Nigella Express, BBC2, Mondays, 8.30pm
Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Domesticity (Hodder & Stoughton, 2007)
Despite my best efforts to avoid it, last night I encountered Nigella Express. It was much more diverting than I’d assumed. Indeed, Mr B and I spent the programme in a state of near hysteria. How we roared as Nigella, taking the pornography of the edible right back in to the bedroom, oozed from her sheets resplendent in an oil-black nightie, apparently suffering a nuit blanche of donut withdrawal. In fact, the only un-funny thing in this truly ludicrous half hour was the orgy of irresponsible consumption it depicted. Nigella popped open and discarded a small planet’s worth of plastic while purring vacuously about ‘convenience.’
I was utterly transfixed by the spectacular Ms Lawson. Like a bizarre fusion of Russell Brand and Ab Fab’s Eddie she emoted and threw shapes about the kitchen. There was something reminiscent of the Spitting Image puppet of Margaret Thatcher about her too: all ruthless, insane, and glinting. Most intriguing of all, it wasn’t just Nigella’s self-consciously excessive presence that was so powerfully suggestive of transvestism, but the gorgeous interiors of her home as well. From the sensuous sanctuary of her pantry (usefully marked “pantry”) to the consolations of her tea-pot; from the tearful, cookie-munching friend on her sofa to the privately-educated child obligingly performing its homework, this was an absurd parody of privileged domesticity: This was the domestic in drag.
I was also struck by the strange allure of the drag-domestic while reading Jane Brocket’s Gentle Art of Domesticity. Now, as an enthusiastic practitioner of the ‘arts’ Brocket celebrates, and someone who has occasionally looked at Yarnstorm, I felt compelled to be sympathetic to, and even to defend, her book. The bizarrely rabid attacks in The Daily Telegraph or on last week’s Woman’s Hour have, it seems to me, largely been voiced by individuals who just don’t get how sewing, knitting, quilting, or cooking could possibly provide a stimulating form of expression for any contemporary woman. Kate Saunders and Liz Hunt seem to regard such activities as somehow antithetical to one of feminism’s key goals, viz, women’s equal participation in the modern public sphere—a perspective which is not only short sighted but, given the sheer numbers of women who have over the past decade discovered a renewed sense of themselves in the creative energy of all sorts of crafts, weirdly old fashioned. And for any crafter there are certainly things to like and admire about Brocket’s book: her passionate appreciation of buttons, her visceral and individual sense of colour and, most particularly for me, her thoughtful and moving account of the embroidered table cloths she loves and collects. After discussing five distinctive and very different examples of the same popular 1930s transfer design Brocket writes of how she finds “comfort in handling these textiles knowing that I am appreciating something that was of great value to its maker.” For me, it was worth reading the book simply for her fond account of these objects, the “art” of which is so often overlooked, or dismissed.
But however much I want to like Brocket there are things I found profoundly troubling about her book. The first thing to note is that this is not a book about crafts or domesticity in any sort of broad sense, this is a book about Jane Brocket’s version of those things. So at first I thought my wary reaction to her domesticity might well be just a matter of personal taste: I am not quite so fond of pink or pineapples; of the sentimental art of the late Victorians or (shudder) of Jane Austen adaptations as Ms Brocket. And, after a while, the relentlessly saccharine palate and sing-song tone of the book started to induce in me vauge feelings of nausea. Then I started to realise that, in a sense, this was entirely the point: the whole purpose of the book is to absorb you in the all-encompassing syrupy aesthetic that is Brocket-world: A world where there is always a clean, fresh shirt on the line and a cake on the table; where each member of the family will be perpetually wrapped cosily in its favourite quilt and the colours of your comfy shoes will always match those of your current knitting project. Like the performing home and family depicted in Nigella Express, the world of Jane Brocket is one of luscious surfaces, sensory overload and visual excess….with something (for me at least) hollow and questionable at its core. The book celebrates a sort of hyper-real—or indeed drag—early twenty-first century version of a 1950s domestic ideal. Reading The Gentle Art of Domesticity was like being in a film by Douglas Sirk (or perhaps Todd Haynes’ intelligent homage to that master of the ‘woman’s film’) but, terrifyingly, without any of the irony or critique.
