Howard Howard's Comments (member since Mar 28, 2010)

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Aug 21, 2013 08:46PM

25350 I have just read an advance copy of "The Last Stratiote" by LeAnn Neal Reilly who is, I believe, a member of the James Mason Group. As you will gather from my review, which follows, I like it and would encourage other members to pick it up upon its publication next month.

I recently laid my hands on an advance copy of LeAnn Neal Reilly’s The Last Stratiote, due to be published in September. I read it immediately for two reasons. First, I had liked her first two novels. Second, I remembered my father saying of another distinguished historian of his day that that writer had written a very good first book and had been writing it ever since. I wanted to see if Ms. Neal Reilly, like too many other current novelists, had dwindled into formula. I was happy to find she had not.

She has, instead, produced a layered, complex story in which two conflicts are interleaved. The first involves James Goodman, an American ICE agent, and Mirjeta Gjakova, an Albanian violinist, with whom James has fallen in love. Mirjeta, in turn, is in America after fleeing from a blood feud in her native land. On the other side of the feud and organizing the pursuit is Imam Xhemajl Krasniqi, a warlord in (for lack of a better term) the Albanian Mafia with a considerable seasoning of Taliban-like religious fervor. The growth of the relationship between James and Mirjeta while he tries to protect her from Krasniqi provides the basso continuo over which the fugue of the other conflict is stretched.

This second, and, I think, more interesting contest is between the ancient blood law and the more recent religion of love, free will, and redemption. One could think of it as the Old Testament Yahweh vs. the New Testament Christ. The former is fiercely jealous, demanding of absolute obedience and worship by His absolute rules. You can either be His unquestioningly obedient liege or his enemy, destined for destruction. There is little or no wiggle room in between. The latter speaks of love, understanding, and self-sacrifice among His worshippers. For Him, redemption is always possible for those who exert their free will to know themselves and seek it. Stryker, a sort of academic philosopher, is the theologian of the blood law and Aconcio, a lawyer, is its advocate. Zophie, who is more powerful than she first appears, represents the faith of redemption.

This battle is waged for the mind, conscience, and soul of Elira Dukagjini, a formidable Albanian woman with a taste for blood and an expertise in knife-fighting. As the story develops, we find that Elira is the last stratiote. I had to look the word up though I knew it was Greek. It refers to warriors or soldiers and becomes appropriate as we discover that Elira’s origins go back to an earlier time when Byzantine Greeks were still a presence in the Balkans.

The novel is one of the darkest I can remember reading. There are Taliban, or their ilk, who do abhorant things. There are some sweet little old Southern ladies of an Evangelical persuasion who intentionally do things designed to desecrate Islam. Violence, or the threat of force, overhangs much of the book. Ms. Neal Reilly has presented a very much half-empty glass. And yet the picture is accurate and realistic. The history of monotheistic religions is fraught with barbarity aimed at people who believe differently. In St. Augustine’s day, one could be arrested, punished, or even executed for heresy. The Middle Ages spent a great deal of time and effort preaching and fighting crusades against not only the infidel in the Holy Land, but against non-conformist groups closer to home, the Albigensians in France and the Russian Orthodox to name but two. In the seventeenth century, Protestants and Catholics in Germany had a theological debate which lasted thirty years, settled very little, and left a third of the German population unpleasantly dead. In the last month, the Westboro Baptist Church has visited Rhode Island to spread their peculiar brand of vitriol about gay marriage, of which they are certain that God disapproves.

One can argue that this dark view of humans and their religions is unfair, that religions are peaceful in their intent. This is undoubtedly true. But one should remember that for every St. Francis, there is a St. Clovis. Ms. Neal Reilly has opted to emphasize the dark side and to good effect. For out of that welter of pain and cruelty comes redemption. Elira uses her free will to make a choice, performs an act of penance knowingly and intentionally, and despite her long adherence to blood law, is granted redemption. The power of a great play or story is that within its context, one can suspend one’s disbelief and live the lives of the characters. I have no particular beliefs, but I found Elira’s redemption satisfying and true. Suspension of disbelief is why we are still able to read the Iliad and why we might benefit from some time spent with a stratiote.

