Sunday, August 03, 2008

It’s back to Emily Dickenson today – the current New Yorker (August 4) has an enormous review, pages and pages, of the new book, “White Heat: the Friendship of Emily Dickenson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson” by Brenda Wineapple.

The reviewer seems to think, as the one who wrote in the Economist a week or so ago also did, that it is an original idea of Wineapple’s to write about Emily Dickenson by writing about Higginson: “Dickenson’s experience…has been so thoroughly archived, interpreted, and reimagined in every genre…that a contemporary scholar needs a good excuse to exhume the picked-over bones. In rehabilitating Higginson…Wineapple finds one…”

The point here, as constant readers will know, is that my mother did this 45 years ago, including the rehabilitation of Higginson, in her book “Dear Preceptor”. The New Yorker reviewed her book, too, at the time, very favourably but at considerably less length.

We learn from the current New Yorker that Wineapple is not a Dickenson scholar, as my mother was, but “an astute literary biographer with a feisty prose style”. My mother was a professional writer as well as an academic. I doubt whether her style qualifies as “feisty”, but it’s certainly readable.

If anybody has easy access to a big bookstore, I’d be terribly grateful if you’d mosey on in and have a look at this book. There are probably some introductory pages. Is my mother’s book mentioned, and if so, in what terms? (Her name was Anna Mary Wells.) She will certainly be included in the bibliography. What does it say there?

In the end, I suspect I’ll have to buy and – worse – read it. First I must finish “Dear Preceptor”.


I finished sewing the dinosaurs together and am well-embarked on the neckband. I see that there is meant to be a collar as well, knit separately and sewn in. I don’t think I included that when I knit this sweater for Thomas-the-Elder 20 years ago, and I don’t think I’ll do it this time. But I might double the neckband and fold it in. I think they look and wear better that way.

So I won’t be quite ready to try it on Fergus when he arrives this evening.

The new “Knitting” turned up yesterday. There’s a nice striped cardigan by Kaffe, and news of a new Rowan yarn, “Colourscape Chunky”, which changes colour as you go along and which was also designed by Kaffe. Just the thing for a Liesl…


Susan, I liked your story of the brown-paper shopping bags full of zucchini left on doorsteps under cover of night. This spring, the Spinning Fishwife gave me Elaine Borish’s book “What Will I Do With All Those Courgettes?”. In the introduction, it says that, in Iowa, you must be very careful to lock your car when you park it anywhere in the summer, or you will come back and find the back seat full of zucchini.

In my own garden at the moment, courgettes are doing nicely, but it’s the mange-tout peas that need picking every half-hour.


  1. Anonymous2:42 PM

    While making coffee this morning, I thought to myself that I was glad Jean had returned and how much I was looking forward to reading her blog. I then realized that I had never told her that so I am doing so now. You have never written a word that I was not interested in and didn't want to read more of. Your style of writing has such a wonderful flow to it. So thank you very much for informing me and entertaining me.
    As an aside, how do you turn your collars. I always use my mother's method which was to purl a row half way and then reverse the knits and purls so that they nestled into each other making the collar less bulky but with the same strength.
    Ron in Mexico

  2. I just checked on the US Amazon website, and it appears the Wineapple book isn't released until the 12th. I'm constantly in Barnes and Noble, so I'll keep a look out for it, but the selection there can be limited.

  3. Anonymous1:38 AM

    August 8th is "sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch night".

    I once got behind on the weeding during an extremely rainy two weeks in central North Carolina. When I finally got back to the garden, I found a meter-long zucchini hiding in the overgrown grass. I photographed it next to the neighbor's toddler (for scale), and chucked it on the compost pile. It was too big to sneak anywhere.

  4. Have you tried zucchini stuffed with lamb? I do it with sauteed onion, garlic, rosemary and then browned mince. Occasionally I top it with some breadcrumbs before baking the stuffed zucchini. V. nice a savoury : ) Zucchs sound like the ideal thing to grow with small children - quick growing results for impatient little hands to pick.

  5. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Following on jean k.s' comment, if the zucchini is large enough, one could stuff it with a whole lamb.