(Far From Heaven’s incisive critique of the domestic-in-drag)
It is not that Brocket is incapable of thinking critically about the conventions and meanings of the domesticity she espouses. On the contrary, she reminds us several times of her graduate qualifications and, in the rather odd readings of several late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century depictions of domesticity, showcases a certain discursive intelligence. She also writes that the domestic was for her an active choice—one apparently belittled by an ‘academic’ schooling haunted by the ghosts of the Pankhursts. But then she holds up for our unquestioning admiration domestic icons and female role models so conservative it really is like feminism never happened. Can any woman seriously champion Doris Day in Young at Heart as a positive image of domesticity? I’m sure even DD herself could maintain an ironic distance from that one. The same goes for The Philadelphia Story, which Brocket regards as a Lovely Escapist Story with no sense at all of how that most patriarchal of narratives makes Kate Hepburn’s frigidity a symptom of her terribly unreasonable failure to accept Dad’s harmless philandering. And its not just these obvious and conventional images of middle-class female repression that Brocket draws into the weird idyll that is Brocket-world. How can she talk about Cary Grant and his clothes without even acknowledging an idea of camp? Is she for real?
All pink hearts and pinafores, Jane Brocket is incredibly camp too but, unlike Archibald Leach performing Cary Grant, without any of the considered self-awareness. And this is what is really so disturbing and ultimately shocking about her book. For her “gentle arts” are not gentle at all but are built on the twin pillars of privilege and inequality. This book is a shameless defence of luxury and leisure, of a world in which women are not only financially supported by wealthy men but are incredibly happy to be so; a world in which women are there not to work, not to be public or political or economically productive beings, but merely to consume vast quantities of lovely raw commodities; make lovely handmade items from those commodities; and then celebrate the virtues of those lovely handmade things as somehow ends in themselves. (Oh, and they can enjoy chocolate too. How naughty!) Brocket is so relentlessly bourgeois, so utterly self-satisfied that she is completely incapable of stepping back from her own entrenched class position and thinking critically about her own conservative version of domesticity, and its relation to her own economic advantage. Anyone who can write, as she does on page 206, about the cheering spectacle of happy servants might do well to have a chat with one intelligent knitter I know, who also supports herself and her family on her cleaner’s wage. Sorry, Jane, but I think you should have considered the realities (or indeed history) of domestic labour at greater length before you assumed to write about domesticity, and thought a little bit more carefully about the implications of “domestic art” before you elevated the materials and objects of your gaudy, expensive, and incredibly fortunate life to that status.
Ouch!! So much vitriol poured out on women who don’t do things your way! What a shame that you feel so much anger. I don’t imagine you would get such a vicious attitude from these women towards yourself, Kate.
You are a remarkable woman and have achieved much. I admire you greatly. I have knitted your patterns and enjoyed your books. But there’s no need to be so aggressive and unkind to women who are different from you.
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i have linked to this immortal post, and not for the first time.
Wow. If you wanted the lady to write a different sort of book, maybe you should have written it for her. As the Greatest Generation often said, “It takes all kinds to make a world.” Sounds like individuality is alright, as long as it’s YOUR sort of individuality. Let some other people have their own version. Some people like the occasional caricature.
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i have linked to this, for about the 50th time.
oh, and my christmas present to myself is a chart of an ackworth quaker girl’s sampler. thanks for that too.
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Apparently I am, as usual, a few years late to the party! I’ve only started reading through the book, a few pages at a time, so I don’t really have a lot to comment on, but I do find the discussion about UK v. US perceptions to be very intriguing. I’ll be sure to look more carefully at the rest of the text as I continue. (I’ll admit, I bought it mostly for the pretty pictures, and the idea that I really, really don’t need anymore straight up pattern books for the rest of my life.)
Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.
I never heard of the blog, Yarnstorm, until I bought Brocket’s “domesticity” book. Usually I would have browsed the book before buying it, but I was in a hurry and just grabbed it. The pictures and the title were what attracted me to the book; once home with it I looked up the blog only to find that she was taking it down. There was a link to the “old” blog which Brocket said was still available but it required a login. The next day, December 12th, she had removed the words that said the old blog was available to read and comment on. My guess is that the old blog was the book, which would mean there’s no reason to actually buy the book. Brocket claims the old blog was full of criticism, and that’s why she took it down.
