Category Archives: Venting

What’s all this hooey about Jane Austen?

Cautionary note: if you truly love Jane Austen books just be forewarned. You may not want to read further… I have a bit of a complicated opinion about her writing and characters… Well, I warned you.

Jane Austen Movie Draws Fire from Fans

Whenever I take up “Pride and Prejudice” or “Sense and Sensibility,” I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean, I feel as he would probably feel, would almost certainly feel. I am quite sure I know what his sensations would be—and his private comments. He would be certain to curl his lip, as those ultra-good Presbyterians went filing self-complacently along. Because he considered himself better than they? Not at all. They would not be to his taste—that is all.

-Mark Twain

My apologies, but this has nothing to do with knitting.

Apparently Jane Austen fans are “getting their knickers” in a bunch over the recent film Becoming Jane because it alludes that the inspirational spark for her genius came from a man. When I read this article I remembered a funny clip from the show Red Dwarf from the episode “Beyond a Joke” (where the Characters go to “Pride and Prejudice Land’ in “Jane Austen World”):


Okay, so Becoming Jane is probably based on very tenuous information about Austen’s life, but it’s just a movie. And who says that we women can’t have male muses? Or the inspiration for the soul of art is gender-based?! I’m not a Jane Austen fan. Maybe I’m not really a woman and I’m certainly NOT a connoisseur of literature, but for me her books basically serve as a substitute for Nyquil.* I know there’ll be hell to pay somewhere/someday for me posting my opinion on Jane Austen.

Yes, Austen may have been a pioneer of her time at portraying women as vibrant and noble characters in literature, as pointed out quite eloquently by this blogger, and I appreciate that so many people love her books, but I’ve always felt like an outsider to my sex because I don’t particularly enjoy the superficial flirting and drama that drives the plot in these stories. I’m basically a low-context woman and the coquetries and indirect actions of some of Austen’s characters just irritate me. I know that Austen was probably a good observer of the human machinations and intricacies of relationships of her day, but I just suspect that women (and even men) at times get so involved in the whole ‘foreplay’ and ‘titillation’ of the heroines’ flirting and teasing of their suitors… and become entwined with the whole ‘idea’ of romance that they forget about the complications and human difficulties that come with love. Take the good with the bad when it comes to love, and realize that there’s more than the hunt and chase.

I read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I started reading Emma, but I just couldn’t get past the first three chapters without drifting off to sleep. About Pride and Prejudice, I think the only character that I can relate to in the book is the sensible and frank Mr. Bennet who openly admits that his youngest daughters are dingbats. Frankly, and again I may be speaking heresy, but Elizabeth Bennet completely irritates me as a character. I think the only thing I found admirable about her was that she walked several miles to see her ill sister and apparently didn’t care that the house guests at the Bingley’s manor mocked her for her muddy and travel-stained clothing. Still, the hubris she wallows in through most of the book is too much for me to stand. As far as I’m concerned, both she and Mr. Darcy deserve each other because they are perhaps the most irritating couple ever portrayed in literature. I’ve often thought that it would be interesting if someone wrote and epilogue of what happened after they actually get together. But perhaps maybe I’m only looking at the story with the eyes of a person who grew up in the 20th century.

Still, it irks me that a woman who perhaps never consummated any love relationship has basically authored what for many has become the Western standard for romantic love. I haven’t read all of her books, but did Austen actually write about what happens in a romantic relationship after it’s flowered then matured? Sometimes seeing the fruits of relationships that have lasted the test of time is just as rewarding as the excitement that comes from the beginning.

Actually, as I write this, thinking about Austen’s novels and reading some of the comments posted on her writing (from people who both hate** and love Jane Austen) has made me want to pick up the Emma one more time and give it yet another try. I want to try to appreciate her portrait of women at the time as courageous characters characters and perhaps even find evidence of Austen’s own defiance towards the conventions of her time. I just might need a little caffeine.

* But I do enjoy a good Gothic tale. Mary Shelly and Isak Dinesen all the way. Also, I’m more of a Russian Literature fan (Doestoevsky and Chekov in particular).

**Apparently Mark Twain had strong opinions about Jane Austen as a writer
Though this article hints that perhaps he was a closet fan and conflicted between his irritation by the conventions in her writings and character portrayals and his genuine appreciation for her ability to capture problems with human nature.

