Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Overstimulated

I imagine that there are people who can be creative in a vacuum, but I'm not one of them.

I had a visitor once, a young aspiring decorator, who told me candidly that my living room gave him a headache."I don't understand your theme," he said, wincing.

Well, Mary, there ain't no theme. If I like it, I hang it on the wall. If it has a happy association for me, I hang it on the wall. If it makes me want to pick up a pen and draw, or sit down at the keyboard and type, I hang it on the wall. You're not going to see my apartment in Homosexual Interiors magazine, except possibly on the "Yikes!" page, but it keeps me going.

Workspace

Working on the little book has made me understand for the first time that if I'm cut off from stimulation, I stop producing. At one point I tried to go the monastic route, with life reduced to barest necessities and all extraneous matter removed. For a week, all I made were doodles of little, pinched faces that got angrier and angrier; and finally a picture of a lady kicking a cat down the stairs.

PollySo I relaxed, and let myself indulge in other stuff–like really, really bad late-Victorian chick lit. Here's the latest gem on the bedside table: Polly: A New-Fashioned Girl by L.T. Meade. I picked this up at a bookshop in the neighborhood for a pittance, attracted by the cover art (shown left), the title, and my previous experience with other titles by the author.

Polly is a "new fashioned" girl. What could that mean? According to the flyleaf inscription the book was a Christmas present for "Violet from Mamma" in 1900, so it could mean Polly shows her bare ankle to the butcher's boy, or joins the Suffragettes, or travels to the Middle East and converts to Islam.

Well, I'm about a third of the way through Polly and I'm still befuddled. Nothing remotely new-fashioned has happened yet. Polly's mother dies on page six, as most good mothers do in these books. It's such a common plot twist that as soon as I see an angelic mommy surrounded by an adoring brood, I automatically assume the Grim Reaper is crouched behind the pianola sharpening his blade.

Polly and her twenty-three siblings are left carry on with their father (a good doctor, but apparently a lousy obstetrician) and a handful of servants. Dr. Daddy is worried about the kids running wild, since he is constantly being called out to preside over other childbed deaths in the neighborhood. He says that if his eldest daughter can't keep house he's going to hire a governess.

The children, who have all read "The Turn of the Screw," understandably freak out. I've reached a point in the tale where Polly, anxious to do her bit, has begun to order the servants around according to cockeyed notions gathered from old cookbooks. It's not going well. Breakfast is a mess; and on top of everything else it turns out that father is going blind.

I can hardly wait to find out what happens next. Maybe new-fashioned Polly will attempt to save his sight by performing emergency surgery on the dining room table, using her copy of Mrs Beeton and dead mama's embroidery scissors.

I sure hope so.

And Some Knitting

I also decided that if you're writing a knitting book, knitting counts as research and development. So I'm still tapping away to finish up the essays, but I've also started Sharon Miller's Wedding Ring Shawl.

Shawl Beginning

The picture shows the eighth patterned row of the 300+ in the center square. After that, there's a very deep (63 row) border knit around and around the center, followed by a sideways edging. So I won't be able to show you a picture of the finished piece until at least next Tuesday.

The best part is the temporary cast-on in pink acrylic DK yarn, which makes it look like I'm working a misbegotten pink-and-red baby blanket for a kid named Valentine.

53 comments:

LittleWit said...

Your shawl looks lovely!

anne marie in philly said...

your workspace reflects your creativity.

mr. decorator-to-be will have to get over his "theme" mentality (ugh!) and go with "it's here cause I like it; end of discussion".

rock on, dude! lerve the "peanuts" figurines!

mary e. said...

You know something Franklin, you may have shone some light on why I haven't been knitting, or working with the 50 some odd pounds of various types of clay,or doing anything more to my drafting table than piling clean clothes on it. I've somehow managed to cut myself off from anything inspiring (other than your blog of course!) Well, there's no time like directly after work to get back into the swing of things! I've enjoyed the various peeks you've allowed your readers into your home. I've always admired the things i've seen in there! No "yikes!" from this quarter!!! :) And... let us know how Polly handles the extra stressors of running a home, with an ailing Papa without the benefit of having a prescribed antidepressant!

Roggey said...

I enjoy your posts, but especially so today when I read, "It's such a common plot twist that as soon as I see an angelic mommy surrounded by an adoring brood, I automatically assume the Grim Reaper is crouched behind the pianola sharpening his blade."

Damn I needed that laugh!

Bobbi said...

Grim Reaper...always makes me think of Salmon Mousse. Hopefully, new Polly won't have any recipes for such!

MN_PJ said...

Mrs. Beeton herself would approve of your taking up your knitting, since she states that 'to be a good housewife does not necessarily imply an abandonment of proper pleasures or amusing recreation.'