Ms. Neal Reilly’s latest is complex. It requires thought. It requires, and rewards, re-reading. This is not a book for television watchers who rely on the laugh track to know where the jokes are in “The Dukes of Hazard”. One of my measures of artistic greatness is that I can hear or read something multiple times and see something in it each time that I did not see before. It is, in part, why I listen to Beethoven piano concerti and Wagner’s Ring cycle. When the book becomes publicly available, I shall buy a copy and reread it. Before I do so, however, I will reread a well-known novel I have not read since high school. Just at the end, I discovered (or think I did) that the Last Stratiote is based, loosely and subtly to be sure, on that earlier novel. I want to see if it really is. I want to spend some time with Stryker’s arguments and see whether I really disagree, or perhaps agree and, if so, where. I want to see what else I missed the first time by focusing solely on the plot.

I cannot say this is a “great” novel. If we are still reading it in a hundred years, then it will be. But it is a very good novel. And it does conform to the dictates of Prism’s Rule, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”
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Jul 06, 2013 06:03PM

25350 Roger wrote: I find myself intrigued by the relations and cooperations between the muses. Take Opera for instance. Opera is not just a story put to music. The acting makes it High drama and the music expresses and enhances the action, the pathos and the tragedy.

Amen to that. This should probably go under books made into operas (movies), but Roger raised it here and so here goes. I would suggest three operas based on plays, all of which are in some ways more emotionally gripping and/or satisfying than the plays. Verdi wrote two of them, Otello and Falstaff (Othello and Merry Wives of Windsor). He had a genius librettist, which helped, in Boito, but I find both better than the plays, both of which I also love. Moussorgsky's Boris Gudenov is based on Pushkin's play of that name, which is almost unstageable. One needs to see Moussorgsky's version before Rimsky-Korsakov got his hands on it and made it "better" (there is an excellent DVD done by the Kirov in St. Petersburg). And then there is Die Meistersinger, which comes from nowhere but the mind of Wagner. But it otherwise satisfies Roger's criteria. It has lovely music, one loves the characters (even the repellent Beckmesser), it is funny, and the boy gets the girl in the end. The lead character, Hans Sachs, actually existed in the time frame specified, lived in Nuremberg, and was a poet. In the last scene, when he enters, the chorus greets him with a moving chorale, the words to which are by the real Hans Sachs. These are all available in good productions on DVD. Try them out and let me know what you think. Oh yes, and for those who have reached a certain age, we can take solace and find hope in reflecting that when Falstaff premiered, Verdi had just turned 80. Not just the young can create.
25350 Bunnie wrote: " i will try to find your fathers books-can you give me a name of one?..."
So far as I know, they are all now out of print. You could probably find a copy on Amazon, under used books, or through inter-library loan. There are four, depending on your interests:
1. The Critical Year - Andrew Johnson's Impeachment
2. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power - TR's Foreign Policy
3. A History of Freedom of Teaching in American Schools - Academic Freedom in American Schools from the beginning to WWI
4. Are American Teachers Free - A continuation of #3 from WWI to around 1935.

