Sunday 26 April 2009

Reading not spinning

I have had a variety of books from the library recently including a lovely India Flint felting book and a very nice one on victorian lace shawls. Don't be fooled into thinking we have some kind of fantastic library here, it is tiny, but now you can access the Gloucestershire catalogue and order things online, so I find things that sound interesting and just look them up. Most things are worth the 50p reservation fee even if you just browse through for a while after work. I had high hopes of 'The woolcraft book : spinning, weaving and dyeing' by Constance Jackson, it turned out to be rather old fashioned with not nearly enough pictures. However if you ever want to buy a spinning wheel it had pages of sound advice on what to look for in a good second hand wheel. It also had a good section on natural dyeing but I hardly have room and time to do all the things I am currently interested in so don't want to start developing new things at the moment.
I also came across a lovely title called 'A Handspindle Treasury - 20 years of spinning wisdom from Spin-Off Magazine' which has been totally fascinating. It is a collection of articles written for Spin-Off Magazine all on the subject of spinning with a hand spindle, but also background and historical stuff and articles about different styles of spinning from around the world. I find it incredible that there are people who make a living and get to travel around the world just to learn about spinning from other cultures. And I wonder what these other women (for they are mainly women) think of these western academics coming into their lives and sitting down and wanting to know all about their craft. For many of them their lives are based on subsistence living and their spinning is simply integral to their survival, and yet at the same time many cultures create the most beautiful of objects, rugs and cloth, with the time and effort taken being far beyond what is necessary for mere warmth. I think it is part of what makes humans what they are that they strive to create beauty, and we do place great value on skills that are both useful and beautiful. Anyway, you might be able to find this, but I bought the only second hand copy listed on Amazon and they don't seem to stock it on the Interweave Press site.

And so on to Carol Sheilds "The Republic of Love". I liked this book because of the characters, all of whom were very real. It follows Tom and Fay and their parallel and somewhat tenuously linked lives. The first half of the book sets the background of their lives, and the complex web of relationships that exist amongst their friends and families. I loved the little vignettes she draws of the different characters, which is what makes them so believable. I got the impression that it is the 'republic' bit of the title that the author was stressing rather than the 'love'. The dictionary says this on the subject of 'republic': a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch. I think she may have been trying to make some very specific observations on the nature of human relationships, but it may have been a little too subtle for me, or maybe I was concentrating too hard on the people themselves to notice. It is not a 'romance' at all. While I enjoyed the first part of the book I was sitting on tenterhooks all the time waiting for the moment, that you could see approaching in
the distance, when they would finally meet. So they meet and then Fay goes away, for some weeks, and they both sit and brood intensely about each other. And what you are left with from this separation is the anticipation of some very grand passion, but it is not like that at all. What they have is what I can only call 'absolute certainty'. They fall into a life together that contains no doubts, that they want the same thing and that they will be happy. So when Fay has a family crisis that intervenes in their marriage plans it was somewhat disconcerting for her to turn round and break up the relationship. It felt a little like a contrivance, something to upset the situation so that you then get your moment of revelation and your happy conclusion. But I was left with a message that I agree with; that people need people, that being 'significant' to another human being is quite vital to happiness. I don't get the whole 'marriage' thing and why people seem to think that it is the only real form of commitment but leaving that issue aside I do think the book said something interesting about human nature.


  1. Ha:) Only a man would correct in public! (Just teasing, but it was funny to see Duncan's comment.)

    Martine: First of all, I just love your profile description. "I used to aspire to significance but now feel it is what you do quietly that matters." Isn't that the truth, though? In so many ways.

    Your review of Carol Shields's book is so beautifully written, that I just want to keep reading that instead of the book. Which I am now curious about, and hope to get to the library to take out among a hundred others(lol) By the way, is there ever an 'absolute certainty'. *Oh, yes, death. Remembered as I signed in:) (I don't want to say taxes, because that's not poetic, and it's a bad subject right now!)

  2. Thanks for your kind response. I would find 'absolute certainty' hard to imagine in real life, but read the book and you will see what I mean. Carol Shields is trying to make us look at 'falling in love' as a serious thing rather than something silly and emotionally immature, that the experience could create a real immediate sense of connection and trust in another person, but without being sentimental in any way. And I missed out all the stuff about the mermaids... symbolism abounds;-) best wishes Martine

  3. I rarely come back for a second comment on the same post, but I did and felt the need to continue this dialogue regarding what you wrote. I probably should read the book first, I agree, but it's a "general" matter. I kept thinking and realize I don't know what "falling in love" in a serious way means. I realize it would mean being committed to your beloved. But, don't we all fall in love thinking it is serious? And, those of us who are immature emotionally would have a difficult time knowing how to become serious. I will have to read the book then come back. But, it's a fascinating topic for me, at this moment in my life. It must be. Okay, until next time:)

  4. I love the book too - and your felts, lucky children!


Thanks for stopping by. Thoughts, opinions and suggestions (reading or otherwise) always most welcome.