It is then necessary for the housewife to experiment with mixing proper and improper pleasures until she finds the proper/improper ratio that pleases her.

geogrrl said...

I love me some bad Victorian/Edwardian chick lit. Even stuff from the 20s and 30s counts, although it's not quite as much fun.

Your description of Polly had me rolling on the floor.

I sure hope her surgical skills are up to the operation.

Imbrium said...

My living room is supposed to have a theme? I think my theme is "I haven't gotten around to buying furniture since I graduated from college and took all the free furniture I could find." Oh, and "two huge geeks live here."

Kristen said...

Dude, framed photos of EZ are de rigeur for all the chicest workspaces.

Tsarina of Tsocks said...

I heart your notions of decor. And your literary taste.

My cousin and I have both on occasion been addressed as "Auntie Overstimulation" - not by the children we've been playing with, either.

As for Polly, she sounds an awful lot like a cross between Katy Carr and Ellen Montgomery. Probably not a coincidence, in one direction or the other. I think I need to find those books.

(And DUH! Of course knitting is research! DUH!)

=Tamar said...

Theme? "Eclectic." Or maybe "Renaissance Man."

Rudee said...

Loved your article in IK. Your love of anything EZ shines right through. Thanks for a great afternoon read while I sat out on my deck. It was inspiring.

Mel said...

Maybe Polly will become a courtesan to help support the family. While doing ophthalmic surgery on the side, of course.

Colleen said...

I look forward to watching your progress on the WR shawl. I just tried a lacey something and have determined that although I am a lace ADMIRER, I a not a lace knitter.

So I will just sit back and ogle from afar.

Laura Sue said...

About lace...I am enthralled. Entranced. I have bought extraordinarily beautiful cashmere/silk from colourmart and deep purple merino from Skacel. I've chosen patterns. I've cast on for swatches. I can't count. I can't work more than 2 rows without gaining a stitch or losing a stitch. Is there a secret? Is it goooiiinnnggg reeeaaalllyyy ssllloowwwlllyyy? What? I'm not frustrated enough to give up yet, but I'm wondering what I'm missing.

AmyS said...

Delurking to say that while I always enjoy your posts, this one is particularly delicious. Thanks.

Shay said...

If you have a taste for L.T. Meade's school stories, you have to read Angela Brazil's most recent addition to Project Guteberg (if only for the cover art).

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25145/25145-h/25145-h.htm

Cheri said...

Our house is "decorated" in things that make us smile. The artwork on the walls is mostly crayon drawings the children have drawn. My daughter's room is probably the only one that has close to a theme and that theme would be pink. If the house was matchy matchy I'd probably get nothing creative done.

That book sounds like a fun read. You must tell us more about Polly.

I'll be looking for a photo of the finished shawl next Tuesday :)

Joe said...

A friend of mine has her advanced degree in English Lit, focusing on Victorian literature...she gave me an appreciation of reading books from that time...but nothing like your blog entry. I want to do nothing else at the moment than scour local used book stores for little Polly stories.

Do you relate to Snoopy in some way we should all know about?

beth02116 said...

a friend that stayed at my house a few weeks ago subscribed me to a home decorating magazine as a thank you gift explaining that perhaps it could help me 'focus' on my environment....
love the shawl- such a vivid red which will glam up a room for sure.

Kristen said...

An old-fashioned girl would have fainted dead away, you see. Polly is new-fashioned because she's actually doing something other than reaching for the smelling salts. {sigh}

On another note, theme, schmeme! Your decorator friend would just faint if he saw my graduate-student apartment. Maybe he's an old-fashioned girl? ;)

Sue Who Knits said...

The theme of our living room is "late relative". Yours seems to be "Happy" and that great catch-all "Eclectic"

Another other mother said...

I like your decorating theme. It's what my mother used to call "Early Ungapotchkaed."

JanKnitz said...

I'm trying not to think too hard about why you even have pink acrylic yarn around your house, but the shawl in bright red is going to be gawgeous!

You do too have a decorating style--"eclectic"!

The sense I've gotten after seeing your altar and your drawing area is that you have "zones". That seems very sensible to me.

m1k1 said...

Have you ever seen one of those "declutter to be happy" type of tv shows? Now I am sure it is nice to have a space of minimalism when you need to destress, but living without stuff everywhere else? How would anyone be creative?
My mouth dropped open when I heard one of the tv-neat-gurus explain that it wasn't necessary to "clutter" a house with books, after all, everything was available in libraries or the internet. GOOD GRIEF CHARLIE BROWN.
One of my favourite books is Kaffe Fassett's "Glorious Inspiration". Now I bet KF's environment isn't minimal.

Laiane said...

I always appreciate your blog posts, but today's was especially witty. I've a new-found appreciation for Victorian children's literature.

I, too, am wondering why on earth you have pink acrylic yarn in your home. I don't think you can pin that on Dolores.