As for the book itself, it’s mostly eye candy. There’s not much of use in it other than some recipes and references. I’m a long time knitter, baker, quilt maker, sewer, cook, child rearer, and am retired from an active participation in paid work. I have to agree with this excellent analysis of the life of Brocket-land depicted in the book. Sadly, the internet is full of queen bees like Brocket who get their POV reinforced by the “fans” of their work.
The interesting thing here, to me, is the way that online media is evolving to be a stealth way to promote a commercial endeavor. Right now, over on the “new” yarnstorm blog, Brocket is being praised for her lack of commercialism, and the fans are buying it. Going back to the old blog being, essentially, the book in virtual format, the fans don’t seem to get the embedded reinforcement to buy the blog rather than read it for free. Brocket is using the “backlash” as a way to gain sympathy and…. more fans.
Good criticism! You hit the nail on the head! I did not purchased her recycled blog/book. Does that make me a BEE-YATCH also?
Well, to start with, I feel that Jane Brocket is such an amazing inspiration to anyone that reads her book. There is no need for all this childish jealousy, just because she has a few thousand more fans than you does not mean you have to get a gang together to make yourself feel better. Also, you write that Jane is ‘so utterly self-satisfied’, aren’t you the one all high and mighty? Oh no, because i just knocked you down BEE-YATCH!
Hi there and thanks for a very interesting piece of writing on Jane Brocket which put perfectly into words all my feelings towards her, her blog & her book, which is on my shelf.
I have had sort of tiny misgivings about her for all the reasons you put so eloquently, but felt that it was my own petty jealousy coming through. As I yearn for a few years without having to work and just being creative. But then everybody’s life is different and we have to make the most of what we’ve got. Found it also very interesting to read all the comments.
Glad that this way I stumbled over your blog which I find inspiring and interesting.
Shall keep on looking in!
Still think it’s primarily about a very old attitude to women, i.e. the need to be perfect, whether in face and clothes or behaviour. Linked with the old tradition of women being passive and men being active (see the symbols for men versus women, for example, although I don’t doubt that you know all this already!). Active women = bad, passive women = good in this tradition. Load of old rot, of course, but still being touted in the media and society generally. Surely it’s one of the reasons men don’t tend to eat as many vegetables as women, and the reason so many more women are vegetarian than men, meat being adentified with the active, vegetables being passive (see Andrew Marvell’s ‘my vegetable love should grow, vaster than empires, and more slow’ in To His Coy Mistress contrasted with the active, striving, physical love throughout the rest of the poem).
Perhaps yarnstorm’s choice of subject is class-based, don’t know (seems more middle-class than anything to me) but that search for perfection is as old as the hills, therefore it seems a little unfair to blame her and hers for it. Search for perfection = pain in the arse, but start with criticism of women’s magazines telling us all to lose a dress size in a week and just what to wear, and that we need to get rid of all germs from our lives rather than with the pretty pictures in Nigella and so on, no? It’s a far, far bigger issue than the domestic, to my mind.
I’m not fighting for all women to be active, but for the right of all (men and women) to be both active and passive, or any combination of the two that they like! Including in the domestic sphere.
I may have gone a little (ahem) rambly and am very out of practice with expressing myself in terms other than the scientific. Apologies.
I THINK THAT YOU WILL FIND THAT JANE BROCKET IS WONDERFUL. YOU ARE THE ONE IN DRAG BEE-YATCH.
What an excellent, intelligent and thoughtful post. And what a *huge* relief to know that many people out there feel a certain uneasiness when they read yarnstorm.
I have tried to post a comment after comment on her blog to oppose her views (I’ve never been rude, merely political) – one might call it ‘the gentle art of debate’, but I have never once got through the ‘filter’ and been published there, so her replies seem reserved for her minions, it would seem, who help to preserve the heavenly status quo!
Thanks again for swimming against the tide.
I read the post and comments with interest. I to be honest like the book, I haven’t gone too deeply in to it and haven’t ‘analysed’ it but it has made me want to have a go at crochet, which maybe is what she wanted to encourage people to do? I think there has been a rush in the race for equality to throw the ‘domestic arts’ out the window and ok they are not for every woman but for those who ‘might’ be interested in it, they need some encouragement, for better words to ‘package it nicely’.
