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November 2012
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August 2013

Book brief: The Burgess Boys

Burgessboys1I picked this novel (Random House, 2013) up at the library while in the midst of reading another, and I'm glad I did. Taking a break from The Lacuna brought me back to it eagerly after I savored every minute with Bob Burgess and his people. While I had read author Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer-winning Olive Kitteredge, that collection of linked stories didn't grab me the way this tale did. And despite its familial focus echoing the last novel I finished, The Burgess Boys takes place over years rather than a weekend, and ranges in location from NYC to tiny Shirley Falls, Maine, with a few other stops afield. I read a review that described the book's voice as "close third-person," which I can't recall hearing used before, but I like how aptly it decribes the way Strout takes us inside some characters heads, but not everyone's. Ultimately, younger brother Bob is the central focus, but we get to know his twin, his ex, and his sister-in-law. Also the Somali immigrant Abdikarim. Squirrely sibling Jim, not so much. The Burgess Boys opens with a conceit of a first-person narrator laying out an overview of the story, which may have helped to engage this reader; I can't un-read it and imagine starting the saga blind. We all belong to families, and taking an inside look at this one increased my appreciation for my own, while entertaining me well for a few weeks this summer. 

Superlatives: Character I'd most like to hang with: Margaret Estaver. Character I'd most like to hear more from: Zach. Most honest character: Bob. Most caricatured character: That lady who lives upstairs at Susan's (can't remember her name). Most throwaway character: Pam (but not really). 

Publisher's blurb: 

Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.

 


See-ya supper

I forgot the bread. I forgot the insalata caprese. But I bought the oysters. And the neighbors came.

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My farmers market had its monthly visit from Ruby Salts Oyster Company that Saturday, and those babies were indeed "fresh, plump, salty, juicy and good." We ate some raw and some off the grill. I don't know how this toddler could have spit out the sample he gamely tried! 

Adults kept cool with beer, while the kids were a blur of water balloons. 

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Then, from the grill, hot dogs for the kids, salmon for the parents. I forgot the watermelon, too! 

And now our beloved neighbors have left the block; luckily, they've gone not much more than a mile. The kids will still be Little B's schoolmates, but no longer her virtual siblings at the house next door, where she hung when I drove Wee C's middle-school carpool these last two years, and so much more often. When C and I came here eight years ago, they were a family of three instead of the five that need larger quarters. Look how these two have grown:

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Dana was probably my first close friend who is significantly younger than I am; it's my turn to be on the other side of that equation, and I always felt honored when she came to me for advice. They're the most fit family I know, and I appreciated the afternoons she served as my personal trainer. Our cats are their honorary pets. Her man Jeremy kept the bushes pruned, and was my emergency-medical consult when I thought I'd sliced my finger half off (not a doc, but an adventure racer!). We will still bike and bowl and blueberry pick with you! Come back for a snowball fight next winter, and pick us up on your Slurpee run! 
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Not enough leaves

IMG_1218Almost three years ago I jumped on board a mystery-shawl knitalong posted on Ravelry by Finnish designer Lankakomero.  I used the pefect skein of Dream in Color Smooshy and dug into the many pages of charts. Tending to be a multi-project knitter, however, I lost steam, and one of those times I put down the chart, I must've failed to mark off a completed section. And, silly (lazy, overconfident) me, I never wove in a lifeline. So when I suddenly found myself running out of what should have been ample yarn well before bind-off time, I knew I was in trouble. 

I thought about trying to weave in a lifeline below the point where I'd obviously veered off course, but with the double yarn-overs, I just couldn't figure out how to be sure I'd captured every stitch. Finally I threw up my hands and bound off, satisfied that I could enjoy the piece as a lacy neck wrap without showing off the outside edge of uncountable, incomplete leaves. I didn't even take a confessional photograph for the project page, so what you see at left is what you get. Maybe I'm not such a charty gal, much as I love the look of lace – I tend to knit to relax at a time of day when I am tired, and either watching TV or stitching  and talking with friends. Glad I managed my Charlotte's Web Shawl when I only had one child, and there was also no social media to distract me! 