Anonymous said...

You have a smurf! When I was a college student in the 80's we hosted an anti-smurf party. We melted one, crucifed one, beat one to bits with a hammer, burned one at the stake, and drove a Vega back and forth over one. Ahh, the innocent days.

Michelene

Anonymous said...

I love the book cover! And was delighted to find the text available at Project Gutenberg (along with several other L.T. Meads and also some Angela Brazil schoolgirl stories.)

Alwen said...

My theme would be "piles of stuff" and sometimes "avalanche".

I aspire to a house that looks like adults live in it.

But after a couple-four decades of life and going on twenty years of marriage, I'm mostly settling for "the health department has not taken the dogs or child away".

Darci said...

So glad you won't have the shawl done until next Tuesday...I won't be able to check your blog until then.

fashionprof said...

You may also like An Old Fashioned Girl by Lousia May Alcott.

Knitter #158 (I think). :-)

Emma said...

I'm working on the same shawl, and I'm sorry to say that the inner border has 132 rows. I'm on 122, and it is taking forever.

I love the colour of yours, very fabulous.
Emmasee100

Barbara-Kay said...

Like the children who attended Saturday serials at the movies, we await the news of the "fate" of those 24 children. Franklin, you're responsible for starting this, don't disappoint us by leaving us hanging!

donnac1968 said...

What a beautiful colour, I feel like eating it!!!

KellyD said...

I visited the site and looked at the shawl you are knitting. Next Tuesday eh? I'll be there with bells on. And be MAJORLY impressed.
And your home is decorated as mine. What I like and What I want. Period. LOL

Janice in Camas said...

A photo of EZ -- how perfect is that?!

Tactless Wonder said...

You know, until I studied a bit of Victorian Lit for my major--and only a bit, I could only take so much during my disturbed teen years...I honestly thought Edward Gorey was taking things too far, I'm thinking of "The Hapless Child" especially.

Who knew he was just showing the darker scenes all these books tend not to illustrate.

Pam said...

There is a book called "An Old Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott (another late Victorian chick lit author). As I recall it's also about a girl named Polly. Maybe it's spin-off!!

FiberQat said...

Next Tuesday? Which one?

A home is a reflection of the personality. Mine is "Housework is too boring. Let's knit!"

DEEP END OF THE LOOM said...

Does the Grim Reaper in your mind look like Brad Pitt, in Meet Joe Black? I don't think I'd mind him standing around hehe. Keep your inspirations as they are, minimalists are just that minimal.

Fe said...

Franklin, your house looks like an artist's house - full of eclectic bits and pieces that feed your creations and nourish your soul. Looks kinda like my house, actually....

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

You would appreciate my "theme" then. It's called, "My knitting is taking over the house and perhaps I'll get myself some sheep too."

Anonymous said...

Ah, Franklin: the theme is you.
/s/ Gretchen

Sister Sue said...

Mostly, I just like that there's a picture of Abigail amongst all those inspiring items and images...

=Tamar said...

Laura Sue - check the patterns. Some lace _does_ lose or gain a stitch or seventy depending on which row it's on. You can't k5 in one stitch (to be k5tog in the next row without changing the stitch count.

Heather from Seattle said...

This young, aspiring decorator... his name was Mary??

Holli said...

Like the Grim Reaper, just hide behind your wheel with that blade if Mr. Hoity Toity comes back to town - your place is great! People with personality trump people with "themes" in my book any day of the year. p.s. Let us know how Polly fares. They had some great elixirs back then to help out. r The shawl looks great, can't wait to see it finished in next Wednesday's post.

Eileen said...

If I decorated that way it'd look like a bag lady's landing pad. (So, I stick to 21st century Zen easy-to-dust.) Your space looks classy and interesting.

-gassho-

Deborah said...

I read your article in IK and you did them and yourself proud! Good job! I love your blog! maybe infatuated? question? you are going to FINISH the shawl by Tuesday? this could change everything (joke)!

Peg in Kensington, California said...

Love those Victoria books. If you haven't read Charlotte Mary Yonge -the Daisy Chain and The Trial. The 14 children and parents who die and the pious good works. She's better know for the Heir of Redclyffe (sp?), but the ones with low church Anglican piety are better.

Your Mother's Day post was lovely. I liked the idea of the island, the poney and the chocolate fountain.

Kate said...

You have a theme. It's 'franklin'. Go with it. I find so many planned rooms boring and dead - why can't people live in their houses? I mean, really *live*, you know? If your house looks like you fit inside it, it's a good decorating job.

Kathie said...

You have me in tears again! (with laughing, not crying). Thanks.

IrreverendAmy said...

Polly and her twenty-three siblings are left carry on with their father (a good doctor, but apparently a lousy obstetrician)

Come now. Twenty-five deliveries and the mother only died once.