Other interesting links I found:

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Update on the Lily of the Valley Shawl

I broke down and pulled everything out to the garter stitch edging. You know I just figured there were other imperfections in the lace that I was not willing to live with.  Now, I just started listening to a back episode of Cast-on and coincidentally it seems that Brenda Dayne spoke of ‘letting things go.’ I have to say, I have been enjoying listening to these past episodes one at a time. They’re helping me get through the more tedious parts of my day.

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Filed under Challenge, Knitting, Lace, Techniques, Venting

I want to stab myself

With this needles… is it possible to commit Seppuku with knitting needles? Probably not a good idea. I’m venting right now, but I will tell the story of my recent travails with lace. Please excuse me for I’m aware that a slightly nutty side of myself is manifesting itself. I love lace but I cannot imagine people who do this.

I purchased the tantalizing book of patterns Lace Style and a few skeins of Merino Lace yarn and long length circular needle. I thought I was up to the challenge (and I probably still am, I just need to take a breather from working on this project). The stitch pattern itself is called “Lily of the Valley.” On paper, on the chart it looked… fairly straight forward, and as I have knitted more complicated lace patterns I thought. I can handle this.

Bear in mind, I have never really knit with yarn as fine as lace-weight yarn. It took me three attempts to effectively master the crochet strip cast on so I wasn’t twisting the crochet chain. Now I was able to do the half of the stitch chart with some success, though one or two of my bobbles or nubs was a little funky looking. I didn’t fret over it too much because all in all the pattern was working out nicely. I was quite excited and felt a strange feeling of kinship with spiders as I worked on forming the lace.

All the while in the back of my mind rested the horrible self-fulfilling prophecy: what would happen if one of the stitches fell of the needles? Would it all just suddenly come apart and melt away? I shuddered every time this thought resurfaced . Then I pushed the thought back. Nevertheless, each time I had to move this project from one place of the house to another, I would carefully push all of the stitches down past the needle far, far down the cable. I don’t have stitch protectors yet, but now I’m thinking that they might not be such a bad investment.

Okay, so I completed the first repetition of the stitch chart pattern and am about 1/4 the way through the second. I laid my work flat out on the table to admire it. It was actually starting to come together and look beautiful. It wasn’t as perfect as the stitching on the image, but I’m using a dusty-plum lavender color and I could envision the shawl laying softly on my shoulders like a true gossamer web.

So feeling pleased with what I had accomplished on I knit.

An hour later I looked down at my work and realized that two of the knitted yarn overs or lace holes looked suspiciously larger than the rest. I don’t know what I did, perhaps I did a double yarn over instead of a single for these two stitches. I was crest-fallen but not defeated. However, I did one thing that I should never do again. I acted without really thinking and taking account of the situation.

I tried to repair my mistake without really figuring out what I did wrong. So I tried to tighten the hole by making a stitch from it and knitting it together; however, I only succeeded in making another smaller hole on top of the larger one. As you can imagine it was a slippery slope from there on.

Essentially, the last four rows of my work looked like crap… the rest looked fine. All the nightmares I had about the lace coming apart manifested themselves in a disaster of the lace being pulled together into an ugly tangle. Sometimes when I come to problems in a project I act rashly and pull the entire thing apart and start over again. After all with this piece I’d only knitted 10 inches of it? What was 10 inches? Only the labor of the past two days of my free time?! You can only imagine the see saw that worked up and down in my head:

  • It’s only 10 inches I can start again.
  • What are you nuts?! Just think of how long it took you to master casting on correctly. Do you want that effort to go in vain?
  • Yes, but knitting ‘backwards for these six rows and untangling all of this will be a royal pain?
  • But just look at the work you’ve done so far… it looks wonderful. Do you really want to waste the efforts you put into that?
  • But what if I just bind this off and keep it as a learning experience. Then move on to something else.
  • Arrrgh…. you’re driving me nuts! Why can’t you just go back and fix this, think of the fixing of the thing as a learning experience.
  • Because you’re smoking crack… I’ve got better things to do.

On the dialog went on until I nearly acquiesced and decided that I would have to unknit 6 rows of 100 stitches (600 in all). But now even as I read what I’ve written I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do. Most likely I will undo the thing and start again, but not for a while. I should have started with a very thin scarf.


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