this lost love of mine...

random fact: i have a degree in Classic Literature. it was one half of my undergrad double-major. oddly enough, it has been quite a few years since i sat down and properly read a book.

this is yet another thing i blame on grad school. at some point during that wasted time, i got feedback on a paper i had written about a research project i was working on, and the core criticism was that it was too much "fun". "your writing style is very poetic and evocative, but scientific writing isn't supposed to be entertaining", i was told. "stop writing like yourself", the notes concluded.

so, i set out to do precisely that... with a bit of advice from the killjoy writer of said notes.  

"think of it like you are writing a highly-detailed user manual. you want to walk the reader through the process, but at no point should it be "fun" reading."

what, then, would be the point of living?

i would have to find a philosopher to answer that question... taking care to avoid the ones who sound too engaging or entertaining. clearly they did not receive the "fun is not allowed" memo. 

turns out that the hardest part of trying to move away from my usual style of writing was that it required me to move away from my usual style of reading. problem was, i was almost-always nose-deep in the middle of a book, and it was almost-always purely for fun.

yes... i was that dorky kid. hard to imagine, i know!

from the entire set of encyclopedias (back when people owned such things) to all of mom's cookbooks to the boxes of old comic books my cousins and i found in our grandparents' basement... you only had to shove a page of text in front of me, and i was in my happy place.

then i got to middle-school, and i discovered the world of epic storytelling. i still remember the first Summer i was allowed to take the bus by myself to go to the main branch of the public library at Grand Army Plaza. that is what i still think of as "the Summer of Tolkien". and it only got worse from there.

i had a genuine love for reading. it really was my idea of fun. so, it made sense (in that moment, at least) that the only way to stop sounding like i was having fun with my writing, was to stop having fun with my reading. so i did.

and that is still where i am today. i spend very little time engaged in reading just for reading's sake. the closest i can remember coming in recent years was a handful of mysteries by Ngaio Marsh and Ruth Rendell, and a few collections of short stories by David Sedaris.

[total aside: i highly recommend Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn books if you like a good cozy mystery, and Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford series is also good reading for classic-mystery fans (her novel "An Unkindness of Ravens" inspired the title of this blog, as it reminded me just how much i love collective nouns). and, if you want to laugh till it literally hurts, look no further than David Sedaris, whose ability to find absurdity in the ordinary is a much admired trait in our household, where absurdity is a way of life.]

so after more than a decade away, i made a firm decision to get back into reading... which, it turns out, is much easier said than done.

there is a fantastic shop in our neighborhood that is packed to the ceiling with used books (and records), and we pop in there every now and then. i almost-always walk out with at least one new (to me) book, and it almost always-ends up being tucked away on some shelf to be read at some later date... which almost-always never seems to come.

so, there i was, browsing the shelves one day, when i came across two books (two halves of the same story, actually) that i had read many years ago, shortly after the Summer of Tolkien.

i was so excited, i bought both books, got them home, and i even allowed myself to be talked into opening a Goodreads account so that i could keep track of the many... many... many books i would be reading from that point on. heck... i even mentioned it in a blog post at the time. i was genuinely excited to be getting back to this lost love of mine.

then the books just sat... and sat... and sat. i carried from room to room, housing it in a bookcase, then a cubby in the table near my favorite sofa, then in the wooden crate that usually contains yarn-related items on the floor next to my side of the bed. turns out that forcing myself to have to look at the cover of the thing was not going to be enough to actually get it read. the far better approach was to leave it in what we usually refer to around here as "the library"... 'cause that sounds so much classier than just saying "the bathroom".

so, it is more than two years later, and it pleases me to announce that i finally did it. well... i am doing it... slowly. it has been three weeks, now and i am about halfway through the first book. in my prime, i would have read both books in a few (or so) days, but i am woefully out of practice, so i am taking my time.

plus... i am discovering that holding on to a book is getting in the way of the more recent addiction of mine. and i have yet to come up with an amicable  solution.

i hate audiobooks, and i do not have a recipe or spell for growing extra arms, so i am forced to choose between my two loves, and (unfortunately) the knitting usually wins—especially, as i can do that while simultaneously indulging in my other addiction, which he likes to ever-so-eloquently describe as "rape and murder tv".

