Friday, April 25, 2014

Knitting Aids: a film and audiobook resource list

Even people who don't love reading love a good story, Mary said, opening the weekend with a sweeping generalization.

(I still think it's true, though.)

Also: it seems not unreasonable to assert that many knitters are multitaskers.

Be honest.  Who among us can stand not to be productive while doing something otherwise undemanding?  I personally know several knitters who took up the craft specifically so they'd have something to do at games or other sit-and-wait activities. For knitters,  films and audiobooks or even, if they are blessed with a high degree of commitment and/or manual dexterity, regular books can justify what would otherwise be just knitting (horrors!)

Films and audiobooks are responsible for all the things I've knit so far this year, and there are a lot of those things (26 at last count, in just 15 weeks.)  So today I thought I'd share some of my favourite knitting aids in case you might enjoy them too.

Costume Drama Miniseries

Bleak House
Dickens, given the British miniseries treatment with great acting and fabulous costumes.

North and South
Gaskell, ditto on the miniseries treatment but pretty much dripping with romance and wow, seriously fabulous costumes, or maybe I just loved the scarf-over-coat treatment in an early North scene.  Also some really nice trains.

I have to say, I found some of the characters in this story maddeningly dim when it came to managing their personal affairs - but the plot moved well and the scenery was fantastic.

The Mayor of Casterbridge
This is another story whose conflict relies on the characters' near complete lack of self-awareness or understanding of others.  Still: absorbing, and extremely well-acted, and offering loads of knitting time - what more do you want than that?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Shorter than the miniseries above, but still: great costume drama.  Yay!

Other hours-long yums you probably already know about:

Call the Midwife
Lark Rise to Candleford


The More The Merrier
The plot of this gem turns on the wartime shortage of accommodations in Washington, D.C, and the resulting throwing-together of Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea.  What can I tell you? It's just charming.

Talk of the Town
Another Jean Arthur movie, this time with Cary Grant and Ronald Colman.  So much fun.

Great theme music, Gene Tierney, and Dana Andrews in one of my two favourite performances by him (the other being The Best Years of Our Lives.)

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (since we're on the subject of Gene Tierney)
I love the theme music to this one, too.  Any good romance story has to have a good reason why the relationship won't work: here, it's that half the partnership is dead.  You know of course that they'll work it out somehow, but it's still a great movie to knit along to.

Audiobooks and otherwise

You can get these things on CD, and there are apps for for practically every sort of device to listen to them as an audio file from Audible, Amazon, or the iTunes store.  And probably many other places as well which we would like to support so they stay in business, yes?  I'm linking here to Audible files at Amazon, because Amazon has so very many customer reviews for your decision-making reference.

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
I won't lie: this historical novel narrated by two different female characters - a slave and her sometime mistress - ran just a little bit long for me.  I wanted to hear what happened next, and the narration is amazing, and the story itself is absorbing, but one of the main characters is presented as (and was apparently in real life as well) incredibly slow to act on her objectives.  At times, one might even say wishy-washy.  It's still well worth reading or listening to, just - be prepared to want to shake her.

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
This is pretty much a romance novel that pits a working-class English girl against a more refined, but suicidal and quadriplegic, English man.  I know that sounds like a downer, but it's not at all written that way and the narration is superb.  Also it's one of the books I heard the longest time ago, while being one of the ones I remember best, which is a pretty strong endorsement.

600 Hours of Edward, by Craig Lancaster
Edward has Asberger's and occupies himself with a lot of lists and rituals, such that after the first chapter I thought, There is no way I can stand 600 Hours of Edward.  After the second chapter, I wished there were more like 900 Hours.  Great narration, too. 

This is an abridged version of Georgette Heyer's novel which would be an awful thing if it weren't narrated by Richard Armitage, whose capacity to produce a huge variety of distinct character voices in addition to top-notch narration is deeply impressive.  I'm pretty sure I've now bought everything he's narrated, but Sylvester is my favourite.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
I've listened to several books by Neil Gaiman, who is one of the few writers I've come across capable of narrating their own work.  That is a complete understatement regarding his skills on the reading front, by the way.  He is fantastic.  I also enjoyed The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere (as an e-book) and The Anansi Boys (ditto.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
There were a lot of things about this coming of age story that made me sad, but I wanted to listen to all of it, and since that's ultimately the point of storytelling I feel it belongs on today's list.  It's got a great narrator, too.

Knitting Aids In Progress (aka, what I'm reading now)

A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore
A young widower/new dad gets stuck unexpectedly with the job of being a sort of assistant to Death.  Hilarity ensues.  Truly: this is a comedy, and the narration is fantastic.  There is a lot of very creative and enthusiastic swearing though so if you're still interested after I've said that - you might have to rely on earphones, depending on who's around when you're listening.

The Seamstress, the memoir of Sara Tuvel Bernstein
The true story of this amazing woman who survived Ravensbruck is riveting, but the narration is absolutely right, too.  I feel like I'm listening to a much-loved elderly neighbour telling me about her life over tea and coffee cake, and even though it's a painful life, she is just such a positive force it feels uplifting to hear about it.

... and an e-book

This is probably not something everybody is going to want to try, but I was given an iPhone a few weeks ago and it turns out I can prop it up on something, then sit back and knit while flipping along the screen-sized pages of an e-book.  And enjoy the book without dropping stitches, to boot.  So this is what I'm reading now, and can so far recommend:

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
This so-called YA book is the story of two friends in WWII - one is a pilot, the other a captured spy.  And they're women.  The reading pace of the audio sample I heard emphasized my impression of it as sombre subject matter, but I decided to trust the great reviews and buy it as an e-book.  Turns out it's funny, even when punctuated by references to torture, which is quite a feat.  Can't wait to read the rest.

Hope there's something in here that gets you through the weekend.  I myself expect to be flat-out swamped and lucky to watch or listen to anything, let alone knit, before Monday, but we live in hope, right?

Take care and I'll see you here again in a couple of days!

(ps: the socks are made from Vesper sock yarn again... 'Thankful' colourway.  and let me tell you, I I'm especially thankful to have bought a new linen sweater to match the orange stripe.)


Leslie said...

Did you read The Rosie Project. Very enjoyable (I listened and the narration is spot on). We also really enjoyed The Secret Keeper recently.

Mary Keenan said...

Too funny Leslie - The Rosie Project is next in my queue! I'll check out The Secret Keeper - thanks for that tip :^)

Shibanut said...

The Secret Keeper is excellent.

Mary Keenan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Keenan said...

Oh dear - now I have to decide whether to get The Secret Keeper as an audiobook or an e-book! It does look fantastic.

Leslie, I just started the Rosie Project today and can't BELIEVE it's his first book. Love it.

Ang said...

If you're enjoying Gaiman, you MUST read American Gods. Same world as Anansi Boys (and published first), it's probably my favorite of his books. My copy has pages falling out from too many re-readings.

And a vote for another Christopher Moore: Fool, which is his retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear. This is infinitely funnier than that description makes it sound. (I loved Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is also great fun, though I can see where some people might take it wrong.)

Two of my favorite authors!

Mary Keenan said...

Ang: I've already got Lamb lined up for a next read! Have to say though: I bought a hard copy of Practical Demonkeeping for a recent flight and do NOT recommend it for counteracting turbulence ;^) I'll try Fool though.

I've been avoiding American Gods but based on your recommendation I will get it. Probably worth going with audiobook so I can listen to him read it to me, right?