12 in 12 update

August’s update could have happened sooner, but I was frantically knitting on the Ugly Socks and then I was falling ill.  I managed something rather amazing in August; I doubled up.  In both socks and books, I had two qualifications.  Made me feel quite capable and useful, really.

Socks: I don’t have pictures of the first socks I knit in August, as they were promptly worn and tossed into the wash.  I’ll snap those soon.  I knit Rainer a pair of November Socks, a free pattern on Ravelry that is absolutely my kind of pattern: simple for 90% of the time, but with regular rows of something interesting to mark your progress.

After knitting that pair – grey and navy – I thought orange would be the way to go in terms of colour contrast.  We all know what happened with the Ugly Socks, and I won’t repost photos.

Connection: Grandparents phoned and letters written.  Oma sounds lonely when we talk.  It makes me regret that this country is so blasted huge.  We’re not even at opposite ends of it (not by half) and it’s still a 23 hour drive.

Books: As well as the light and diverting reading I did this month (The Hero and The Crown, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Fairest), I finished two heavy-weights: How to Read a Book and Wuthering Heights.  If you haven’t read How to Read a Book, do check it out, especially if you are hoping to shepherd kids through their high school reading.  A thorough explanation of how to make a good book your mentor, how to approach it, learn from it, and then master it.

“If you are wondering how to get students to read Newton, you are asking the wrong question.  The question is, have you read Newton?” Van deMille

I particularly appreciated that the ideas were broken into clear steps to take, as well as the fact that different subjects and genres were given explicit treatment (poetry, philosophy, and mathematics needing somewhat separate approaches, after all).   It’s practical and motivating, and it’s been in print since the 40’s.

Wuthering Heights, now, that was  a bit like the old cliche about car crashes.  I couldn’t look away.  Grim and horrid in subject matter, yet with a sense that you needed to see the end.   Taking the advice from How to Read a Book on novels, I read it quickly and with as few breaks as possible, submerging myself in the world as though I was newly arrived in a neighbourhood.

I know I’ve read it in the last 5 years, but I couldn’t remember the resolution at all and I felt compelled to go on even when I worried it would only get worse.  Of course, it was worth the journey.  Two things struck me particularly: how startlingly local England (and the rest of the world) was; and how differently the revenge motif was handled.  By local, I mean that the people in this book lived such a restricted  life.  These few people.  This one landscape.  Those few books. It made me both thankful that our horizons are expanded and regretful that we’re homogenizing so much.

As for the revenge, what a different feeling Heathcliff gives it!  Most novels treat revenge like a knife slipped between the shoulder blades in a dark corner.  Not here.  This is like a millstone grinding, grinding. grinding away.  Such a ponderous weight, slowly moving without course alteration. I was horrified at the number of lives he treated as expendable, the way he felt they were property.

I’m still not certain what I feel about the book and what I’ve learned from it.  It was like a storm – fearsome and stirring and leaving me breathing great lungfuls of air once it was over.   Have you any thoughts on it?

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3 thoughts on “12 in 12 update

  1. Shannon B says:

    I tried to read Wuthering Heights at 13 and couldn’t manage it. I think the narrative-within-a-narrative was a bit troublesome…I kept thinking that Mr Lockwood – being the first character introduced – was important, and trying to anticipate plot points.

    Tried it again at 20. Read it all the way through in a couple of days, and then – a first for me – turned from the last page to the first, and started over.

    I’ve read it many times since, but it has never been the thunderbolt it was that second time.

    What strikes me about Wuthering Heights is that the evil is so pervasive. It’s not just Heathcliff, though he represents ‘the devil himself’. It’s like Lockwood has stumbled on a pocket of pure hell in the middle of Yorkshire. Everybody’s actions are full of random violence. Lockwood himself seizes the ghost’s wrist and rubs it up and down on the glass ‘until the blood ran down’. There’s a scene in Nelly Dean’s narrative where she describes running through the kitchen, where “Hareton was hanging a litter of puppies over the back of a chair”. That’s it – a handful of words thrown into the story, with no other note taken of it. Catharine is so bizarrely self-interested and destructive as to be inhuman.

    There’s something so gritty and compelling about the book, though. The idea of the turmoil and violence in the Heights trickling out to bring down the inhabitants of the ‘big house’…the devastation of two generations of a family…the implacable violence of the adopted gypsy son…it’s very Gothic in its way.

    What has always bothered me about it is the total lack of explanation. It doesn’t seem like Emily has any idea WHY these people behaved this way. I suppose if you looked hard enough you could find a reason buried in the narrative, but I’ve never seen it…and I feel that is a weakness of the plot.

    Overall, though, I love this book. I love picturing Emily sitting in Haworth Parsonage by guttering candlelight, half-gloves and a shawl, feverishly scrawling tales of horrific deeds and ugly violence…it’s what makes “Changing Heaven”, by Jane Urquhart, so interesting to me. You might like it too, if you’re a Bronte fan.

    PS: And it seems I had a LOT to say about that! Sorry to jack your comments.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    England still can feel very ‘localish’ at times. I don’t mean that anyone is very old fashioned and don’t ever leave their towns–but it is something that was still a rarity up until about 30 yrs ago. My husbands grandparents would have thought going more than 30 miles away a major journey.

    The roads here aren’t always very enticing for wandering. The major highways all lead from London to a major town, but trying to get to locations off the beaten track is not always very simple. If you can Google a street map of the UK you will see how all the back roads aren’t straight, so a 20 mile journey can take awhile. I used to take the kids to a music teacher just over 20 miles away, and most people here thought that was extreme, but in the States that would be ‘every day life’.

    As to Wuthering Heights–I haven’t read it in years–but wasn’t the angst because though Heathcliff was basically ‘adopted’ he was still treated as a gypsy, even by Catherine in public? He resented that they never forgot his gypsy background, even though he was an intelligent person and raised to the same standards as Catherine. She loved him in private, yet treated him beneath her in public. To understand that, you have to understand just how lowly the Gypsy’s were traditionally considered in England, and that even today to climb to a higher social statues is very hard for those that lead a traditional gypsy lifestyle. And to understand Heathcliffs hatred, we’d have to understand what it is like to be ostracized by not only society in general, but by those that said they cared for you.

  3. Annie says:

    I tried WH about 15 times as a child (my parents had given me a beautiful leatherbound edition after I fell in love with Jane Eyre) and could never do it. Then I reread The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with my book group 2 years ago and had to reread Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights right away. I couldn’t put either of them down. I was amazed at how the three Bronte sisters, raised in the same house, took the idea of love and painted it equally passionately, but each with such a different ethos. I agree with your revenge observation. I think I’d prefer the knife in my back.

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