and, while we are on that subject—the knitting, not the rape and murder tv— i recently started a garment entirely of my own design. [the thin white lines are just there to help me count the rows. they will be removed when it is all done. ]

my brand of OCD required an intense amount of over-planning before i cast on the first stitch, which is why it has taken over two years for this one to go from the planning stage to work-in-progress status. there was a whole lot of math and several badly-drawn diagrams along the way.

luckily, i had help to double-check all of my calculations. this is Ophelia ("Philly"), aka "Baby Bear". she is useful... ish.

but, mostly, she did a lot of this.

the project involves juggling an absurd number of balls of yarn at once. this style of knitting is called intarsia, and it produces quite a lot of ends which will have to be dealt with later. that is my least favorite part of this particular addiction.

and, yes, i am working with eleven different strands of yarn in a single row, which means i have to pause frequently to disentangle all those bits.

luckily, i have another cat to help with that. this is Cordelia ("Cordy"), aka "the Little One". what would i do without her?

then she went racing out of the room and returned a few seconds later to deposit her favorite toy in the midst of the tangle. what could possibly go wrong... right?

there are about a dozen of these plastic springs scattered around our place, but she almost-always goes for this green one... which is not to be confused with the other one in the identical shade of green. clearly, that other green spring sucks!

her favorite game is to drop the spring on the bed next to me (usually at like one in the morning when i am contemplating going to sleep). i toss it out the door, into the room across the hall, and she goes chasing after it like a lunatic. then she brings it back to the bed, and we do the whole routine all over again.

that is, when she is not busy trying to destroy my plants... again.

or my yarn.

so, you can understand my concern whenever she offers to help. so miserable. so cute.

so i packed up all the parts, and returned them to a (relatively safe) hiding place. this is when i made the biggest mistake of all. i left my warm, cozy spot on the bed for a few minutes, and i returned to find kitty number three fast asleep in that space. that is Titania ("Titty"), aka "Mama Kitty". she absolutely refused to move from that spot.

le sigh!

i do not want to give too much away just yet about my special project, but i will say that it is a sweater called "Spite". and, yes... there is a story to be told when it is all done. and, yes... it will be fun.


  1. You might enjoy Terry Pratchett, or you might wish to throw him across the floor. The only disappointment I have is twofold: one, his first book, which is really more of a starter kit for the whole series. I read it because it shows what's to come, and how much he grew as a writer. Two, he died. There is no more Terry Pratchett.
    But there are 35 books that you can read in order, or by grouping (witches/wizards, Sam Vimes, the various 'deity' books which involve distant and ancient kingdoms, pyramids, and such like, or various adventures with Death. (Death as a character, who keeps trying to understand humans.). You may already know all this and have indeed flung his books on the floor. That's okay.

    I appreciate what you're saying about grad school; I've never gotten that far, but nearly everyone I ever spoke to who did, said for the first years afterward they could barely look at books, let alone read them.

    Love the pattern. I can hardly wait to see what you and the cats make. I love to knit, but cannot knit without the TV on and since we don't have a TV...Also wanted to mention I love your yarn feed/holder. Very handy. With or without cat.

    1. the Universe is telling me that i need to read some Terry Pratchett, and soon. i was listening to a podcast that is hosted by two ladies who run a yarn shop and used bookstore on the other side of Canada. and, just as i was clicking on your comment, one of them mentions that she was reading a Terry Pratchett novel over the weekend... then i look at your comment, and there was his name again. message received, Universe.

      the first book in the Discworld series has been in and out of my Amazon cart over the years, but i was reluctant to purchase more books when i was already having so much trouble getting back into reading. i will give that series a go once i get through with this one.

      that improvised yarn holder is actually a gift box that is intended to fit a wine bottle, but it is quite handy for keeping multiple balls of yarn under control.

      and, yes, the grad-school effect seems to be a common one. it could be worse though. that coin toss could have landed on tails, and i would have ended up going on to get a doctorate in Literature. then i would definitely never want to look at a book again.

    2. Funny how a thirst for literature can turn into a drought...

      Warning about the first Pratchett book. It's not nearly as good as the rest, but for me, asperger's child that I seem to be, one Must Read All The Books in order. And it does introduce many of the characters. What's fun is seeing how he grows as a writer over the series.