In the High Peaks

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times #14

After a splendidly cool, marvelously exhilarating 6 days last weekend into early this past week, when I was outdoors all day working all day on our trails, studying plants, hiking all over, and enjoying myself to the hilt, we are now paying in spades with temps in the high 80s with  high humidity. A dead stop.  This is the only weather in the year that drives me to despair. And the National Weather Service has announced that the Northeast will have above normal heat all summer including the month of September.
Time for our household to get a grip! Sandy hates the heat, too! Sit-down strikes have occurred. We get her out very, very early in the am and manage to exercise her then, but other than that our over-active Golden has stated firmly, "Let's wait for deep fall, guys." A very, very long way off, Sandy.

I have a heap of newish books on a small table in my bedroom, and am turning now to Peter Swanson's Eight Perfect Murders (link to an interview in BookPage,) published earlier this spring, which has received starred reviews  from Publishers Weekly, and noted reviews  from The New York Times and others. This novel is "a homage to thriller classics." And it's the story of a bookseller in Boston who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started copying his list of fiction's most ingenious murders,  including Agatha Christie's A.B.C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, and Ira Levin's Deathtrap (remember the movie starring Michael Caine?) Sounds like fun to me! Oh, and don't forget Double Indemnity.

Loads of books on this table are new knitting books. Since late last fall I've been collecting books about color knitting, stranded knitting, Fair Isle knitting, and am determined that I will teach myself, via the books (and YouTube) how to get along with knitting multiple-colored yarn in a single knitted row. I was going gangbusters, full steam ahead with this in January and February, actually making a bit of progress, and when the Coronavirus garbage hit, all I wanted to do after my chores and dog hiking was to cuddle up in the afternoons with some pleasure reading.
Now I WANT TO GET BACK ON TRACK. Let's face it, as all of you knitters out there are well aware, stranded knitting is tricky to get under your belt. It's all a matter of PRACTICE. So many books I have now, and they are an inspiration. If you want titles, I will provide. I've become very, very fond of these books, all written by extremely competent crafters.

As an intro to my theme of next week's Bookshelf Travelling, when I will turn to books about books (of which I have many),  I'll briefly mention an astounding book, Avid Reader: A Life (2016) by Robert Gottlieb, who is now 89 years of age, but who was editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster, Knopf, and The New Yorker. The following paragraph was lifted from the Wikipedia article about Gottlieb.

Gottlieb has edited novels by John Cheever, Doris Lessing, Chaim Potok, Charles Portis, Salman Rushdie, John Gardner, Len Deighton, John le Carré, Ray Bradbury, Elia Kazan, Margaret Drabble, Michael Crichton, Mordecai Richler and Toni Morrison, and non-fiction books by Bill Clinton, Janet Malcolm, Katharine Graham, Nora Ephron, Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Tuchman, Jessica Mitford, Robert Caro, Antonia Fraser, Lauren Bacall, Liv Ullmann, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bruno Bettelheim, Carl Schorske, and many others.

An amazing fact about "Bob" Gottlieb's childhood, growing up in Manhattan in the 1930s and 1940s, is that everyone in his family, parents and children, all read books while at home, so much so that there was very, very little interpersonal communication. During meals, everyone read a book. Everyone. No one conversed. After meals everyone read books on their own. On weekends, everyone read individually and totally. Everyone self-absorbed in a book, separate from others in the family.
Well, it came as a complete shock to him as he became an older child and teenager, to discover that other families communicated with each other at length on a daily basis. That his family, indeed, was quite unique. He describes this wonderfully. How fascinating!


  1. What a shame that it's too hot for you to do much outside already. Knitting is usually a winter pastime for me but I've taken up my needles again too, and just bought some vintage knitting books from the 1970s/80s. The book reading at the table reminds me so much of Jack's grandfather who apparently always read a book while eating. Jack's eldest brother once said that he must have a book and left the table to go and find one, he was 3 at the time. I'm hard though, I wouldn't allow that! Not even for grandfather.

    1. You know, I can see reading at the table at breakfast, but at dinnertime when the family's all together. That is hard to fathom. What I'd love to know is what his mother's and his father's upbringing was like, to carry on like this.
      So interesting about Jack's grandfather.
      I'm so intrigued about your current knitting, and the vintage books you've recently purchased. Oh, gosh--I must admit I love the sweater (jumper) styles from back then best. Did you pick them up at a book sale? And do tell if you tuck into a knitting project in the days ahead.

  2. Hi Judith - first thank you for your comment on my blog, it had gone into the spam, and I have retrieved it!

    I couldn't cope in that heat! I've read The ABC Murders a while back and enjoyed it but I've enjoyed all of Agatha Christie's books. And I have Strangers on a Train in my TBRs -would like to read it soon, but you know what it's like ...

    I used to do lots of knitting years ago and I'd like to get back into it too - maybe in the autumn. I've made a few Fair Isle jumpers, and enjoyed doing it - once I'd got used to the stranding - the trick is not to get it too tight and to watch out for the wool tangling as you weave the different colours.

    1. Margaret,
      Your tips echo what I've been reading and learning about stranded knitting. I've already been seeing what happens when the strands are too tight, and too loose. Practice! And the wool tangles, yes. Practicing that as well. Tricky.
      I'm so glad you were able to retrieve my comment from your spam. Thanks!
      And, by the way, I'm tremendously impressed that you have knitted a few Fair Isle jumpers. KUDOS! I hope I get there.

  3. Interesting post especially the bits on how other people live!

    1. Wasn't that interesting about Bob Gottlieb's childhood? I was absolutely amazed.

  4. I am so sorry about the heat, Judith, but at least you got a lot done before it started. And poor Sandy. I thought dogs were immune.