I see stuff like The Art of Domesticity and Nigella Express as ‘life-style porn’, it is pleasurable to read / watch but then you go back to reality. I know full well for example that I do not have the food budget to cook like Nigella does all the time and I probably haven’t got the money for all that yarn either.
The comments on the US’s take on us Brits and class have been interesting to and I just wanted to answer Emily’s question about is there a British version of Martha Stewart, i.e. a Brit who sells a certain life style but wasn’t upper class to start with, well that would have to be Jamie Oliver I think. His parents owned a pub and he worked his way up as a chef before being noticed in the background of a documentry about the River Cafe. If you see his latest programmes with his massive Essex house, massive garden, his gardener (!), his gorgeous kitchen in his house and his massive wood burning stove outside, he is selling a life style and it’s considerably different to how he started out on TV (young bloke in city flat where his only garden was a window box) but fair enough to him, he worked incredibly hard for the money for that house (TV, books, just about any kitchen related merchandise you can think of) and he’s now providing life style porn for the people who watched him in their city flats in their 20s who now aspire to that big country house in their 30s.
I do not know Ms Brocket, but was link-hopping one day as one does and came across her blog, which I returned to several times because of the beautiful photography. Not a particularly domestic/arty/crafty person myself, I admire those who are.
While scrolling through the visual candy on her blog, I came across a photo I was interested in linking to or reproducing on my blog (with a credit to the owner) and wrote to ask Ms Brocket’s permission, complimenting her on her photography. She visited my blog – yes, I check my sitemeter ~blush~ – but omitted to reply to my request, which I repeated about a month later.
I received a terse one-liner from her, refusing permission. Of course that is her prerogative, but, call me sensitive, I thought she was a tad short with me and certainly rude to ignore my first email.
All I can say is that if manners maketh class, she ain’t it.
It is indeed telling that the doyenne of domesticity in America, Martha Stweart, rose from Joisey roots but that Jane Brocket and Nigella are upper-class Brits. Is there a UK equivalent in this sense to Martha Stewart?
YES! Thank you so much – this is exactly how I feel about it but you have expressed it so well. I admit I have not read the book and my opinion is based solely on her blog and others’ reviews of the book. I just cannot, as a modern, self-sufficient woman, relate at all to the lifestyle that she portrays, even though I myself love knitting, baking, photography etc.
On October 18, Alison asked “Who wants to read a blog in which the author moans and whines about the crap stuff in their life?” Alison, plenty of people (myself included) want to read about real people’s whole lives, not just the pretty parts. The 50,000-plus hits a *day* at dooce.com suggest I’m not the only one who feels that way.
i’m sorry, the woman who works as a cleaner who knits. brocket does truly show glimpses of a more sinister political mindset than she would care to admit.
thank you very much. you really put your finger on the shocking aspect of the privilege/inequality aspects of brocket’s cluelessness, and neatly severed these from the feminist aspects pro and con crafting (she hasn’t got a clue on those either.) what still shocks me is her claim in the book that the media are responsible for setting up a perfect saccharine universe whose standards no real woman, such as herself, can step up to. she is the media; she is the pornographer — with those marvelous but very hard-edged, highly styled and edited photos.
i love her world, but now find myself most uncomfortable there, not least with the amount of money you have to spend on those buttons, those books, that yarn.
thank you for your tale of the woman who works knitting, and give her our regards and very best wishes.
Hi there, needled,
I love your post and I enjoyed your comments on my blog. I have read a lot more of the book since I wrote it and I have a more critical viewpoint to share which will go on my blog soon.
I will probably revise my earlier post also because I – like you – am not ostensibly AGAINST polemic; I think it’s really healthy and important. Indeed, the problematising of this entire issue is feeding directly into my first PhD semester. My main focus is The Domestic Soundscape and so I feel I ought to be aware of the issues generated by projects that pertain to ‘Domesticity’ and the arts… and I love problematising and trying to understand these territories.
I find your post, for instance, really great because you have engaged with the text and the issues it raises and so you add something to Brocketgate with it. But alot of other posts more generally and broadly attacking Jane Brocket – or the backlash against the journalists that resulted from that – actually close debate and just make everyone defensive. One of the best things that Male artists have benefited from is a long, healthy and engaged cultural reviewing of their work. Artists need criticism and feedback in order to improve what they are doing. But in attacking lifestyle choice as a central point of criticism, we do not supply that useful and nourishing support of creative engagement.