I might recommend two things on the Civil War (one of my interests). First, Shelby Foote's three-volume history of the war. It seems massive, but the war was massive. The collection of dispatches published by the U. S. War Department over a period of 50 years runs 160 volumes. I hope to live long enough to read them someday. You probably don't want to. Foote was a novelist before he turned to history and so understood the concepts of plot, characters, and story-telling. He spent twenty years on the work and by the end probably knew as much as any one human can. You might also look at Grant's memoirs, which has the reputation of being the best of the many such published. Mark Twain thought well of it and helped Grant get a good deal from his publisher. I have, in recent years, turned more to reading books by participants and less by historians talking about it later. However, if you are just dipping your toe, a good historian, Foote, McPherson, or Catton is a better place to start. Good luck on your journey.
25350 Rick wrote: "Ambrose provide a wonderful and fun opportunity for those (like me) who have not had an educational background in history to travel back to the days of Lewis and Clark, to learn about Citizen Soldiers and so many other topics, and spawned a cottage industry of popular history me that is a good thing." ...
I would not disagree about Ambrose's writing (it is well done) or his services in making history accessible (he did that well). There is a need for well-written, popular, accessible history. I don't even begrudge his making money at it. Most academics I have known would love to write a successful textbook and become the next Paul Samuelson. Very few do. The point is one of ethics. There was a discussion in this forum a while back on (I think) Anne Perry. As I recall it, in her youth, she was involved in a rather gruesome murder and the discussion was on whether someone who had her past should be allowed to enjoy an audience and prosper as a writer of mysteries (possibly from life). A lot of the folks here said no, that no matter how talented a writer, she had crossed a line and was beyond the pale. I would make a similar argument about Ambrose. To be sure, he did not kill anyone. But in the academy, one's rewards come from brilliant scholarship and the recognition by one's peers of that brilliance. Many writers of history labor in obscurity, turning out papers on the growth of the labor movement among Polish immigrants in Racine and Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the latter 19th century (I'm not making this up. One of my father's PhD students wrote a thesis on just that.) No one other than a technician would ever read such a work. Eventually, a generalist comes along, reads and synthesizes a lot of these studies, and publishes a work of labor history that people will actually read. It is those footnotes and citations in the general work that make a scholar's reputation and are his reward. God knows, he doesn't make any money from it. Ambrose robbed his lesser-known sources of that reward and claimed the credit for himself. Iago sums it up (if my memory is correct) somewhat along these lines: "He who steals my purse, steals trash. 'Twas mine, 'tis his, 'twill serve many others yet. But he who robs me of my reputation, steals that which helps not him and beggars me." It is possible to write entertaining, informative works of history without violating the ethical mores of the scholar. Barbara Tuchman and Paul Murray Kendall spring to mind. But, I would argue that Ambrose, perhaps like Anne Perry, crossed a line to a place whence one cannot return and from which no amount of talent or versatility will earn redemption. Like much else in life, your milage may vary and you will need to make your own judgements for your own reasons. These are mine.
25350 Bunnie wrote: "so if you know this to be true about Ambrose tell us where to find the items copied will you--i stll would like what he has written- it would just give me information of where the real source is.who was your father by the way?"

A fair request. The reference that will shed light is a book called "Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud - American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin", Published 2004 by Public Affairs Press and written by Peter Charles Hoffer. Hoffer is himself a professor of History and part of the division of the American Historical Association that fields and investigates complaints of breaches in professional ethics. Chapter 6 covers the errors of omission or commission of Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose over 36 pages (18 devoted to Ambrose) with five pages of footnotes at the back. I find Prof. Hoffer's case convincing, but you can judge for yourself.

My father (Howard K. Beale, I am Junior) was a tenured full professor of American History at the University of Wisconsin during the period in which Ambrose was a graduate student there. I don't recall whether Ambrose took courses with my father, but he could have. Ambrose does mention him twice in his memoir, "To America". To place Ambrose in perspective, Hoffer lists ten books that Ambrose wrote in about ten years. My father wrote four, along with a number of articles, edited a book of essays on Charles Beard, and edited the diaries of Gideon Welles and Edward Bates, who were members of Lincoln's cabinet, over a period of nearly thirty years. Ambrose had a number of research assistants while my father never had more than one at a time and did most of his own research. Two of my father's four books were reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review and one of them stayed in print for nearly sixty years, which is not too shabby for an academic work. Wisconsin, at the time, was considered the finest history department in the country, with the possible exception of Harvard. I grew up in the former and went to college at the latter. I find it almost inconceivable that anyone could do the research for, write, and see through press a book a year for ten years without cutting some major corners somewhere, regardless of how many research assistants were available. Ambrose claimed that he was not an academic but a popular historian with the implication that he should not be held to the same standards. But he was trained in the academy by some of the best available people and should have known how the work should be done. Hoffer's case suggests that Ambrose forgot. Hoffer provides some documentation. If you have a chance, look it up and form your own opinion. Let me know how you interpret the data.

Hope this helps.
25350 Wally wrote: "What I especially respect about Ambrose is that he made people without any inclination towards history interested in history.
Good writer and inspite of what some may say a good historian.

