Addendum on Growing Up

I thought I’d made this clear in my last bookish post, but I must have deleted that sentence when I was rearranging paragraphs, so I wanted to add a little something on my feelings about growing up.

I absolutely love getting older! I’m terribly excited to be turning thirty in just under six months, and I would cry if you told me I had to be younger again. I do miss the comraderie of my college years; I went to a tiny residential liberal arts college, and so I was surrounded by lots of potential friends all of the time. I would not want to be surrounded by college students now, but I would love if my apartment building was suddenly full of my peers, all eagerly wanting to forge relationships, the way college was. Luckily, I have the internet, so I find my peers that way instead. With that one exception, I don’t miss anything about being younger.

So cheers to getting older! I just felt the need to add a postscript, since the comments I received made me realise I hadn’t made that clear.

Knitting Video (Podcast): Episode the Third

It’s time to delve back into my knitting basket! So bring out your own crafting project, take a seat, and listen to a bit about my finished projects, current projects, and why the Melusine cardigan is not much closer to being finished.

In lieu of detailed episode notes, I’ll direct you to my Ravelry project page, from which you can find any yarn and pattern specifics that might have caught your eye (or friend me for that matter). My stash page might be helpful this time too; I have it sorted so the newest additions are on top. The three Rav groups I mentioned are Folklore & Fairy Tales, Sock Knitters Anonymous, and SolidSocks. If you’d like to see more frequent updates of my knitting, I am quite active on Instagram; you can follow me at TheCharmofIt.

I also referenced several books: Twisted Stitch Knitting by Maria Erlbacher, Sock Architecture by Lara Neel, The Handy Book of Sweaters by Ann Budd, The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe (this is the one that I couldn’t remember the name of but has tons of helpful sweater knitting advice), The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore. And two podcasts: Math 4 Knitters and The Tolkien Professor’s Faery and Fantasy Course.

Since video format has its colour and detail limitations, I’m also sharing photographs that are fairly colour accurate (on my monitor at least) and that can be enlarged if you’re a details person too.

Finished Objects

Woodsman Mittens

Cloudy With a Chance of Kittens Cap

A Clutch of Bunnies

Dragonfly Seatbelt Cosy-1

Dragonfly Seatbelt Cosy

Deck the Halls Socks

Gawain’s Shield Beret

Works in Progress

Antiquarian Scarf-1Antiquarian Scarf

Ent WIfe Socks-1

Ent Wife Socks

Melusine Sleeve-1

Melusine Cardigan (the sleeves)

On Reading While Growing Up

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At twenty-nine, I seem to have passed a threshold, and suddenly find myself regularly reading about grown-up protagonists who are in fact younger than me. This is disconcerting; as a life long bookworm, many of my role models are fictional and books, both novels and nonfiction, have helped shape my very character. What to do when all of these potential role models are suddenly younger than yourself? After all, every year I get older, while the books around me stay static.

I remember turning twenty-two, realising I was now older than both Emma and Lizzie, who I met for the first time when I was thirteen, and feeling such despair. They’d managed to sort their lives out by now, whereas I seemed to be getting older and feeling more muddled than ever. Fortunately, these days I have a more relaxed view, having let go of my teenage self’s plans for my twenties, and when I turned twenty-eight and became officially older than all of Jane Austen’s heroines, I took it in stride. And yet, lately I’ve been noticing, so many of the heroes and heroines of fiction, looking to find themselves, seem to have their crises finished and endings achieved before their thirtieth birthday. I’m not sure how I feel about this; when I was fifteen, sure, thirty sounded old. At the time, I imagined I’d have everything essentially sorted by then, and simply be working to improve it; to switch to metaphor, I was sure I’d have all of the clay assembled and basic shape roughed out and spend my thirties adding the fine details and embellishments to the vase of my life. This is certainly not the case, and I suspect when I find myself on the threshold of my forties and fifties and sixties, I will still not be quite formed, not yet ready to place in the kiln.

Of course, books have to end somewhere, and the traditional story arc is so terribly satisfying for a reason. But where are the stories of the thirty-something year olds? We’re too young for midlife crises but too old for young adult ‘leaving the nest’ type plots. Am I just not reading the correct books? I can already find myself undergoing a bit of a transformation, reminding myself that I can certainly find role models who are younger than me. And yet…I’ve always found it more natural to have role models older than myself. I’m sure such books exist; I’ll just have to start drawing up lists. I seem to mention Bujold in every post lately, but I will just say that one of the aspects of the Vorkosigan Saga I love best is that it covers 12+ years in the main characters’ lives and really shows them growing from eighteen-year-olds to forty-year-olds. The Miles from the early books is not like the Miles from the later books, and the transformation feels utterly organic, and deeply comforting, since this is a transformation we all undergo. All of my life, books have lead the way, and I don’t want to lose that now.

Has anyone else noticed this? Have any thoughts you care to share? Or books to recommend of course! Luckily for me, Niccolo, the protagonist of Dorothy Dunnett’s second historical series, just turned thirty in The Unicorn Hunt, which means I have at least three books to watch someone older than myself try to navigate life. Although luckily, mine has far fewer challenges, and my friends and family support me instead of secretly worrying I’m evil. Poor Nicholas.

Knitting Video (Podcast): Episode the Second

It’s time to delve back into my knitting basket! So bring out your own crafting project, take a seat, and listen to a bit about my finished projects, current projects, and how I began knitting.