So thanks for having something good to say and viva la difference!
I’ll post in more detail about the book once I’ve fully finished it.
Felix – from knitaluscious/The Missability Radio Show
I adore your review…it has kept me giggling and nodding along….
I just want to let a little secret slip…it’s not really her house.
Her ‘show’ is such a parody of itself that I feel no shame in shattering the illusion
and tell you all that it actually filmed in a warehouse, with “the gorgeous interiors of her home”
and that smug “pantry” all very calculated.
I wasn’t referring to a particular person feeling jealous ie the author of this blog, I meant in the broad sweep of opinion from the Telegraph to Women’s Hour.
Life just wouldn’t be the same if everyone had the same opinion, so a debate is healthy, so long as facts are straight, as it were!
Wow, its amazing to read the other comments here since I left mine. (really disagree with the jelousy point – did they even read your post?!)
Anyway, this was just forwarded to me by a friend and I thought you might enjoy it.
Your review starts off very interesting, but when you ramble off into the realm of suppositions of Ms. Brockets life and person, you lose many a reader. Do not confuse book and author, one of the principal rules for reviewers. And I think you have missed the twinkling irony of embracing ‘institutions’ like Doris Day. Brocket’s book manifests a complete comfort with indulging in old ‘patriarchal’ (if you insist) stuff, without having to spell out all the politically correct ifs and buts. The irony is self-evident – or at least I thought so, until the book and blog were so heavily attacked.
I strongly agree with the Martha Stewart comparison–there’s an image of hyper domesticity there combined with her billionaire’s blunted affect that is just a little hard to take. However reading her publications, I am always aware that I am in the domain of fantasy, it feels like a type of pleasure inducing pornography to me, and I enjoy it. And just like real pornography it makes me feel guilty and weird for enjoying it. And thanks for the Douglas Sirk connection, well done!!
An excellent, thought provoking post…
delurking to say I’m not at all familiar with the blog or the author you reviewed today, but from my U.s. perspective I felt echoes in your review of why I don’t like Martha Stewart or her work. It’s all too calculated and obviously intended to project a certain image. Domestic arts have become her business and there isn’t much room for art left in the business to my mind.
Wow, thank you for posting this. Very thought-provoking.
It has been really interesting to watch this whole debate unfold. There are so many facets to this issue, and I agree with the many valid points that both the supporters and detractors of Jane Brocket(and others like her).
As an American who spent time living in the UK, let me say that most American readers are totally unaware of the “class” issue in Britain. In America, really money is the issue. If you’re wealthy, you’re upper class, if you’re poor, you’re lower class. One can move through “classes” simply by making or losing money.
In Britain, class is a more complex, deeply felt issue, and thus, a flashpoint. The debate is about more than just some wealthy women enjoying their wealth, holding up their way of life as an ideal. And it’s also about more than feminism, because ideally, feminists should stand shoulder to shoulder in defence of any woman’s choices in how to live her life.
The issue is larger on many fronts, and I for one think it is a good start to open inelligent discussion about all these issues. So, whether or not we like Brocket, Nigella and Co., I welcome the conversation it has generated.
Kudos for publishing this despite the inevitable backlash you will face. As with blogs like Wendy Knits, Yarnstorm’s “minions” are many and loud and god forbid you have an opinion that’s different than theirs. Good luck weathering the storm to come!
p.s. And already someone has claimed in atheir comment that you posted this just to “bolster your own readership”. Ugh. Whatever!!
I followed the link on slippedstitch, where I left a comment agreeing with the general disquiet about Yarnstorm, and also this:
I also think there’s a weird US/UK thing going on: reading the comments, I get the impression that there is a significant North America-based audience who don’t get the class cues that are blatantly obvious to me, so there’s a Richard-Curtis-esque element of advertising and idealising a lifestyle which costs approximately four times the national average wage as the epitome of Englishness, and I’m very uncomfortable about that as well.
I am FASCINATED to see that two commenters here have mentioned Anglophilia as part of their reason for reading the blog!
Thanks very much for the excellent review.