He is doubtless a good writer. His reputation as a historian is dubious. There is pretty strong evidence that what he published as his own work was actually someone else's. Among historians, and in general among scholars, this is a mortal sin from which no redemption is possible (or desirable). This is a little embarrassing since he studied under my father and should, therefore, have known better. My father would have been seriously annoyed.
Dec 05, 2012 06:22PM

25350 Anne wrote: "From what I know, Hitler never fired a shot at anyone, it was his henchmen who did the dirty work and are equally at fault."

I yield to no one in my dislike of Hitler. In 1959, I had a four-hour tour of Auschwitz. My guide on that occasion had been an inmate. It is not something one forgets. But to give the devil his due, Hitler was, legitimately, a decorated veteran of WWI. He was a messenger. When the field telephones were out (they usually were) and a message had to get through, Herr Hitler, among others, got the job of carrying it. The rest of the infantry could sit in their bunkers and some measure of safety but our Adolf got to go out in the middle of whatever was going on topside with his message. It was a job that required an almost insane amount of bravery. This had its effect on WWII as Hitler had been there, up close and personal, while many of his generals had not. Unfortunately for the Third Reich and fortunately for the rest of us, Hitler's perspective was that of an infantry grunt and his micro-management of the war and grunt's distrust of his officers contributed to the eventual German defeat in a major way. And you are right, in WWII the Fuhrer did not shoot anyone himself but his subordinates certainly did. You might look up an interesting film, "The Conspiracy", with Kenneth Branagh for some of this.
25350 KOMET wrote: "There are some other figures I'd love to invite to the dinner table (and afterwards for a chat):

On the topic of famous dinner guests, there is a lovely book, "Van Loon's Lives" I believe it is called, in which the author actually invites quite a number of famous, or infamous, historical figures to dinner. My favorite is the Buddha. You might like to look it up.

Another comment here dealt with Ataturk, who was indeed a quite remarkable figure. He got his start as second-in-command at Gallipoli where he was instrumental in pushing Winston Churchill into retirement. In the early 1920's, the Greeks invaded Turkey with the intention of restoring the greater Byzantine Empire while the rest of Europe wasn't paying attention. They got to Ankara where, after a seven days' battle, the Turks under Ataturk kicked them back into the ocean. I mention this because Ernest Hemingway was a war correspondent assigned to cover this particular tussle. I suspect his dispatches, which I think were eventually published as a collection, might well be worth reading.

Oct 14, 2012 02:54PM

25350 Joyce wrote: "Of course my favorite remains: "this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Not James Mason but ..."

As Gary correctly states, it is Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart says it to Claude Rains shortly after "Major Stroesser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects."
25350 Emery wrote: "Hi all!...My current project is a deeply researched multi book series called Georgians and Jacobites."
If you are looking into Jacobites and have not yet seen it, you could do worse than spend some time with Macaulay's "History of England". Despite the name, it covers the period from the accession of James II to the death of William III. Macaulay is a brilliant and entertaining writer and this is one of the first serious works of English history to survive to the present (leaving out Gibbon, but he wrote about Rome). Unlike many historians, Macaulay does not pretend to objectivity. He has heroes (Cromwell and William III) and villains (William Penn, the Duke of Marlborough, and anyone named Stuart). Winston Churchill wrote his "Life of Marlborough" as a thundering rebuttal to what he felt were Macaulay's biased views on his ancestor, John Churchill. Macaulay is open, and almost proud of, his prejudices. If he tries really, really hard, he can find an occasional good thing to say about the Scots, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, good that can be said about the Irish. Reading him is informative and sheer delight. (He was, by the way, the first Englishman to be elevated to the peerage for his contributions to literature.) He will tell you all you will want to know about the Jacobites, including a lot of the juicy scandalous bits. Enjoy.
Jul 27, 2011 12:55PM

25350 Dhara wrote: "So my current book is the Cantebury Tales (perhaps the oldest book in English literature). "
If you are poking around in our linguistic roots, you might have a look at "Piers Plowman" and, of course, "Beowulf". "Beowulf" is old enough that it probably qualifies as German Lit rather than English, but it is a remarkable tale in any language. Enjoy.
Jun 30, 2011 06:02PM

25350 Renee wrote: "2. A book set in a place that you would like to visit. I want to visit greece - Any suggestions?"

May I recommend "The Last of the Wine" or "The King Must Die", both by Mary Renault. The first is realistic fiction set during the Peloponnesian War. Plato and Socrates make cameo appearances. The second is a retelling of the Theseus legend from the beginning until he returns to Athens from Crete. She also wrote "The Bull from the Sea", which is the second half of Theseus, but I haven't read that one.

