Monday, January 11, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol VI

Olaf had been given ten yards of navy-blue silk foulard by a goods salesman. While he was trying to decide how to give it to one or the other of his wives (or cut it in half and give them each five yards) they both found out about it. They both wanted it. They decided it was the most beautiful piece of material they had ever seen in their whole entire lives. Sigrid was going to make it up with a bustle and Linnea was going to make it up with a tight basque and a Francine skirt looped up the middle.
Finally Olaf, in torment, asked Linnea if she would be willing to flip a coin or draws straws with Sigrid for the yardage. Linnea said she would be glad to. He asked Sigrid the same thing and she went on one of her famous crying sprees that lasted three days and three nights. Olaf got so nervous and distraught that he gave the silk to Sigrid and she carried it home from the shop and hardly got in the house before she cut it out. That was two years ago, but Linnea could not hear the mention of dark-blue foulard without feeling like a female Guy Fawkes.

Ardyth Kennelly, The Peaceable Kingdom, page 74

This book is difficult to find, but it is one of my favorites. I read it first when I was a teenager, and recently re-read it as part of my fabric in literature project. I loved it even more when I re-read it this time.
(As a digression, have you noticed that there are two types of readers? One kind never reads a book twice, and the other kind will read their favorites many times.
The One Time Only Readers just cannot understand why anyone would read the same book twice. The Multiple Readings people regard re-reading a favorite book like visiting with a old friend.)
This is an old fashioned novel, with strong characters and interesting details about life in early Utah, just before it entered the Union. It will also make you appreciate how much work women did then to run a household and get food on the table.

Artwork above, The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks


Venus de Hilo said...

So enjoying these, keep 'em coming! I read a lot of one-time-only books, but reread lots of favorites, too, some again and again over the years. "Pride and Prejudice" and Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White" top my most-reread classics list, with Janet Evanovich and Dennis Lehane leading the contemporary authors section.

Karen said...

I am a serious multiple reader, always have been. The only thing that outnumbers the fabric stash in my house is the book stash.

I've always been drawn into books with great descriptions of clothing, and I still have my mom's 1930s copy of Gone with the Wind with little fabric tags stuck in the pages with particularly good dress descriptions - I read the book and made costumes for all my Barbie dolls. (I was technically too old for them, but using them as miniature dress forms was an acceptable reason for keeping them).

Enjoying this series SO much. Keep going.

kbenco said...

I am enjoying these posts too. As I keep telling my husband, I think re-reading a book is very similar to listening to the same piece of music more than once.

Kris C. said...

Depending on the book, I will re-read countless times. Other books are just for once. But I've been through the HP books several times and look forward to sharing them with my small children eventually.

Nancy Trotic said...

I enjoyed reading your post with Olaf's dilemma. Ardyth Kennelly's mother was a seamstress, and although Ardyth herself apparently didn't sew, she loved clothes and fabrics. She spent a great deal of time decorating her living spaces and furniture--usually in bright colors such as pinks and reds--and loved to "plan" clothes for herself and others. She was also a collage artist later in her life and created huge, bizarrely beautiful collages.

Besides "The Peaceable Kingdom," she also had four other novels published in the 1950s, and her masterpiece, "Variation West," was published posthumously (last year) by Sunnycroft Books. It too contains occasional mentions of fabrics. For example, a beauty-school student gets her mother to buy her "high-heeled shoes, a dress cut on the bias, nothing can beat plain black satinback crepe." Memorable lines...

Nancy Trotic (Ardyth's step-great-niece and publisher)