PS However, the whole Nigella thing is false and obviously so. All those shiny happy people gorging themselves. Uggh. When she cooks for a crowd, there doesn’t seem to be enough to eat, but when for herself, it would feed at least three!
The problem with the Yarnstorm issue is pure jealousy.
She seems to have it made, loving, supportive husband. Three healthy, enthusiastic children. A beautiful home, with added home made items.
Wouldn’t we all like that?
All of these things require a lot of very, very hard work by all concerned.
If the detractors’ lives are not as fulfilling, is it Jane’s fault?
Money is not the issue, it is attitude.
Your post is really interesting, and I’m glad to read it because I was just talking about Yarnstorm the other day with regard to this very issue. I haven’t read her book, so I can’t comment on it – but although I like her blog (probably because I, like Ashley, am an anglophile), I have felt (rather than consciously articulated) the class issue that you so rightly note as being key to her work. I suspect that much of the Yarnstorm world is a construction as much as it is a reality. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
This was such a poignant and well-expressed review. I’ve not read the book, but now I’m itching to.
In one of my classes last night, we were discussing Germain Grier’s “The Whole Woman,” and I brought up knitting as a traditionally female domestic art. I wonder what Ms. Grier would say about this book. As if feminism never happened, indeed.
Thank you for such a wonderful post. And your knitting/sewing is creative and lovely!
In this post, you really put your finger on all the things about which I am Not Sure in the Yarnstorm world. I haven’t had a chance to get to the bookshop to flick through the book itself (because I’ve been, um, too busy running with the school run and errands) so I don’t feel qualified to comment on it, but the blog does exude a sense of privilege which I rather resent.
On the work issue: raising a family is work, no question, and the skills and exertions which go into that most important job in the world are admirable regardless of financial compensation. And yet… when one’s contact with the outside world is (apparently) limited to proselytizing for one’s domestic way of life, I think it’s time to let a little bit of the outside in. The entire Yarnstorm project seems to be engaged in keeping the outside OUT.
Well, what a carefully considered and expressed post. Thank you. I’m also only a (very) occasional reader of the blog, haven’t read the book and don’t want to, have been not so much defending the writer as arguing against the attacks on craft… and everything you say sounds very perceptive, and all, but there’s just one thing that chafes a little.
“a world in which women are not only financially supported by wealthy men but are incredibly happy to be so”
All right. I confess. I fantasise about being a kept woman. Is that so wrong? Is a person’s worth to society really only measured in his/her paid work? I work; I (mostly) love my work; yet I would also love to be free of the need to work. To explore my creativity without the pressure of earning. Maybe I’d end up doing something wonderfully productive like writing a great novel; maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d have children and devote my creativity to a rich home life; more likely I wouldn’t. (I’m not much interested in any of Jane’s “gentle arts” except knitting.) It’s not going to happen so we don’t need to worry about that. Point is, I don’t find the idea of a person being happily supported by a wealthier person to be, in itself, shocking. I believe that a person’s highest duty is to be their most fulfilled self – I believe that that allows them to make the greatest contribution to their society, even if it isn’t an obvious one. Sure, a lot of people find fulfilment through work, but frankly fulfilling work can be even more of a luxury than leisure.
I don’t think this is necessarily a gender issue (you will notice my careful avoidance of gender pronouns!). But possibly I am being hopelessly naive.
Firstly, as ever, I find it difficult to take seriously people who comment on books which clearly they have not read. On the very first page of Jane Brocket’s excellent book, she makes plain the distinction between the domestic (washing, cleaning, and associated household drudgery) and domesticity (creative home based activities which are pursued by choice and for enjoyment).
Indeed, Choice seems to be a concept that many commenters have found difficult to understand. Perhaps Jane can afford Kaffe Fassett fabrics to back her quilts because she doesnt waste money paying others to do things she can do for herself? Perhaps those who choose to spend their time on creative pursuits find that time by not wasting hours in front of the TV, rather than by not working.
Secondly, your comment above infers that Jane is supported by “a wealthy man”. It seems to me that Jane is clearly a shrewed businesswoman. Has she not recently published a book that is being talked about all over the internet and newspapers? Aside from this obvious fact, I find it distasteful that you would make these assumptions about a stranger to bolster your own readership, but hey, that’s your call.
As far as the comments about the book and blog reflecting a world which is far from reality for many people, I would entirely agree. I would, however, disagree that this is because of the author’s “class advantage” or “economical position”. You forget that we are not seeing Jane Brocket’s whole life. We are seeing the prettiest most pleasant parts that she chooses to display. Who wants to read a blog in which the author moans and whines about the crap stuff in their life? Jane demonstrates her understanding of her blog readership, which today I read stands somewhere in the region of 30,000 hits per week, in showing the beautiful corners of her life.
You’ve put into words what I’ve been trying to most inarticulately for the last while.
thanks for writing this insightful post!
(i also really like your skirt that you made in a few posts prior…) :)
That’s _exactly_ it!
I’ve been getting myself into trouble in the (ahem!) yarnstorm which has blown up over JB’s book by being unable to articulate what you put across so clearly.
It is very much a class thing, and she (they, to include Nigella) seem so oblivious of it.
(I also think that if Mrs B were not suffering from a certain amount of feminist guilt, she would not remind us quite so often about her postgraduate qualifications…)
I compleately agree – that’s why I stopped reading Yarnstom (despite its pretty pictures) a while back. I don’t mind someone having a blog to celebrate the more pretty things in her life and keep the darker stuff private, but she seems to be displayingand celebrating them as if they are all that matter, as if our lives should be about the pretty, well lit photos of neatly folded linen instead of actually addressing the darkness.
As Ashley’s already said, it’s about class privelage.
Thank you for writing by far the most intelligent thing I’ve read so far about this whole fuss. I haven’t read the book, but it’s largely the apparent total lack of self-awareness and distance that I’ve found off putting. Just like you I’ve felt the desire to defend Jane, but really I think that’s more of a desire to defend my own enthusiasm for the so-called domestic arts.
Anyhow I love your new outfit, I’ve been wearing grey and red together a lot recently.
Oh YES. YES. These constructed fantasy worlds that seem designed to lure us back to the joys of domesticity and conveniently neglect to mention the sheer bloody drudgery of it. I’d bet my savings account that Nigella doesn’t do her own washing up, probably has a cleaner, and probably has hired help to launder that nightie. I’m not that familiar with Jane Brocket, but I bet she’s in the same boat (specially if she’s spending up big on Kaffe Fasset).
And thanks for putting something on a craft blog that’s beyond “look! I made this and it’s pretty!”
I think that you said many things that a lot of people might be afraid to say. I like to read Jane’s blog because of her colorful quilts and book recommendations more than the other parts. Basically, I pick and choose what I like. I thought that the reviewers and interviewers were particularly mean, but that is what you get when you unleash a happy little blog full of hundreds of adoring fans/commenters onto the the rest of the world: more conflict than you are used to. To me, Jane’s blog is a diversion, not a way of life to which I aspire. But I feel that if I read her book, and got an even more intimate glimpse into her life, I might come out of it with the same feelings you have. Loved the part about “vast quantities of lovely raw materials”! Am I not the only one who notices how she almost always backs her quilts with vast quantities of the prettiest and priciest of Kaffe Fassett fabrics. Don’t know what that always sticks with me–like I always think, “Wow, she must really lead a luxurious lifestyle, because she is using meters and meters of the best stuff even for her quilt backs.” I have to laugh, good-naturedly, about that.
Wow. I liked your blog before, but now I love it. THANK YOU for smartly, articulately and sharply expressing everything that’s been circulating in my brain about, er, Brocketgate. I’ve been meaning to come up with a post like this, but haven’t had the wherewithal lately to let it all gel, and now I don’t need to, because you are just so incredibly spot-on here.
I like a lot of things about Jane’s blog, but for me, it is first and always a fantasy, just as I find Nigella an incredibly fascinating and fantastical construct (tinged, always, in both cases, with my regrettably indelible Anglophilia: If only I lived in England, my life would be PRETTY! And there would be hedgehogs! And fairy buns!).
For me, what it boils down to precisely is not a question primarily of feminism (although that’s circulating, certainly) but of class privilege. I won’t pretend that I’m not implicated in that privilege as well–the amount of money I spend on crafting materials is shameful–but, in the end, I’m able to see and own that dissonance.
I’d go on, but you’ve said it. Thanks.