    I will be interested to see what you think of Eight Perfect Murders. And good luck on the knitting, that type of knitting sounds very hard to me.

    That is a very interesting anecdote about Robert Gottlieb and his family. I suppose if you like to read a lot, it is good to have that type of people around you. In my family I was the only reader. My father brought books home from the library every week, and read them at night after work sometimes, but they were non-fiction and art books. My grandmother is the only relative I remember who read to the extent that I did (and do).

    1. I think some dogs don't mind the heat at all. But the sporting dogs we've owned Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have been wimps in the heat. They just go to sleep as if to say, "Wake me when it's over." We just bought a huge wading pool for Sandy and me. It's 12 inches deep, 63 inches wide. I love to be in the water in super hot weather. I belonged to a pool club, but nothing doing in Covid-19. So wading pool it is!
      About Robert Gottlieb: At least it got him reading at a very young age as a sort of survival! I understand he would read anything and everything, and evidently, this is still the way he lives.
      Both my parents loved to read, but my father also loved television, and I think in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he spent more time in front of the tube in the evenings than he did as he got older.
      When I was in high school (late 60s), I visited the library frequently and was what he called "his personal librarian." I knew he loved spy novels and thrillers, and WWII novels, so that's what I got for him and he read them avidly.

  5. I've got to pick up Avid Reader, that is a book that I think I would really enjoy.

    How wonderful you got those six days! They sound like there were used wonderfully.

    I empathize with you regarding the heat. I've tried to become less of a complainer about it because my natural tendency is to gripe about it each and every day, wishing away every day of Summer, longing for Autumn and the return of enjoyable temperatures. I'm not always successful, but I have gotten better at not wishing the time away and being mindful to enjoy each day...though I enjoy them inside with books and air conditioning. I would still much prefer to be outside due to the weather being lovely.

    1. Hi Carl,
      Oh, how I empathized with your comment! I, too, have tried and tried to make the best of brutally hot, humid weather. I've tried all of my life, in fact. And I agree that it is terrible to wish several months of one's life away! I work at this and work at this and it is a continuous struggle. Last year, we were so abundantly LUCKY to have a cooler than normal August. I was so grateful. But one needs to try to have a good month every month regardless, which I think you're trying to say and trying to do.
      First off, I think we're lucky weather-wise compared to the region where you live. But it's all relative, isn't it?
      I'm so interested that you have managed to have become better at not wishing the time away and mindful to enjoy each day. That's so good!
      Thanks so much for writing me about this topic.

    2. it truly is a purposeful exercise, because my default mode really is to just complain when it is hot. I have managed, after a couple of summers of trying, to stop saying things like "Hot enough for you?" when I see people. One of the reasons I started up the Venture Forth summer reading program was so that I would have something to anchor me to this desire to find gratitude in every day and enjoy something about the outdoors every day, even when it hits 100 degrees and nearly 100% humidity. The real challenging months are ahead, July and August, but I will triumph! LOL.

    3. Carl,
      I'm so interested in your thoughts on this topic. I, too, make sure I find at least a few wonderful things about nature each day, too. Clouds are fascinating during hot humid weather.
      Summer evenings we indulge in old movie favorites, and that perks us up a lot, and I am so grateful for books at this time of year, and audiobooks.
      100 degrees and horrendous humidity--The highest temps we've ever had here is 93 degrees, and that is so rare. I will be thinking of you as I watch the weather in your area and wishing you well.

  6. Very cool that you mentioned clouds. Cloud formations are one of my favorite things and we have had such gorgeous, amazing cloud formations in this past week. I drive home constantly tempted to look away from the road and up into the sky...good thing I take back roads home!

    It is funny that you mention your temps and ours can get much higher...because I was just thinking of artist Lisa Snellings, a longtime friend because of blogging. She used to live in the Southwest (now lives in Oregon) and every Summer she would post about 110+ temperatures and how even their in-ground pool was miserable due to the oppressive heat. It always made me grateful for our "lower" temperatures.

    We do a lot of old movie favorites too. And regardless of temperatures, all year long, I frequently grill meat and/or veggies on the outdoor grill, which always means delicious food.

    1. Hi Carl,
      We, too, have had amazing, burgeoning cloud formations, towering into the sky, for the past ten days as well. They are so interesting and reveal so much about what's going on in the atmosphere.
      Yes, cooking on the grill is fantastic. We were hoping to buy a new, expanded grill this year, but because Ken can't shop due to Covid-19 (he's immuno-compromised),we've decided to wait for a while. We still grill, but we were going to get REALLY serious about it.
      Currently we're watching each Hitchcock film, and it's been wonderful. We also had a fantastic viewing of an old favorite, On the Beach, based on the novel by Nevil Shute. We had to order a DVD for that one.

  7. I love fairisle sweaters - my mom was a great knitter and made me so many beautiful sweaters, but the fairisle ones were always my favorites. Good luck as you get back on track.

    Love the story about Gottlieb's family's reading habits. I came from a family of readers as well, but I simply cannot imagine any one of us showing up at the dinner table with a book in hand. I love reading books about books, so I may get a copy of this one.

    Love the premise of Eight Perfect Murders - I wonder if it would be more enjoyable to have read all the books it includes in the story.

    Stay healthy and knit on :)

    1. Hi Jane,
      So nice to be in touch with you!
      I think you would get a kick out of Avid Reader.
      And, yes! I absolutely agree that knowing all the mysteries within the mystery would make this book even more worthwhile and enjoyable. But I've heard about readers for whom the reverse is true. Eight Perfect Murders has also encouraged readers to seek out those books. Fun! And we need that, don't we?