Open Letters Monthly: The December Issue (With Bonus Crochet)


Once again we mark the beginning of a new month with a bright shiny new issue of Open Letters! And once again it shows off the range of readers and writers involved with the site.

We lead off this time with our annual Year in Reading feature (Part I, Part II). My contribution won’t surprise any regular readers of this blog, but there’s lots else to interest you: Colleen of Jam and Idleness (and now of Open Letters! hooray!) reports on reading time happily spent in 19th-century France; Steve Donoghue reminds us that for sheer physical pleasure, print books still beat out digital; John Cotter has been reading short stories that blew his socks off; Lisa Peet has been in a Jane Gardam phase; and that’s only for starters. Other pieces address Chagall’s Christian iconography, Doris Kearns Godwin’s The Bully Pulpit (that’s Steve again!), Michael Johnson’s extraordinary search for Solzhenitsyn, John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (that’s Colleen again!), Helen Fielding’s new Bridget Jones novel (me again!), the life and writings of Giacomo Leopardi, and more that you’ll have to click on over to find for yourself.

I was proud of myself for getting a review done during this fairly busy month. It became conspicous to me towards the end of the month that the real casualty is actually this blog: if I’m working on a review, it takes up a lot of the time I have for non-work-related reading and writing. So on the one hand, it’s a good thing to be turning out more polished pieces more often and building up experience writing more ‘on demand’ and less on my whim — but on the other hand, especially since it has been a while since I reviewed a book I was really enthusiastic about, it makes me feel a bit stifled.

Look what I made!

In unrelated news, when I’m not reading, writing, or working (or reading and writing for work!) I’ve been trying my hand at crochet. I got it into my head to learn crochet a couple of months ago, on the theory that it might be something I could do better than I knit (I like knitting but have no head for patterns or fancy stitches, and after a while ribbed scarves aren’t that fun to make). I like doing cross-stitch but it’s fussy and hard to do when I’m very tired (which is when I stop reading / writing / working) or while watching old episodes of ER* (which is how I currently recuperate from too much reading / writing / working). I think I was right that crochet will suit! I had a rocky — or perhaps I should say a tangled — start, but I have more or less got the knack of the basic stitches now, and a couple of weeks ago I successfully completed a basic “granny square.” It probably says something about the ways in which other aspects of my life are fraught with intangible frustrations and deferred outcomes that I am so very pleased with learning how to make something I can quite literally hold on to – even if by serious crochet standards my technique probably has a long way to go. I’ve gotten very ambitious and started stockpiling coordinated squares for an afghan, to give my father as a Christmas present. I’ve warned him, however, that at my current rate of production it may be just a little late.


*Speaking of ER, I’m realizing all over again what a good show it was — much better than Gray’s Anatomy. Are there other ER fans out there?

(Flickr photo of the Brattle Bookshop courtyard.)


8 thoughts on “Open Letters Monthly: The December Issue (With Bonus Crochet)

  1. Amateur Reader (Tom) December 2, 2013 / 2:03 am

    I have not seen it since it aired, but Dr. Greene’s climacteric year (roughly season 4, if I understood what I just looked up) was a great feat of serial story-telling.

    Other parts of the show were good, too!


    • Rohan December 2, 2013 / 1:43 pm

      Dr. Greene! It takes a long time for his story to work itself to its sad end, and when he goes (Season 7, I think) he’s much missed. I’ve been struck (again) by how many social issues they address right from the start, from HMOs to AIDS to same-sex partners being shut out of end-of-life decisions and on and on. And the actors are a lot less like fashion models than in GA.


  2. Colleen December 2, 2013 / 11:41 am

    I also enjoyed ER very much. Grey’s Anatomy would have been more appealing if I’d still been a teenager when it aired; it just seemed like 90210 set in a hospital to me!


    • Rohan December 2, 2013 / 1:44 pm

      It is exactly like that! I still watch it, because I’m painfully loyal, but if they don’t come up with another plot twist besides “have an affair / ruin a relationship” I may be done soon.


  3. RT December 2, 2013 / 11:58 am

    As a card-carrying member of the over-the-hill gang, I confess to being a fan of “Dr. Kildare” and “Ben Casey” rather than “ER.” That confession does make me sound ancient, doesn’t it?

    BTW . . . “Confessions of an unrepentant New Critic” has changed names to “A Commonplace from Eastrod.” The changed name and focus are explained in the early postings. I do hope you will stop by every now and then.


    • Rohan December 2, 2013 / 1:44 pm

      MY TV history is artificially curtailed because I grew up in a house without a TV and didn’t live with one until I was in my late 20s! I will certainly check out your new blog.


  4. Stefanie December 2, 2013 / 1:51 pm

    Your crochet is looking great! I am a knitter and can figure out pretty much any stitch but anything more than single stitch crochet baffles me. My husband crochets and is pretty fearless in making things without patterns but I’ll just stick to my knitting 🙂


    • Rohan Maitzen December 2, 2013 / 7:01 pm

      Stefanie, I could not make any sense of written instructions (even with pictures) and then my daughter pointed out that these days people learn from YouTube, and I found some videos that really helped, like . Maybe I should try that for knitting, actually!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.