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Posted 8/4/2011 4:07pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov 1980, pps 212-215.

Style, I remind you, is the manner of an author, the particular manner that sets him apart from any other author. ...

The style of Proust contains three especially distinctive elements:

1. A wealth of metaphorical imagery, layer upon layer of comparisons. It is through this prism that we view the beauty of Proust's work. For Proust the term metaphor is often used in a loose sense, as a synonym for the hybrid form*, or for comparison in general, because for him the simile constantly grades into the metaphor, and vice versa, with the metaphorical moment predominating.

2. A tendency to fill in and stretch out a sentence to its utmost breadth and length, to cram the sentence with a miraculous number of clauses, parenthetic phrases, subordinate clauses, sub-subordinate clauses.

3. With older novelists there used to be a very definite distinction between the descriptive passage and the dialogue part: a passage of descriptive matter and then the conversation taking over, and so on. But Proust's conversations and his descriptions merge into one another, creating a new unity where flower and leaf and insect belong to one and the same blossoming tree. ...

My mother did not appear, but with no attempt to safeguard my self-respect (which depended upon her keeping up the fiction that she had asked me to let her know the result of my search for something or other) made Francoise tell me, in so many words 'There is no answer'—words I have so often, since then, heard the janitors of public dancing-halls and the flunkeys in gambling-clubs and the like, repeat to some poor girl, who replies in bewilderment: 'What! he's said nothing? It's not possible. You did give him my letter, didn't you? Very well, I shall wait a little longer.' And just as she invariably protests that she does not need the extra gas which the janitor offers to light for her, and sits on there ... so, having declined Francoise's offer to make me some tisane or to stay beside me, I let her go off again to the servants' hall, and lay down and shut my eyes, and tried not to hear the voices of my family who were drinking their after-dinner coffee in the garden.

This episode (from Swann's Way) is followed by a description of the moonlight and silence which perfectly illustrates Proust's working of metaphors within metaphors.

The boy opens his window and sits on the foot of his bed, hardly daring to move lest he be heard by those below. (1) "Things outside seemed also fixed in mute expectation." (2) They seemed not to wish "to disturb the moonlight." (3) Now what was the moonlight doing? The moonlight duplicated every object and seemed to push it back owing to the forward extension of a shadow. What kind of a shadow? A shadow that seemed "denser and more concrete than the object" itself. (4) By doing all this the moonlight "made the whole landscape at once leaner and larger like [additional simile] a map which is unfolded and spread out" flat. (5) There was some movement: "What had to move—the leafage of some chestnut-tree, for instance—moved. But its punctilious shiver [what kind of shiver?] complete, finished to the least shade, to the least delicate detail [this fastidious shiver] did not encroach upon the rest of the scene, did not grade into it, remaining clearly limited"—since it happened to be illumined by the moon and all the rest was in shadow. (6) The silence and the distant sounds. Distant sounds behaved in relation to the surface of silence in the same way as the patch of moonlit moving leafage in relation to the velvet of the shade. The most distant sound, coming from "gardens at the far end of the town, could be distinguished with such exact 'finish,' that the impression they gave of remoteness [an additional simile follows] seemed due only to their 'pianissimo' execution [again a simile follows] like those movements on muted strings" at the Conservatory. Now those muted strings are described: "although one does not lose one single note," they come from "outside, a long way from the concert hall so that [and now we are in that concert hall] all the old subscribers, and my grandmother's sisters too, when Swann gave them his seats, used to strain their ears as if [final simile] they had caught the distant approach of an army on the march, which had not yet rounded the corner" of the street.

*Nabokov illustrates a simple simile as "the mist was like a veil"; a simple metaphor as "there was a veil of mist"; and a hybrid simile as "the veil of the mist was like the sleep of silence," combining both simile and metaphor. HB

From Marcel Proust, Bloom's Major Novelists by Harold Bloom 2003.


Noiselessly I opened the window and sat down on the foot of my bed; hardly daring to move in case they should hear me from below. Things outside seemed also fixed in mute expectation, so as not to disturb the moonlight which, duplicating each of them and throwing it back by the extension, forwards, of a shadow denser and more concrete than its substance, had made the whole landscape seem at once thinner and longer, like a map which, after being folded up, is spread out upon the ground. What had to move — a leaf of the chestnut-tree, for instance — moved. But its minute shuddering, complete, finished to the least detail and with utmost delicacy of gesture, made no discord with the rest of the scene, and yet was not merged in it, remaining clearly outlined. Exposed upon this surface of silence, which absorbed nothing from them, the most distant sounds, those which must have come from gardens at the far end of the town, could be distinguished with such exact ‘finish’ that the impression they gave of coming from a distance seemed due only to their ‘pianissimo’ execution, like those movements on muted strings so well performed by the orchestra of the Conservatoire that, although one does not lose a single note, one thinks all the same that they are being played somewhere outside, a long way from the concert hall, so that all the old subscribers, and my grandmother’s sisters too, when Swann had given them his seats, used to strain their ears as if they had caught the distant approach of an army on the march, which had not yet rounded the corner of the Rue de Trévise.

Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913 translated as Swann's Way by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Posted 8/1/2011 1:22pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Local, natural and soft.  Since 1765—first in Saxony, then in Australia and in New England—Saxon Merino sheep have been bred to produce the finest wool in the world.  In the early 1990's Catskill Merino imported five rams from three of the most renowned fine wool studs in Australia to begin once again the tradition of breeding Saxon Merinos in New York*.

In early March we shear the flock.  The  shorn wool is spun into yarn by Green Mountain a small spinnery in Vermont.  We hand-dye the yarn in small lots on the farm.  Our yarn is as natural as our sheep; it has not been synthetically treated to increase its softness or washability. 

Buying yarn here using Google Checkout is easy and secure. 

*Sheep by sheep, we reverse globalization to bring shepherding and fine Saxon wool back to our shores.  But the sheep have as much to do with their coming home as the shepherd does; for an explanation of this,  please see Michael Pollan's thesis about agency in the introduction to The Botany of Desire.

Posted 7/28/2011 8:26pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Every 2 months I get email from Stella Chen who represents a spinnery in China: I and many other fiber establishments here whose addresses a web crawler turns up get fiber solicitations from her.  I don't buy yarn from Stella—neither superwash merino nor cashmere nor silk nor camel nor bamboo nor soy nor blends thereof—but many dyers do.

If you ordered a hand-dyed superwash merino yarn from that nice little farm in say Montana or from who-knows-where, the one that has those pretty pictures of sheep running all over, chances are very good that the yarn you bought came from Stella or from one of her resellers or from another fiber mill in China as all superwash merino yarn is produced offshore and most of it is produced in China.

Superwash merino is merino wool coated with a plastic called a polymer which is a large synthetic molecule that consists of a repeating chain of smaller synthetic units.  The plastic coating makes the wool washable; but when you handle superwash merino, it feels like what it is: what you touch is a synthetic substance made from petroleum, a plastic.

Sheep are local.

I'm not into China bashing, global commerce is necessary to maintain world peace in this age of late capitalism but I still like buying local and knowing that I have something made by a neighbor and knowing too where my money went and that it might even come back to me. This knowledge comforts me when I find myself standing in line with my fellow shoppers at Walmart to buy something—probably made in China—that only they sell at a price I can afford.

Knowledge fosters better intentions.

I know, I write to you, we know; but there are others who don't know and never will know and consequently don't care and never will care and the difference between us and them is the beauty of democracy.

Polymers, wolymers, holymers, Stella doesn't care what she sells, some dyers don't care what they buy, many knitters don't care what they knit—maybe I'm quaint because I care—it must be the sheep in me.

Dear Sir or Madam:

We are one of the leading mills based in China and offer natural color yarn and natural fiber, suitable for dyeing.

Fiber & roving: cashmere, baby camel fiber and top, angora, silk etc.

Handspun yarn: Handspun Cashmere, Baby Camel, Angora, Silky Wool etc

Hand knitting yarns: silk, cashmere, baby camel, bamboo, soy, super merino, angora and organic cotton etc.

Our sock yarn: raw white, 85% super wash merino; 15% nylon

Looking forward to hearing from you.



Shakun Cashmere Spinning Co., Ltd

Add : No.77 Zhonghua West Street, Xingtai, Hebei, China

Posted 7/27/2011 6:22pm by Eugene Wyatt.

These sentences are examples of why I enjoy reading Marcel Proust: Even though his descriptions of the French aristocracy before 1914—and its twilight in the Great War—interest me, I'm not so much enthralled by what he describes as I am by how he describes it.

If I had now begun to explore, with tremors of reverence and joy the faery domain which, against all probability, had opened to me its hitherto locked approaches, this was still only in my capacity as a friend of Gilberte.

The kingdom into which I was received was itself contained within another, more mysterious still, in which Swann and his wife led their supernatural existence and towards which they made their way, after taking my hand in theirs, when they crossed the hall at the same moment as myself but in the other direction.

But soon I was to penetrate also to the heart of the Sanctuary.

For instance, Gilberte might be out when I called, but M. or Mme. Swann was at home. They would ask who had rung, and on being told that it was myself would send out to ask me to come in for a moment and talk to them, desiring me to use in one way or another, and with this or that object in view, my influence over their daughter.

I reminded myself of that letter, so complete, so convincing, which I had written to Swann only the other day, and which he had not deigned even to acknowledge.

I marvelled at the impotence of the mind, the reason and the heart to effect the least conversion, to solve a single one of those difficulties which, in the sequel, life, without one’s so much as knowing what steps it has taken, so easily unravels.

My new position as the friend of Gilberte, endowed with an excellent influence over her, entitling me now to enjoy the same favours as if, having had as a companion at some school where they had always put me at the head of my class the son of a king, I had owed to that accident the right of informal entry into the palace and to audiences in the throne-room, Swann, with an infinite benevolence and as though he were not over-burdened with glorious occupations, would make me go into his library and there let me for an hour on end respond in stammered monosyllables, timid silences broken by brief and incoherent bursts of courage, to utterances of which my emotion prevented me from understanding a single word; would shew me works of art and books which he thought likely to interest me, things as to which I had no doubt, before seeing them, that they infinitely surpassed in beauty anything that the Louvre possessed or the National Library, but at which I found it impossible to look.

