Friday, September 09, 2005

Book Review: Embroidered Truths

When I started my new job, I got the usual, "oh I'm meeting an English PhD, better watch my grammar" thing. I told her that I studied literature not grammar, so she didn't have to worry. That she said was worse because now they had to hide the books they were reading on the train. I assured her that I read the worst books, and Monica Ferris's needlework mysteries are my evidence.

I read the Crewel World series because I want to like it. I want there to be a good, interesting, funny book about needlework. I want the world to see that we're not just a bunch of dorks, dedicated though we may be. These aren't doing it for me, and yet I read on--I've read all but one.

There are, however, many heartening aspects to these books: Godwin and his gay relationship being the best. In this book, Godwin's lover is killed. I haven't spoiled anything, that's right on the cover. Now, I don't follow mystery plots to see if I can solve the mystery or if I can spot plot holes. I let it sort of wash over me just like any other story, so I'm not going to comment on that sort of thing. A real low point during this investigation, however, was when Betsy Devonshire and Jill Larsen dress up as dykes and head to "The Gay Hangout" to talk to someone. Betsy tells him that they're not "hag fags." Now, were I a gay young man who was told that, I'd know I was talking to a big poseur, but he seems not put off by it. Maybe that's just the way they talk up there in Minnesota.

And there was a real lack of needlework--except where Godwin knits mentally while he is incarcerated. (You didn't think he wasn't going to be arrested for the crime, did you?) I guess in a world where the crime cannot be solved in the shop, you're going to focus on the crime not the shop. I think my favorite of these books is the one where Alice's unusual and artistic embroidery is discovered. I can't for the life of me remember which one it is. I went to the amazon reviews, but clearly the reviewers who don't do needlework didn't realize how important Alice's work is because they don't mention it. They only mention when they don't "get" the needlework. And so I wonder, am I reading "through" that too? That is, do I not think there's that much needlework in these mysteries simply because the needlework that is discussed is so elementary to me that it fades into the background?

And am I wrong? Isn't kielbasa a fatter sausage than brautworst?

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