Since video format has its colour and detail limitations, I’m also sharing photographs that I’ve edited for colour accuracy (on my monitor at least) and that can be enlarged if you’re a details person too. In lieu of episode notes, I’ll direct you to my Ravelry project page, from which you can find any yarn and pattern specifics that might have caught your eye (or friend me for that matter). But first, since I mentioned it in the video, here is the photograph showing the importance of matching colour dominance in stranded knitting (apologies for the low quality; I can’t find it in my phone photo folder so had to take a screen shot from my Instagram account):

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Finished Objects

Sylvan CowlSylvan Cowl

Oh La La Socks

Works in Progress

Antiquarian ScarfAntiquarian Scarf

Deck the Halls SocksDeck the Halls Socks

Woodsman MittensWoodsman Mittens

Melusine Cardigan

Serial Reading Habits

For many years, if I fell in love with a book that was the first of a series, unless it was a Lord of the Rings type pseudo-series, I would continue the series at a leisurely pace. One, perhaps two a year, even if I adored them, because I wanted to make the pleasure last for as long as possible. After all, what if I never found another series I wanted to read again? And then I was all out of new books to read? For the rest of my life?

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photo credit

Lately, though, I’ve become a gobbler. I blame Lois McMaster Bujold; I came across her via her Sharing Knife quartet, which I read back-to-back (they’re not quite a LOTR pseudo-series but do each pick up where the other leaves off). Then I proceeded to read her four other fantasy books, all within a month or two. And finally I moved on to her gigantic science fiction series named The Vorkosigan Saga (and much much more loveable than that name implies, at least to my sci-fi skeptical self); even though I made a conscious attempt to draw them out I managed to finish sixteen or so books well before my first ‘anniversary’ of Bujold discovery. And I loved it.

Of course, Bujold doesn’t share all of the blame. My library’s excellent electronic branch, promising me both Nook-compatible books and audiobooks at any time of the day, with a simple click, has made it easier than ever to give in to my cravings. No longer must I wait until my next library visit; as long as no other patron has the book checked out, I can be reading the next one minutes after finishing an earlier book. It turns out my will power is weak in the face of such instant gratification.

To be honest, though, I’m happy in my newfound guzzling approach. I know instantly where I am in the story and easily remember details about the world and character development, picking up on any little tidbits an author might throw out. It also brings me back to my childhood bookworm self, who stayed up the night after Christmas one year to read the entire Narnia series before dawn. There is such pleasure in beginning a book when you’re simply in a fever of impatience to find out what might happen next in a character’s life, or in getting to spend another three hundred pages or more in a beloved fictional world. When I read a series more quickly, I’m reading for the sheer love of story, without any external considerations. This shift in my reading habits has occurred at the same time that I’ve incorporated more rereading into my life, which I’m sure has calmed my subconscious fears of somehow running out of magical books that speak to my soul.

It seems silly to write this post without discussing at least one of the specific series that’s entranced me! Let me tell you about Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books, which are set in an alternative England-centered world during the Napoleonic wars, ones in which there are dragons. As the series progresses, we visit various other countries, and Novik expands how the existence of dragons would have changed the face of colonialism, since a fighting dragon makes the musket quite a puny weapon. The world building is delicious, and sure to satisfy any feminist, post-colonialist reader, but in a way that also feels authentic to that period. But the real reason I keep reading them is that I’ve fallen utterly in love with Temeraire, a dragon who loves to read and wear fine jewels and protect his friends, and his captain Will Laurence, whose entire world view changes when he finds himself thrust from the Navy to the (Dragon) Air Corps and who struggles to match his strong internal sense of honour and patriotism with the shades of grey contained in a newly widened world. I read the first one, His Majesty’s Dragon, six weeks ago and am now impatiently waiting for the sixth one to become available.

Then there’s Seanan Maguire’s October Daye series, which are a noir crime and urban fantasy mash up that feels like what would happen if Veronica Mars had grown up as a half-Fae outsider in both the Faerie and human worlds of San Francisco and had ended up as a Faery knight/human private investigator who keeps being thrown into terrifying situations in which she must fight against all of the odds to save her known world. The books hover right on the edge of being too gritty for me, but Toby’s (don’t you dare call her October) sense of honour and grudging affection for the Faeries who just won’t leave her alone have convinced me to read the first five books since August. It’s one of those series that just gets better and better; Toby changes so much over the course of the books but in an utterly organic and true way. The Fae world is complex and fascinating, and I love spending more time there, even if I know I’ll cry at least once during each book. Maguire always seems to play fair, though, in my opinion and she throws in plenty of amusing asides and a couple sexy men to the bargain; I can’t wait to read the next in the series. They begin with Rosemary and Rue, in case you’re interested as well. On an amusing side note, I actually thought Maguire was a man until just last week, when Debi casually referred to her as a ‘she,’ and I scurried off to Google. I had been admiring how wonderfully ‘he’ wrote female characters and the feminism at the bedrock of ‘his’ writing, only to suddenly have all of that verisimilitude make much more sense.

Well, my soup has simmered long enough to fill the entire apartment with its flavours, and my stomach is informing me that I can write about more series another day.

I’m curious; do you ‘save’ series for later, the way that I have for years, or plunge happily in and read them all fairly quickly? And do you have any particular favourites that you think I should begin devouring?