knitting in novels

I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's new novel, The Lacuna, which my mom gave me for Christmas. I'm a huge Kingsolver fan, as I may have mentioned before. She is one of my favorite authors. I've read absolutely everything she's written, and this latest novel is quite good. I'm about 2/3 of the way through and have encountered some knitting, so why not share with you?

To contextualize: the main character Harrison Shepherd, a reclusive novelist who grew up in Mexico but now lives in Asheville NC, is driving from Washington D.C. back to Asheville with his secretary Violet Brown. World War II has just ended. They have just been to D.C. to help unpack an art exhibit that the U.S. congress has banned from traveling to Paris for being vulgar and profane. Violet is knitting in the car. (If that little synopsis doesn't make sense, just go read the book!)

"Is that what you have there? I thought it was an indigo porcupine."

She had a laugh at that. She has eleven nephews and nieces, I learned, and meant to outfit the tribe on this journey, working through socks from top to toe, all from the same massive hank of blue wool. The coming holiday shall be known as "The Christmas of the Blue Socks from Aunt Violet." She worked on a little frame of four interlocked needles that poked out in every direction as she passed the yarn through its rounds.

"Aren't you afraid you'll hurt yourself?"

"Mr. Shepherd, if women feared knitting needles as men do, the world would go bare-naked."

And a few pages later...

A gift: knitted gloves of soft gray wool. What a remarkable sensation, to slide them on and feel each finger fit perfectly in its allotted space. "I noticed you have none," she said. "Or wear none. I thought maybe they didn't use them in Mexico."

"I've bought three pair since I moved here and they're all too short in the fingers. I wind up with webbed hands like a duck."

"Well, see, I wondered. Your fingers are about twice what God gave the rest of us."

I held out both gloved hands, stunned by the sight of perfection. "How did you do this? Did you measure me in my sleep?"

She grinned. "A grease stain on one of your letters. You must have leaned on the table to stand up, after eating a bacon sandwich."

"Very impressive."

I brought in a rule and measured all the fingers."

I turned my hands over, admiting the row of slant stitches across each thumb gusset. "Not blue, though. I thought you specialized in indigo."

"Oh, those socks you mean, out of that cheap handspun. Those were for the children. This is pure merino from Belk's. I can use quality on you, because you're not planning to outgrow these in a year or run holes in them on purpose."

"I'll try not to let you down."

That's something, huh? I wonder if Barbara Kingsolver is a knitter.


Jessi said…
I used to love Barbara Kingsolver... Glad you are enjoying it. I used to subscribe to a fiber arts blog that featured movies with knitting or crochet work every Friday. The blog was mostly pretentious, but I miss those Fridays.
Suze said…
Used to? Like, you don't anymore?
Suze said…
By that I mean you don't like Kingsolver anymore?
Caffeine Girl said…
Good question!
Jessi said…
I read some interviews that she did about Kentucky, where she basically said it was hell and she hated it here and I just can't get that out of my mind when I'm reading her stuff anymore. Prodigal Summer is one of my all-time favorite books and I just can't imagine how you could write that and hate the place you were describing. I try to get over it because she's a really good writer, but it's like Mel Gibson. I just can't clear that out of my head.
Suze said…
Jessi, it's too bad about that interview. i don't think i heard/read it. I believe, though, that she grew up in a tiny mountain town where everyone was, frankly, ignorant and narrow-minded, so perhaps she was referring specifically to that experience? You can really tell when you read her earlier novels like The Bean Trees. But Kingsolver lives in rural West Virginia now, so she must have gotten over her aversions to that sort of place!

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