Book Corner 2023.15

by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is really special. He wrote this little slice of his life in 2005, two years before that life would end.

“I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex.” Agreed… I like either books written in the past, or modern books; people who write new books but place them in the near-distant past I think are just trying to avoid the way we behave with technology.

Speaking of technology, the best part was where he describes how he used to send things out to be typed, by the mail, using a new envelope he would buy for the purpose at the nearby stationary store; all the people he would interact with. He had a crush on the post office counter girl, and purports that she would do things like frizz her hair or wear black lipstick just to entertain her clientele. I like that little appreciation for how we are all part of a big promenade, here to entertain our neighbors and be entertained in our turn.

After his lovely vignette about the post office, he concludes, “Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something.”

Finally a quote from his son: “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

Book Corner 2023.14

by Charles King, circa 1913

Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

I will get through this whole review without using the word “charming.”

Beatrix Potter is a hero of mine. She was a talented illustrator who wanted to do nature drawings for scientific journals. Her claim to fame ended up being Peter Rabbit. This plus 21 other tiny little books of tales served as my bedtime reading this week. We found a complete boxed set at a used book store. While I was familiar with Peter Rabbit, had read Beatrix’s bio, and named a goat after her, I had never read the complete tales until now.

It was a joy. Apart from the fact that the animals wear clothing, the illustrations and even many of the tales are very true to life. Peter Rabbit looks and feels very bunnylike indeed after losing his shoes and coat, lost and disoriented and damp from hiding in the watering can. The dogs, mice, badgers, frogs, “puddleducks”, hens, piglets, etc. inhabiting this world, while engaging in people-like pursuits, keep their respective animal natures about them. One of my favorite tales involved two mice ransacking a dollhouse. After trying and failing to eat the tiny plaster food, they commence making a general mess and then spiriting various objects down their mousehole. Very mousey. Next morning, the dolls just stare and smile.

Beatrix lost her fiance tragically during a long engagement insisted upon by her parents, to whom she felt duty but little more. When they had both passed away, and she had inherited and earned money enough, she left the city she never liked and bought herself a farm among her beloved lakes. She came to life. And she was instrumental in preserving the local breed of sheep. I just felt like putting in a plug of why she’s my hero.

Book Corner 2023.13

by Peggy Ornstein

Basically, this woman tries all of my hobbies.

Specifically, she shears, cards, spins, dyes, and knits “the world’s ugliest sweater.”

She does this during pandemic times – and megadrought times. I can’t believe she undertook dyeing with a drought going on – surely negates all her other attempts at being a socially conscious crafter.

There’s way too much digression. For example, a chapter on indigo treats us to two pages on Joni Mitchell’s BLUE album. I don’t like when books do this – purport to be about a certain topic, then stray. I didn’t sign up to read about your affinity for Joni Mitchell or what you did during the pandemic or your family. I signed up to read about shearing, spinning, and dyeing.

So, sticking to the topics at hand:

Shearing isn’t very popular as a lifestyle choice because there are “many other ways to make a living that don’t require bending over for eight hours a day while an ungulate kicks you in the face.” Well put! In another blast of the reality of shearing, a sheep comments on her technique by letting loose a “gigantic mound of poop pellets” during the process. Shearing: well captured. Onward!

Carding and spinning chapters weren’t so interesting, so let’s skip to the dyeing. Acid dyes for home use might as well not exist; Author seems to think she has to do natural dyeing. Thus, the reader “might notice I mention yellow a lot.” Confirmed: trying to dye with natural materials you find in your immediate environment means you had better like yellow. Natural dyeing: spot-on! Next!

Knitting. Author undertakes a sweater even though she knows it would have been wiser to choose a shawl or cowl pattern. One small reason she chose the unwiser path is that she admits to “never, under any circumstances, wearing either of those garments.” Yes – let’s face it. Shawls and cowls are just not normal wardrobe options. They’re things knitters like because they are easy and/or use little yarn.

I was put off by Author’s mathophobia. Mathophobia is tiring to read about. “Even writing the phrase ‘set of ratios’ gives me a headache.” Po widdle bebby. Math is hard!!

BUT… Author wins my love again when she correctly identifies the kinship of knitting with programming! Knitting is coding – “with knits and purls replacing the standard binary 0s and 1s.” Knitting patterns are programs (this is me talking). Garbage in, garbage out. Follow the steps, get a repeatable result.

Certainly could not resist this book and hope it encourages just one person out there to try their hand at – almost said ‘sheep-to-shawl’ crafting, but let’s make it ‘sheep-to-article-you’ll-actually-wear’ crafting.

Book Corner 2023.12

by Jane Austen

This was a re-read, of course.

My new impressions this time were how insufferable Mary Musgrove was. I always remembered her as merely a bit of a whiner.

The BBC adaptation that came to theaters in America in September 1995 always sticks with me. Of course, I don’t remember the very date we saw it, but September or October would have been likely, as Maggie & I would have run right out for it. Most memorable was that Xopher came with us, and didn’t hate it. He was different then.


Bono has been joining me lately during my crafting hours. These are such beautiful albums. How much do I love the song “One”?

Of course they also bring me back to my super-young adulthood and periods of psychological unrest. Aren’t we glad we’re past all that now? Aren’t we? Then again I wasn’t doing so well 10 years ago, either. It’s more like I have intervals of Ordinary Time, but that doesn’t mean I’m ever ‘better’, or ‘beyond’, or ‘quite right now’.

Book Corner 2023.11

by Kathryn Ma

This was a fun little story. Shelley is a young man who comes to San Francisco from China with dreams of success. Everything goes rather poorly from the start. He had been told his uncle, who will be hosting him, owns a big fabulous department store; but the truth is the family used to own a little corner grocery, but no longer. Furthermore, his uncle and aunt stick him in a tiny spare room and kick him out after two weeks. Hunger and homelessness threaten. But Shelley is positively buoyant through it all. He makes himself useful to his uncle’s elderly father and endears himself to the little boy of a family friend. He endures heartbreak and trickery. And then it’s all tied up in a nice bundle.

From the Dept. of F*ck It

Ya know it doesn’t seem to matter how much or how little I sleep. I can have a lousy night and still feel just average the next day; I can sleep seemingly plenty and still feel like crap. And in a similar vein, Saturday night I eschewed burgers and fries and ice cream when we went out to eat, yet I still had a lousy night. I feel so exhausted today, and I didn’t even buy into that DST bullshit (I’m protesting and shifting my life an hour later, which is to say, NOT shifting my life). I really can’t remember the last time I felt physically “fine”, in fact. So just f*ck it. Do what you want, body. You’re gonna do what you want anyway.