At such moments I should have been grateful to Swann’s butler, had he demanded from me my watch, my tie-pin, my boots, and made me sign a deed acknowledging him as my heir: in the admirable words of a popular expression of which, as of the most famous epics, we do not know who was the author, although, like those epics, and with all deference to Wolf* and his theory, it most certainly had an author, one of those inventive, modest souls such as we come across every year, who light upon such gems as ‘putting a name to a face,’ though their own names they never let us learn, I did not know what I was doing.

*Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824) a German philologist who held that the works attributed to Homer were written by a number of anonymous bards.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur by Marcel Proust 1918;  translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924.

Tags: Proust
Posted 7/26/2011 9:07pm by Eugene Wyatt.

It rained almost all day yesterday and a little this afternoon.  The fields need it after a 10 day dry spell. 

The lambs dry out playing on the rocks as I walk through them; some lambs come up to me while others keep their distance. 

Tags: Lambs
Posted 7/25/2011 7:59pm by Eugene Wyatt.

We couldn't believe our eyes when this color came out of the dye bath; we'd planned to overdye almost all of this dyelot but upon seeing the hue we reversed ourselves and overdyed almost none of it, one pound I think.  Never have I seen a more intense Cochineal* and the coverage along the Saxon Merino yarn is even too.  It has a charm—so unusual—the color deserves to be seen as it is.

The color was dyed after an Alum and Cream of Tarter mordant at 1.75% WOF.  This is a singles worsted weight: a 2 oz. skein measures 140 yd. in length.  The color was dyed in a limited editions of 32 skeins.

Available from the Yarn Store.

*Cochineal is an intense red colorant (known since the Mayan times), a natural extract that comes from an insect (most natural dyes come from vegetables) that lives on the prickley pear cactus found in the southwest.  It takes 10,000 bugs to make a pound of extract and that is a reason why it is the most expensive natural dye I use: currently it wholesales for $650.00 a pound.  Also, the FDA approves Cochineal as a food coloring—one of the few natural dyes so approved—this creates demand to keep the price high.

Posted 7/25/2011 7:58pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Alice knit these cool mittens from our naturally dyed Saxon Merino yarn.  This is the kind of knitting I like: hand done, it figures itself out as it goes along; these mittens are not from a store consequently they're priceless. 

Thank you Alice for sending along the photo.

Tags: Mittens
Posted 7/25/2011 6:00am by Eugene Wyatt.

At the Fillmore East—September 23, 1970.

"Perhaps the most influential blues guitarist of all time, Albert King possessed a powerful vibrato and a stinging tone that have been often emulated, but never equaled." Watch Video »

Posted 7/19/2011 8:24pm by Eugene Wyatt.

I walked to the center of the ewe flock's 12 acre paddock; the sheep were nowhere to be seen.  It was eerie.  Where were they?  I thought of domestic dogs gone wild driving them through the fence or of tobacco chewing rustlers herding them up a ramp onto a semi.  Being unable to find something sets fly the imagination. I stopped and  began to sing my sheep litany: "Cheep, cheep, jong cheep. Jong? O jong..."* certainly not as melodic as plainchant but it is a song they know well.  Faintly—to my relief—I heard the "baa" of a ewe 50 yards away to the north, I walked in that direction but I couldn't see any of the sheep until I was upon them.  And surprisingly it wasn't in response to me the ewe had baaed, it was to her newborn lamb.

It seems that five months ago, plus or minus a day or two, a ram jumped the fence and bred the ewe and maybe even others. I won't know how many new lambs I have until the ewes eat the grass down; then I can see the flock as a whole and get a better count.

The lamb was healthy—the ewes have plenty to eat—mother is making ample milk and is quite attentive to her baby.

*Sheep, sheep, young sheep...


Two days later, we find the newborn lamb in question; and in question he is: this is the first time he's seen a human, strange beings we must be to his fresh eyes. 

I took this photo with the camera of my iPhone as I walked through the flock on this 97° day; the sheep were in the shade of a tree—they'd eaten the understory—where they camp on hot afternoons

Blessedly there was a good breeze blowing that kept everyone cool.

Posted 7/19/2011 8:20pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Thanks to everybody who responded to my question about which yarn photo they preferred in the ...Focus Group Lottery. (see the comments)  The results were 11 for the new photos and 6 for the old photos; some of you said you liked both, so both votes were counted, one for the new and one for the old.

Because I questioned the photos I guess I was one of those who voted for both, but I didn't want a cluttered photo and didn't know how to cleanly shoot the yarn showing both views: too much information is the same as not enough.

I will go with the new, close-up photos; plus it is faster to set up the shot and that is a large consideration: to try to keep the photography in pace with the yarn we dye.  We have more colors available at the stand than we're able to offer from the website.

I promised a lottery and below you see the hat ready to be drawn from, I feel like a presenter at the Oscars. "And the winner is Kathy" who voted for both.  I will send Kathy a skein of our Undyed 2 ply Sport Saxon Merino Yarn, the same yarn that Clara Parkes reviewed in Knitters Review.