Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske by Julia Blackburn
John Craske (born in 1881) was a fisherman who, because of a set of mysterious ailments which surfaced in 1917, was unable to continue fishing. The sea was his home in many ways and he stayed connected to it by painting. Then he became so ill that he could no longer stand to paint and was bedridden. He turned to embroidery as a way to create his art while in his bed.
I’d first read about this man in a book I recently read about a history of sewing. Then I heard a discussion with this author about Doggerland, the subject of her most recent book. While I was at the library searching for the Doggerland book, I saw this one listed. At the time, my hold list was full, so I waited until I had some space and requested it then.
I had the impression that it was going to be a fairly straightforward biography, but it was not that at all. It was sort of a mix of biography, memoir, history, nature writing, and more. Blackburn tells the reader early on that absence was a big theme in the writing of this book.
She was fascinated by Craske, but had a hard time tracking down information about him. In the book, she writes about his life and that of his wife, as far as she can discover, but she also tells the story of her quest to find out. There are side stories about places and people associated with Craske. Threaded throughout is the story of what was happening in her own life during the time she was researching and writing the book. It sounds a bit chaotic, but she is such a good writer and ties everything together so well, as she did in her book about Doggerland, that I was hooked. Somewhere in the middle of the book, I realized that I liked it much better than I would have if it was a straight biography.
I quite like the fact that, as a result of this project, the work of John Craske is now at least a wee bit less unknown. Blackburn helped to put together an exhibition of some of the works that had been languishing in attics, dusty back rooms of museums, and other storage places.
I devoted a blog post to the two Doggerland books I read (Doggerland by Ben Smith and Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn). That can be found here.
I'd read about the following book in a book related email and put myself on the list at the library. It was well worth the wait. I've read Macfarlane's work before and I highly recommend it--this book included!
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
|this artwork was done by a friend of the author and depicts the second after a nuclear blast|
I never know what I will find when I click around at the library website and the experience is even better now than it used to be. A couple of years ago, they went to a nationwide system, so now I can request books from anywhere in the country. I can use my library card to check out books anywhere in the country and we can return to any library in the country. Fun!