16 August 2006

Text-full Tangent

So, how many more pictures of bobbins can you take? How about a short break from them (for you, not for me. Heavens, no!)

I've been reading my Knit the Classics selection this month during my lunch break...instead of knitting. August is Nabakov's Lolita, and my lunch break is an exactly perfect amount of time to spend with it--just enough to be absorbed into the story, but not so much that I need a shower after. (I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in a day once, for school. That's crazy-making stuff. I need breaks, you know?)

At any rate, in July I listened to that month's selection during my 30 minute drive to work, mostly because of the time constraints with that silly class. This month, though, I couldn't easily get a CD version of the audiobook. So what was I to do on those long drives? Continue trying to cram the Old White Guy Classics into my head.

(Note: There is much debate about teaching "classics" in college Lit programs. A good definition of classic is here: "A classic, according to the usual definition, is an old author canonised [sic] by admiration, and an authority in his particular style" [bolding mine]. The problem with these Standards of Good Literature is that they are generally white men--the literature of a lot of women and most of the non-European world is barely taught. Most of my undergrad was spent with these "new" authors, especially Latin American authors (I lived in Florida). The only problem is that there is a body of work that a Lit major is expected to know to be considered educated, and I wasn't taught it. I don't regret it, just have to fill in some big gaping holes.)

So, yesterday I popped Heart of Darkness into my CD player. If you've read this you feel my pain already, don't you? Listening to it, I was dying. I was trying to keep my tortured mind from wandering as far away as possible when I heard the magical words: knitting. You betcha. My ears perked up, and for several glorious minutes I actually paid attention. Here's the excerpt:

Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool. The slim one got up and walked straight at me -- still knitting with down-cast eyes -- and only just as I began to think of getting out of her way, as you would for a somnambulist, stood still, and looked up. Her dress was as plain as an umbrella-cover, and she turned round without a word and preceded me into a waiting-room...

I began to feel slightly uneasy. You know I am not used to such ceremonies, and there was something ominous in the atmosphere. It was just as though I had been let into some conspiracy -- I don't know -- something not quite right; and I was glad to get out. In the outer room the two women knitted black wool feverishly. People were arriving, and the younger one was walking back and forth introducing them. The old one sat on her chair. Her flat cloth slippers were propped up on a foot-warmer, and a cat reposed on her lap. She wore a starched white affair on her head, had a wart on one cheek, and silver-rimmed spectacles hung on the tip of her nose. She glanced at me above the glasses. The swift and indifferent placidity of that look troubled me. Two youths with foolish and cheery countenances were being piloted over, and she threw at them the same quick glance of unconcerned wisdom. She seemed to know all about them and about me, too. An eerie feeling came over me. She seemed uncanny and fateful. Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. AVE! Old knitter of black wool. MORITURI TE SALUTANT."

About halfway down the page at this link, I found the translation for MORITURI TE SALUTANT: "those who are about to die salute thee." The tradition was that gladiators would shout "AVE! Ceasar...[those who are about to die salute thee!]" Personally, I kind of like the knitters in that role. I'll be reading this one, instead of listening to it.

Final Note: Blogger isn't notifying me when someone comments, isn't sending me the comment, and its taking 8-12 hours to deliver said comments to my email. Just so you know: if I don't reply, its me, not you.


At 12:33 PM, Blogger NeedleTart said...

Knitting to the classics? Brilliant idea consider me enrolled. Wait! Blogger notifies you when I comment? How? What? Wait! I check my blog at least twice a day to see if anyone is reading.

At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

Heart of Darkness is such an awesome book, but I can't imagine listening to it.

I'm now reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran." Given that I have never actually read Lolita, I think I'm not getting quite as much from this book as I might! Nonetheless it is excellent.

I hear you on the classics. I read many in my classically-oriented English department... and compensated with 20th century drama and African-American literature in college!

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Little Terry said...

I have so little recollection of Heart of Darkness that I sat here puzzledby the excerpt. There's a party in this book? Huh. I could've sworn it was a big old jungle. Oh well. Guess it didn't click with me.

Lovely work on your spinning, btw.


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