Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street is a novel written as a daily serial in a newspaper, sort of a fiction blog on paper. He has an introduction describing the challenges of this form, but I think he is ideally suited to it. I’ve read half a dozen of his other books, and it always seems to me that they are like collections of short stories masquerading as novels. This way he has 110 little bitty short stories adding up to a novel by the end.
I finished Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Everything. He ends the book with the development of humankind. I was an anthro minor in college, I studied physical anthropology,and I have kept up pretty well with developments in the field since then, so when I read these discussions, it is like reading a formulaic genre novel — you can enjoy the story, even though you know how it’s going to come out. (It’s going to come out with a lot of uncertainty, in case you were wondering, and Bryson does an excellent job of making the unsettled information fascinatingly mysterious.)
Still, it was a particular pleasure to read about the early humans’ crafts. Apparently they were wild about making hand axes. “They made them in the thousands,” Bryson quotes Ian Tattersall saying, “It’s strange because they were quite intensive objects to make. It was as if they made them for the sheer pleasure of it.” What’s more, they carried quartz and obsidian for miles to their special workplaces, which didn’t have such pretty materials to hand naturally.
Yes, my dears, the early humans had stashes.
At this point, you have several philosophical options. You can say that these early people, created in the image of Creator God, were naturally creative. You can say that there must have been some adaptive value to it which we have not yet discovered. You can resist the desire to explain, and simply feel kinship with these early craftspeople.
Here is where I was reading last night, for the Summer Challenge.
Regardless of the eventual fate of Erin, my Fair Isle cardi, it is too hot to go on with that now, so I have just under an inch to decide on my next knitting project. I am debating between beginning Lavold’s Ivy in Knitpicks Essentials, or doing the Doctor’s Bag from Knit Two Together in Telemark.
If I begin the sweater now, it will be ready to wear when the weather is ready for it. It will be part of my SWAP Part III. I need a sweater more than I need another bag.
The Doctor’s Bag is done in a fancy stitch, and Ivy is all stockinette till you get to the lace edging, so I might in fact be wise to do both. That way I will have plain stockinette to knit while I am reading and the pattern stitch for times when I want something a bit more involving.
Yes, I was thinking about all this in a desultory way, along with thinking about questions of utility and pleasure in making things, which I have been thinking about at a somewhat aimless level for a couple of weeks.
I am about to begin another round of workshops, during which I will no longer have time for desultory thinking because my mind will be taken up with thinking through the workshops. I noticed this when I did the first round in June. Of course I think all the time — you have no choice, really — but in June I was thinking about more and more clever ways to convey physics to little children. When, in July, I found myself thinking about pantyhose and the distinction between art and craft and random stuff like that, I was almost surprised. It was like, Oh yes, that’s how I usually think. Discursively.
Here is what I plan to do today after church. Grocery shopping will have to come into it somewhere, of course, and housework, and I will finish that sock, but I have quite a bit of satin to play with, too.
I didn’t plan that it would be like this. I was just putting out the things to go on last night’s burgers. I am getting sick of making and of eating hamburgers, but my husband had gone to the grocery and gotten the ingredients so that I would have something easy to cook when I got home from work. When three big old guys were hanging around all day at home, not working.
Anyway, that is an orange tomato from our garden, quite delicious, and I think that it set the tone for the extreme vividness of the colors.I almost switched to a white plate, but fortunately I realized in time that doing so would have been a little bit loony, and I didn’t.
And today is my xangaversary. I went back to read my entries on this date from 2004 on, and I find that last year I wrote about the craft vs. art issue in a completely different way. Fortunately, I didn’t write on this topic in 2005 or 2004, or it would have been spooky.