Natsuo Kirino and Kate Jacobs’s Friday Night Knitting Club

Once, when I lived in Paris and saw movies by myself all the time, I went to a movie I thought was called Lola Stella, but turns out to have been called Lola Turns Stella Does Tricks,  and it was a film of unspeakable filth. (I was deceived by the movie guide listing and apparent lack of ability to read movie summaries in French. I had only understood one sentence of the summary. All I knew was that it starred the girl from Trainspotting and that it was in English) After ten minutes, I was like, OMG, I cannot take anymore of this movie–I felt like I needed to bleach out my retinas from what was going on on screen–and I went outside and explained my predicament to the usher and she nodded. She said, “I understand completely. Just wait here for five minutes, and you can go see the next showing of Stepmom, it’s really good.” I have never been so grateful to see Hollywood schlock. I was like thank the lord for Julia Roberts and her dippy movie, because it has saved me from seeing these terrible images of Lola Turns Tricks Stella Does Tricks.

To a lesser extent, this happened to me reading-wise last week. As I mentioned, a friend had given me Out and Grotesque, two Natsuo Kirino mystery novels, and since he and I normally have the same taste (we almost always give each other stuff the other person already has–past gifts have included Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled) I was excited to read them. They were compelling and parts of them were quite interesting, but there was also a level of violence that I was not expecting and I was a little taken aback. (Out was about lonely factory-working housewives who turned to murder and Grotesque was about prep-school girls who turn to prostitution and more.) So when Adam’s mom sent me Kate Jacobs’s The Friday Night Knitting Club as a gift in the mail, it was a very nice unexpected surprise–much like when I saw Stepmom.

The Friday Night Knitting Club is blurbed on the front as “Like Steel Magnolias set in Manhattan.” I have not seen Steel Magnolias, but I am pretty sure this is a fairly accurate description. In fact, I am kind of surprised no one has come up with the gimmick of the book before. Much like Like Water for Chocolate or Heartburn or whatever book that used food as a metaphor for life,  the novel uses knitting as a metaphor for life–you know, each chapter starts out with a description of a stitch, and then it says something like, “Purls, you keep the bumpy side hidden, and the smooth side you show to the world.” (<–paraphrasing here, but you know where this book is heading. It’s like all the Carrie Bradshaw pun-filled voiceovers in Sex and the City–“When it comes to life and love, why do we believe our worst reviews?”) I think Julia Roberts is actually starring in the movie version of this book, which is amusing, because she is also in Steel Magnolias and Stepmom, all three of which (spoiler alert) involve a woman–with so much life left to live!–dying of cancer.** Not that cancer is funny, but it’s like the modern consumption. Once someone in an old-timey movie or book starts coughing, you know it’s all over. Though characters with consumption always seem to have a lot of male suitors.

Anyway, personally, I enjoyed The Friday Night Knitting Club, and might even read the sequel, though I have to say that it’s kind of the literary equivalent of Stepmom. I went through a phase of reading a bunch of Laurie Colwin novels (I get the urge again every summer at the beach), and this book definitely fell into the Laurie Colwin category, where everyone lives in a mythical Upper West Side: People are quirky, but not to the point where it would be weird; people work in publishing, and love to read; men sometimes cheat, but only because they cannot express their true love; old people live in the San Remo; and everyone loves Zabar’s. Laurie Colwin novels are like porn for a certain kind of girl*–it’s this fantasy of the Upper West Side and all of its bourgeois WACKINESS in one light joyous romance. 

*If you majored in English and work in publishing, this is probably you.

I will also say that though I do not feel this book actually had very much to do with knitting at all, though if you like knitting, you might enjoy this notion of a knitting circle as the new book club. It’s not like they knit entrelac in it or anything. Haha. There is, though, like Heartburn, a knitting pattern and a recipe in the back, (written by the characters, of course) for verisimilitude.

** EDITED TO ADD: As several commenters have pointed out, Julia Roberts actually dies of diabetes, not cancer, in Steel Magnolias. Also, after reading Grace’s comment, I checked and realized this movie was called Stella Does Tricks. This blog, clearly not fact-checked. Will try to improve.

Posted in book reviews, Uncategorized at March 5th, 2009. Trackback URI: trackback

10 Responses to “Natsuo Kirino and Kate Jacobs’s Friday Night Knitting Club”

  1. March 5th, 2009 at 3:15 am #Alli

    Maybe it’s just late but that was an AWESOME book review. I know I have read books like this (English Major here). Anyways, thanks for the chuckle to cap off my evening!

  2. March 5th, 2009 at 7:44 am #Violetsrose

    I didn’t major in English – i took art – but I do work in publishing and do love those idealised versions of living on the upper west side!

    Julia Roberts didn’t die of Cancer in Steel Magnolias – she died due to having Diabetes

  3. March 5th, 2009 at 12:57 pm #Grace

    You’ve pretty much convinced me that I was wise in my decision to ignore the gimmick altogether.

    I dig Murakami… sometimes. My friend who loaned me Kafka on the Shore didn’t warn me about the violent kitty slayings (jerk).

    So… that Lola Turns Tricks sounds intriguing! You don’t mean Diane from Trainspotting? Kelly McDonald is her name. Hmmm…I just wiki’d her and she wasn’t in any Lola movie. Oh well.

  4. March 5th, 2009 at 2:13 pm #michele

    okay i haven’t read any of these books or seen any of these movies but i just loved your post! it made me smile in the middle of a not very smiling work day – so thank you. lovely intelligent writing on your part!

  5. March 5th, 2009 at 7:25 pm #Grace

    Oh wow…. don’t know how I missed the “Stella does TRICKS” right after Trainspotting. Geesh, that looks depressing.

  6. March 7th, 2009 at 10:09 am #jenny

    “Though characters with consumption always seem to have a lot of male suitors.”

    There’s a lot of very interesting literary crit on this phenomenon, actually–the fetishization of the “tuberculine” personality and physical characteristics—highly sensitive personality, pale skin, flushed cheeks, breathiness (um, caused by inability to breathe). Fascinating. Seems harder to sexualize cancer (er, cancer/diabetes) in a similar way, but the whole “so much life to live” thing might make a kind of awesome comparison. Female bodies and sickness, why do authors/filmmakers love this combo so much?

    PS–not a romcom in the strictest sense, but i really want to see “I Love You, Man.” You’re the only person who might possibly go with me, I think. Prepare to be harassed!

  7. March 7th, 2009 at 3:23 pm #Claire

    @Jenny: But something I don’t get is why consumption patients always have so many suitors when consumption is contagious–I mean, all that romantic coughing. How do the suitors not get sick? This is something that has never been clearly explained to me.

  8. March 9th, 2009 at 11:06 am #orata

    I didn’t even realize Laurie Colwin wrote fiction! I only knew her from her (fabulous) food writing.

  9. April 17th, 2009 at 8:38 am #PJ

    Does anyone know when “The Knitting Circle” movie will be coming out? I cannot seem to find any information.


  10. April 17th, 2009 at 7:33 pm #Claire

    @PJ I think this movie seems to have been postponed indefinitely?