Movie Minute: Before Midnight

BefMidposterI loved Richard Linklater's third Jesse & Celine film, Before Midnight. Yes, I also loved Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). The films stand on their own and cohere as a beautiful trilogy visiting a couple's relationship as it evolves and endures over two decades. The two actors (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, who share screenwriting credit with Linklater) are certainly attractive in each film, aging appropriately (and hardly old in their early 40s!), and the setting of this last, a Greek island, in addition to its beauty, offers metaphoric touchstones with its ancient ruins and its remove from either character's origins. These are all "talky" films, but Before Midnight's conversation engages the viewer and compels further thought post-screening. Although not a part of such a couple, I could relate to their perspectives as a human only about a decade older, and as one in relationship with friends for as long, and with my brother for even longer. The film elicited chuckles of recognition, for sure – and a surprising amount of silent talking back to Celine, aligning with my countryman rather than my gender-mate. 

When I saw Before Sunrise, did I imagine these two reuniting? Probably, romantic that I'd have been. When they parted at Before Sunset's end, did I see them making a life together? Possibly; I can't recall, but I was glad for their having shared one more day. Do I want to see a fourth film? I don't think so, but I will if they make one. For now, I'm content to believe Jesse & Celine will raise their girls in one country or another, do good work in the world, and grow old together. 


Book brief: Seating Arrangements

SAcoverOften I grab a novel from the New Fiction bookcase at our neighborhood library; I found my 2012 favorite, Arcadia, that way, an unexpected pleasure. Granted, I tend to take books that sound a note of recognition, which would linger in my mind from a Sunday Times Book Review, NPR, or my guilty pleasure, Entertainment Weekly. I'm trying to take advantage of my Goodreads membership, too, and find friends' recommendations there. Despite having an older Kindle, I still like the heft of hardback. 

Two weeks ago I checked out Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements (Knopf, 2012), because I remembered some positive press. New England WASPs getting married on tiny islands are not generally my thing, what with being a single Southerner, but the writing on the first page engaged me, and darned if that book didn't suck me in and keep me reading until I finished it back there at the West End branch this morning. Her prose is beautiful, and Shipstead does a masterful job of managing multiple points of view, moving between them to offer a family portrait that is unique yet universal. Protagonist Winn Van Meter, patriarch and father of the bride, went from someone I couldn't imagine understanding to a character I was rooting for as he literally and figuratively swayed in the wind. Both he and second daughter Livia, 40 years his junior, grow up over the course of the weekend the novel narrates. From whale-covered trousers to whale-blubbered beach, the details, decades and desires woven into the tale left me laughing, but with moist eyes, as I handed the volume to the librarian.

Superlatives: Character I'd most like to hang with: Dominique. Character I'd most like to hear more from: Biddy. Most honest character: Sterling. Most caricatured character: Celeste. Most throwaway character: Poppy (was that even her name?). 

From the publisher's page

Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff.  Winn’s wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson’s best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.

 


Second decade

My 10-year blogiversary went by without fanfare three months ago. With 2013 half gone, and a year of self-employment under my belt, I think the time has come to freshen up the old place and post more regularly, with the option of varying the content beyond the stitching side of life. I'm not going to change the blog's name, but I've given it a visual makeover by choosing one of Typepad's newer themes. I want to write about art and culture and family and work, in addition to the things I make from assorted fibers. Stay tuned, as network television shows used to voiceover before a commercial break. Not to be holier-than-thou, but we so rarely tune into a network broadcast around here other than PBS, that I've no idea if that plea still gets issued. We only get the networks, but more often the choice is accessing video via Netflix . . . 

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1. Colvert cowl, 2. Camp-out mitts, 3. Cowld and Frosty, 4. Leftovers

If only for images, I do have some finished objects to report for the first half of this year.  I made a Leftovers vest  from the rest of my Seacolors yarn, then added some fingerless mitts from a free pattern (Rav link) I found on Ravelry. I knit a pair of cowls, each from yummy, bulky yarn: the orchid one is Three Waters Farm merino I bought on my last Maryland Sheep & Wool trek (Rav pattern link), and the magenta one Fyberspates Scrumptious I received as a gift from the lovely Sarah Phipps and her hub Taylor, Brotherman's BFF from college, who passed through RVA bearing gifts a Christmas ago. I love the cable of the Colvert pattern (link)!