"7. A biography/autobiography/memoir about someone you admire."

I show my own preferences here, but you might look at Henry II by W. L. Warren, Richard III by Paul Murray Kendall, and/or Fighting for the Confederacy by Edward Porter Alexander. The first two are English monarchs. Porter Alexander started at First Manassas as a Confederate Signal Corps Major and ended at Appomatox as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia's artillery. He was there for the whole war, was a trained observer (West Point graduate), writes well, and tells it as he saw it, including occasional criticism of St. Robert E. Lee, something few Southerners then or now would attempt.

Good luck with your list. It sounds as though it will be an interesting summer.
May 23, 2011 04:36PM

25350 Rick wrote: "I have been trying to read Ben Jonson and finding it quite challenging"

I see a number of comments in James Mason about large complicated books or stories, and how difficult they are to follow. Ben Jonson has the further problem of being a playwright rather than a novelist (novels didn't really get going in England for another century). Plays need to be seen and listened to rather than read. But Jonson (and frequently Shakespeare) wrote large plays with lots of people in them and that makes it difficult in our time of television and movies. In those media, the director and the camera do much of our thinking for us. They tell us, by focusing, what is important and filter out the rest. In a live Jonson performance, the audience member has to do the hard work. I was once Master Electrician for a production of Jonson's "Bartholomew Faire". We cut a fair amount, but the production ran four hours, including two intermissions. By midnight, when it let out, the audience loved it. But they complained unanimously about the first act and how dreadfully long it was. In fact, it was no longer than the other two acts. The problem was that the audience had to meet some thirty or so characters, some of whom were important, some of whom were set dressing. Our director had everyone on stage doing something in character at all times (no just standing about waiting for a cue - it is a fair after all). The audience had to sort all these people out and figure out, in a crowd scene, what they needed to watch and what they could ignore. There were no commercial breaks and no cameras to point the way. It was, in point of fact, imposing hard mental work on people who weren't accustomed to it. Once they dusted off the mental faculties and sorted it out, they loved the show. Even current theater suffers from too easy a focus and too short a time. New York shows run barely two hours because people want to have dinner before and still catch the 9:43 to Westport. Your problem with Jonson comes, I think, from trying to go back to a more leisured time when people had all afternoon to watch a play and had not been spoiled by having the medium do their work for them. Find, if you can, a live production of something by Jonson and go see it a couple of times. I think he will grow on you.
Apr 24, 2011 06:15AM

25350 Norm wrote: "I read more than the three women in my home (wife and daughters) put together.

Then again, I've written more books than all of them put together, too.

Back in my time at Houghton Mifflin, it was noted with some glee that Al Gore (we published him) had written more books than Dan Quayle had read.
25350 Ellie wrote: "Well, the party line that I've heard is that because the miracles some saints were supposed to effect have never been substantiated, they have been removed from the official roster, although they may still be saints, it just can't be "proved" (a somewhat hilarious concept in and of itself).
And yes, I believe that both St. Christopher and St. Patrick (to the distress of the Irish) became unofficialized.

I cannot speak for St. Patrick, and I am afraid I don't keep up with these matters at present, but I can explain St. Bridget, second after St. Patrick in the Irish saintly hierarchy. Many years ago, I did a paper for a Mediaeval History course comparing an "historical" saint with a mythical saint. The latter, in my case, was St. Bridget. My research, to my considerable amusement, showed that she was no more or less than an old Celtic fertility goddess. When Ireland became Christian, the Church found, somewhat to its dismay, that Bridget (I forget her Celtic name) remained firmly in the hearts and worship of the locals. Ever practical in these matters, the Church cleaned up, renamed, and entered the old gal into the calendar. A classic case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em". They may now be removing her again, perhaps because the popularity of the old Celtic gods is on the wane.

