It Itches

Franklin Habit is a photographer, knitter, blogger, and -- not least -- humorist. Would anyone who is not a knitter get the jokes in It Itches? Probably not, but who cares? (It's not like I would think that a book of golf cartoons was funny. So if you or someone you know has a stash -- skeins and skeins of yarn set aside for a someday project -- or has a strong opinion of acrylic versus natural fiber, this book of cartoons and light essays is just the ticket. Habit's pencil drawings of sheep, yarn, and knitters, underscored with witty, one-line captions, would be at home in The New Yorker. A boy is knitting in the schoolyard with a girl bully towering over him. Caption: "If it bothers you that much, Caitlin, then I suggest you and your teddy and your mid-Victorian ideas about gender get the hell back to the other side of the playground." Meanwhile, the selection of his prose pieces varies in style. I was charmed by his impassioned plea to take back the word "craft" from the psychiatric wards, nursing homes, and summer camps and proudly label knitting as a craft -- "Craft (n) 1. An occupation, trade or activity requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill (v) 2. To make or produce with care, skill of ingenuity." He begs us to stop equating a beautifully knit cabled sock with a tissue box made of popsicle sticks. "Craft", he states, "is too ancient, beautiful and noble a word to leave to the hacks of less-inspired housekeeping magazines. My knitting is my craft; therefore I am a craftsman. It is a badge I wear with pride. I made it myself."

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).