I happen to live in the same town as Joan Hess, the town which she has used as a model for Farberville in her Claire Malloy mysteries. This means that I have a very clear mental image of the geography as I read. People who live in London, Manhattan, or Chicago often have this experience, but it is rare for someone who lives in a little town like — ahem — Farberville. While reading The Gunseller, I enjoyed people going hither and thither in Prague, Belgravia, and Casablanca, but I didn’t really have any sense of where they were or how they were travelling. When I read about Farberville, I can see the characters strolling on the lawn by Old Main and driving down the main street. If they then head up to the mall, I know exactly the route they are taking. While reading about the gunsellers, I could visualize them in their well-described scenes, but then they had to flit through mental ether to their next well-described scene, because I simply don’t know what there is between the square and the hotel.
Not that it bothered me. I have heard of people who use maps — there are, I believe, special maps of London, for example, for this purpose — while reading mysteries. They are doubtless the same people who use pins when they measure their knitting. And follow patterns precisely. I sort of admire them, but I am also a bit sorry for the people they live with. I imagine them all as fastidious, fussy people who spend a lot of preparation time before they do anything. I figure that I get a lot more done, and am also more fun. This is probably a delusion on my part. Because I also sort of pity people who are much less precise than I am. I imagine that they live lives of squalor and tension, since they are unable ever to find their cabling needles, even when they look for them. I figure everything in their lives is complicated and exhausting because they are never prepared or organized. So I have essentially determined that there is a perfect level of organization and precision, right between perfectionism and disorder, and defined it as my particular spot on that continuum. I guess this is a harmless delusion, as long as I don’t try to make anyone else change to match me. I can just be quietly and completely privately smug.
Well, I did not get around to casting on the sleeves last night. I am still working on the neckband. This is where the pattern and I will diverge (again). The pattern says to knit k2p2 rib for 1 3/4 inches. Some knitters will pull out their knit gauges and measure the 1 3/4 inches. But my grandmother taught me to double the length of the ribbing at the neckline and fold it and sew it. This gives you a much nicer finish. And — here is the special trick — you reverse the pattern on the second half. So at 1 3/4 inches (or thereabouts, depending how it looks) I will switch to p2k2 for another 1 3/4″ or so. This will give you a really nice neckband, and no one will be examining your cast-off. What level of precision does it require to examine other people’s casting off, and perhaps sneer about it? Probably about the same level that requires a map while reading novels.
To return to Out on a Limb vs. The Gunseller, it occurs to me that the nature of the stories might make a difference to the familiarity of the location. The Gunseller, being filled with blood and gore and international intrigue, might not seem homey and familiar even if I lived in Belgravia and wintered in Casablanca. I probably wouldn’t spend much time on roofs, after all, watching for helicopters. If there were a similar tale set in Farberville, it likely would not happen on the lawn of Old Main. James Bond would probably look for a totally different location, maybe a place I would not be familiar with at all. Because, when you get right down to it, I spend no time at all in any outposts of the military-industrial complex.