Mar 26, 2011 05:03PM

25350 George wrote: "The Killer Angels. I think it's the best book about the Civil War ever written."
I agree about the quality of the book, but hasten to add that it is a novel. From what I know of the subject, it is well researched and accurate on the basic events, but it is a novel nonetheless. As you probably know, it was the basis for the movie, "Gettysburg", which may be as close as we will ever get to a recreation of an actual Civil War battle. It is also a little scary how close the actors come to actually looking like the historical figures they portray. I hope the book and the movie will encourage you to pursue some of people described, many of whom are fascinating, Chamberlain, Buford, Longstreet, Armistead, Alexander, and on and on. And yes, it is arguably one of the perhaps five best war novels ever written.
Mar 26, 2011 04:56PM

25350 Rick wrote: "I have to be totally honest- I tried to read Shelby Foote- and found his tomes far too distant and not very interesting to read- almost like reading the boxscores of a baseball game vs. actually se..."
I can understand your reaction, though I do not agree. I have read Foote and found him clear and a pretty decent writer. In his defense, he has done a masterly job of condensing the Civil War into a mere three volumes. The Civil War is the first well-documented war in human history in that many of the participants were literate and many of those kept journals and wrote letters home. The most important single source is "The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion" which is a compilation of official reports from regimental level (and sometimes company level) up from both sides along with a mass of correspondence and other documents pertaining to the struggle. It runs 130 volumes (900-1000 pages each) for the army and another 30 for the navy. I have the complete set and have managed to read the first eight volumes. Then there are the thousands of journals and letters (published or not), newspapers, governmental papers and reports, etc. etc. For any single human to read, digest, and make sense of the material is an almost hopeless task, which may explain why there are so many books on the Civil War (and that doesn't come close to looking at the politics, financial affairs, and so forth). Foote, who was a novelist before he turned historian, spent twenty years producing his opus. He does have a pretty fair grasp of plot, setting, and character. But by the nature of the task, he has summarized and left an immense amount out. If you don't find the War fascinating to begin with, almost any account of the whole affair will be heavy sledding. There are a couple of other good generalists on the period you might try, James McPherson for one and the older Bruce Catton for another. McPherson has written several books on the subject, one of the more interesting being one on Lincoln, not as President but as Commander-in-Chief, which is rather different. You might find it easier to pick a particular battle or campaign and read up on that or research one of the flamboyant characters who richly populated both armies. Looking at a smaller piece might give you the fortitude to come back and tackle a general history of the whole episode. Good luck.
Jan 10, 2011 06:22PM

25350 Rick wrote: "question- I have tried to read Shakespeare many times-and I simply have not been able to grasp him- is there a particular edition that is appropriate for neophytes?

I cannot guarantee success from the following approach, but I would start by avoiding a one-volume Shakespeare (the Riverside edition for example). Instead, I would go for a one-play-per-volume edition. These have more room for introduction and notes. I have a number of the plays in an edition published by Cambridge University Press. I would suggest picking two or three plays and dealing with them first. Try the comedies, As You Like It (my favorite), Much Ado About Nothing, Comedy of Errors, or Taming of the Shrew would be good. The history plays have some wonderful stuff but you would get more out of them if you knew some of the historical background. The tragedies are justifiably considered the peak of his work, but they can be pretty heavy. I have never understood why people start off with Hamlet or Macbeth as their introduction to the Bard. There is an excellent book, whose title I forget at the moment by, I believe, John Blum at Yale which discusses all the plays. Isaac Asimov, of all people, wrote a Guide to Shakespeare including all the plays. And, if you can find it, Edwin A. Abbott (author of Flatland) wrote a Shakespearian grammar. All of this is good, but as others in this group have remarked, plays are meant to be seen and listened to, not read. There is a vendor that claims to offer a video of each and every one of the Bard's plays. Its URL is:

Once you pick a play to work on, get a video and watch it to get the plot and the flavor of the language. Kenneth Branagh has done some pretty good films of Henry V, