I picked this book up from the library the other day. Something about the title and the picture of all that yarn on the cover made me feel like I just had.to.read it. I ignored the knitting in the title given that I’m not a knitter, but figured that a love for things fiber related would be something that I could understand. Adrienne Martini’s “Sweater Quest” did not disappoint (www.martinimade.com is her website – although I didn’t care for it as much as I liked her book). In fact I found it so entertaining that I finished it in just under 24 hours. It’s a both a blessing and a curse. The blessing being that it gives me more time to read all the other books that strike my fancy. It’s a curse because…well…the fun is over.
Adrienne literally had me at hello (er, intro). In her discussions of motherhood and how it relates to her love of needing – or maybe the obsessive necessity of – to create with her hands – I found that I could identify myself a million times over. The fact that the book finds it’s foundation in knitting was no bother to me. I could read those passages with slight disinterest as it didn’t detract from the main undercurrent of the book.
What’s my problem with knitting you ask? I don’t have a problem with knitting per se. I actually plan on including it in our homeschool educational pursuits. If my children or anyone else around me wants to knit…fantastic for them. As for me? The prospect of the two needles coupled with their slippery nature and all that yarn makes me nervous. I’m deathly afraid that the stitches will slip off the needle while I’m trying to work on creating new stitches. Mind you, this is a genuine concern given that if something like this were to happen you would immediately notice it. It would directly impact that sanctity and structure of your fabric. This poses far too much of a concern to me. It’s why I stick with crochet. Only one hook necessary and you can’t “drop” a stitch in the same way. Miss a stitch? The structure of the fabric is not compromised. It’ll look wonky, but depending on the project that might not make a difference. You very well may be able to add an increase later to make up for it and continue on your merry way. No slipping fears = a lot more fun in my opinion.
Did the fact that I’m not a knitter detract from my enjoyment of the book? No! Did I find sometimes that the knitting reference went over my head? Most definitely. Which leads me to the real crux of my post. For some reason I decided yesterday to read the reviews of her book on Amazon. I think I may have headed there to see if she had written anything else – true to internet form I was off on the review reading bunny trail. I’m used to seeing books have negative reviews – most often this occurs in books related to Christianity that I read with reviewers just about accusing the author of being the Antichrist, deceived by the devil, hell bound, etc. I expect this from the sort of Christianity I’m familiar with – it’s wired into the DNA of this particular iteration and has lead to things historically like the Salem Witch Trials, The Inquisition, and The Crusades. I do not, however, expect these sorts of behaviors from readers of, say, a book about knitting.
Granted, no one in the reviews called her the Antichrist nor said she was going to hell, but they may as well have. The same sentiment that underlies the reviews of the Christian book, that of “I’m right, you’re wrong and if we disagree we can’t get along,” rears its ugly head in the negative reviews of this book. You can see it in statements like:
It was a laborious read, and too often, personal comments (not really conducive to any reader enjoyment) got in the way. – Ace
Why does the author think it’s necessary to trumpet her anti-conservative politics in a stupid little knitting book? Got news for you, women who vote Republican knit, too. When I get together at my local yarn shop to share knitting stories, tips and tricks, yarn suggestions, patterns, etc., we’re not there to chat about politics and current events. We go to get away from that world and enter a more genteel state where we can argue over the merits of aluminum vs. bamboo, wool or cotton, lace or cable, and to encourage each other to succeed at something we all love. I don’t care who my knitting friends voted for, and I expect them to not care who I choose to cast a vote for, and I certainly don’t expect to be insulted in a book about knitting a sweater – or cooking recipes by Julia Child – just so the author can show off her “see how enlightened I am” credentials. – Lala
The other reviewers seemed a bit more gracious, but the general idea here – that her “personal” comments got in the way of the book seemed to be a common theme. I got to wondering whether Lala read the book at all given that in the instances where Adrienne expresses her political leanings she is quick to accompany that with a “your mileage may vary” disclaimer. Adrienne doesn’t expect that everyone will agree with her, but does that mean she shouldn’t be able to express her “personal” views as it relates to her personal experience of life? Isn’t that what makes life interesting…her book unique? And, for the record, why does one having non-Republican, non-conservative views and expressing them automatically mean they are trying to “show off her ‘see how enlightened I am’ credentials”? What makes that different than Lala’s point of view as a reviewer?
It begs the question – why is it that we in the United States can’t seem to find common ground? Why is every discussion so darn polarized? None of us are served by the “you’re right, I’m wrong” sentiment. It’s dismissive and counter-productive. It leaves me wondering how exactly we got to this point. I suppose in some ways I blame it on the internet. The very fact that the internet has allowed people to find a community of like-minded individuals (knitters, natural family living types, homeschoolers, etc) to find each other in ways that may not have been possible before seems to have created or maybe exacerbated the hyper-individualism that exists in our society. Why is it that we can’t seem to skip over the parts that we don’t agree with? How hard was it to skip over the few sentences (and there were very few) that we disagreed with while at the same time enjoying the rest of the book?
Granted, in the interests of disclosure, I struggle with this myself. It happens when I read blogs. It happens when I read books. It happens when I’m talking about things with others in person. I try to recognize and dismiss the feeling when it happens – sometimes more successfully than others. True, there are times when I am unable to move past the difference. There are blogs that I don’t read because I largely don’t agree with the perspective of the author. If I had more time, or perhaps spent my entire day, to read blogs then perhaps I might venture out and read more of those with which I don’t agree…believing as I do that it’s important to understand the perspective of another.
Still, there was that one blog (whose name and address escapes me now) that I would have generally enjoyed. It was a rural/homesteading type blog with beautiful pictures and stories to tell. I actually read a few posts and was just about to hit the “subscribe” button on my reader when I came across a post where they shared their joy over joining their local “tea party” and that was it. I passed by the blog and haven’t gone back since. I’m certain it makes me a hypocrite, but it soured my experience of their blog.
In light of my experience there I suppose I should feel a bit more sympathy for Adrienne’s negative reviewers…but I don’t. I should have been more gracious with the blogger and the reviewer should have been more gracious with the author. We should be able to appreciate our common ground and shared experiences in spite of our differences. Nay, perhaps because of our differences. I don’t think anything in the United States will change until we learn that lesson. Sometimes I fear what will happen in the meantime. I for one certainly hope the lesson is learned sooner rather than later.
The other lesson I’ve learned since reading the book and Adrienne’s reviews? There is a blessing to be found in obscurity. There are very few people who visit this space and read what I have to say. Sometimes it makes me feel a bit sad as the days tick by and very few comment. I wonder as to whether it’s worth it to continue. On the other hand blogging, even if no one else reads it, is cathartic. Adrienne references a bumper sticker in her book that read – “I Knit so I Don’t Kill People.” I guess you could probably include blogging in the category. Besides…blogging is one of the few socially acceptable ways of talking to yourself.
Oh…and even though in my wildest dreams I’d like to be a writer count me officially glad that I’m not. I don’t think that I could handle the negative reviews.