say about the latter.

And that's all I have to say so far because there is a pitcher of mimosas and a dance party of one waiting to happen on the back deck.

* She says, from the lofty tower of an upcoming Master's in education.
** Obviously this doesn't go for ALL new PhDs. But the ones in the humanities do seem to be particularly uppity. Feel free to remind me of this should I ever become a PhD.
*** She was. I just saved you from reading that book, too!