10 June 2006

Book Review -- Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft

Susan Gordon Lydon's Knitting Heaven and Earth reminds me why I tend to eschew the whole autobiography/memoirs genre: because although I could sit with rapt attention and listen to her talk about her experiences for hours and days and weeks on end, I find it damn difficult to bring myself to care when her experiences are laid out on the written page for all to see. The moment the personal struggles and revelations are put into words and arranged on the page, they become flat and boring. It's also why I don't bother to keep a journal of my own, and why I prefer to write fiction, or to write real life into poetry rather than prose. Much as I love reading and writing, the written word is sometimes inadequate for storytelling. This book is an example of one of those times.

I had hoped things would be different with this book, seeing as how Knitting Heaven and Earth is supposed to be about knitting and spirituality, a combination which increasingly fascinates me… but no. This book quickly became bathroom reading, and then eventually devolved into a project I had to force myself to finish rather than allow myself to abandon altogether. Really, it's too bad, because I did begin to connect more with Lydon toward the end. Her story became more urgent with the suicide of a close friend and her own journeys through multiple cancers. Unfortunately, there was less knitting and more needlepoint at these times, too – which begs the question, why spend a huge portion of the book talking about your needlepoint if the book is supposed to be about knitting?

Meanwhile, her musings about knitting, while often insightful and underline-worthy, seemed to float disconnectedly amongst the stories she told. Her alcoholism, her unhealthy and abusive romances, her strained relationship with her father… all the knitting reflections she interspersed while relating these experiences seemed interchangeably unrelated to the stories in which she embedded them. Yes, if you knit a sweater for someone, you feel a greater connection to that person, and they may or may not reciprocate that feeling, and their response to your offer will affect how you relate to one another. It's the Boyfriend Curse writ large. It took you forty years to learn this lesson? Lydon phrases her spiritual knit-musings beautifully, but doesn't earn their discovery in the telling of her journey.

I wonder, though… this is the first book I have read by Lydon; would I have felt differently if I had read The Knitting Sutra first? I still plan to read that one, if it's still available in bookstores (I've never seen it on the shelf). I hope that it will help me to appreciate some of the writing of Knitting Heaven and Earth – rather than merely to appreciate having finished it at last. On the upside, as I finished the book, I had a sudden and inexplicable urge to knit one of those yummy flower washcloths from Weekend Knitting. Books that inspire me to specific projects are not all bad!

No comments: