My weekend was entirely hijacked by the audiobook of Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and if you have not read it, you might want to go right now and acquire a copy.
You know when people say they couldn't put a book down? (a comment made in several reviews of this one)
Well, I couldn't press Pause on the recording, and when I really had to do that, I couldn't wait to press Play again. The book grabs you on so many levels, in so many different ways, it's bound to have something big to offer you too. And while I normally prefer reading with my eyes, this particular audiobook is fantastically well-read. SO highly recommended.
Not wanting to move too far from my computer - I wasn't organized about getting the book onto something more pocket-sized after I bought it - I got a ton of knitting in for the duration. Knitting time just seems to expand when you're willing to stay up till 2am even though you have to be up at 7am, just so you can hear a bit more of a story.
Probably this huge expansion in knitting time is what made me feel generous enough to cast on another pair of small-person socks. (we will just pretend we don't know that generosity is much less needed for socks small enough to whip up in a very short time, shall we?)
These ones are knit with Duchess from Twisted Fiber Art, in a colourway I stalked for ages before it came available again: Dapper. It comes with a Denim semisolid coordinate, and also a Suede, which is what I used for the cuff of this pair. The heel will also be Suede, and the toe, and I am so in love with knitting them I might do a second pair with Denim accents.
I think the stripes are lining up all right, don't you?
There is something about Duchess that I knew and forgot, because I was preoccupied with discovering that - in spite of what I'm about to say - it's still just wool and not as warm as the wool/mohair Stoddart I make in the same weight for cold weather. Here is why that just doesn't matter though: knitting with Duchess is an amazing experience. It's soft and squashy, but smooth and slick as it flies across your needles. Touching it with your eyes closed you would think it's silk, or possibly non-sticky butter. I need more of this yarn, and I suspect you need some too.
Back to the audiobook
Technically, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about some human cells, which have been used among other myriad things to develop the vaccine for polio. The cells that are the subject of the book are amazingly prolific for reasons that seem not to apply to other cells used in research, which makes them exceptional. They are cancer cells. They were all grown from a sample taken from a cancer patient called Henrietta Lacks.
The story is, then - and not in any particular order - about
b/ the life and death and kind of immortality of a remarkable woman
c/ this woman's children and in particular her youngest daughter
d/ ethics (or lack thereof) in medical research and the changes in laws that relate to them
and, for me personally one of the strongest yet invisible points,
e/ the unbelievable focus and drive and persistence of Rebecca Skloot.
Whatever you enjoy in a good story is almost certainly in this book, and it is supremely well written (I actually understand medical stuff about cells now, it was so clearly explained.) But whoa, in all of that I marveled at the writer herself, who first heard about Henrietta Lacks at the age of 16 and not that long afterward started into ten years of active research for this book. It's the sort of idea that might cross a young person's mind, and might even take them far enough to think of where research might begin, but it takes somebody pretty amazing to pursue the story the way she did and to such good effect. I find the whole thing incredibly inspiring.
Oh, and did I say I knit a lot while I was listening? Because I got halfway through the Dapper socks, and finished the second half of the Holiday Boogie Woogie Socks, and designed and knit half of a pattern for fingertip-free gloves to take to Italy for al fresco dining.
I finished the book around 1am on Sunday, and then because I was just so impressed I went to Rebecca Skloot's bio page. Guess what?
She's a knitter.
See you tomorrow - I have stuff to show you, owing to all that knitting time. Yay audiobooks!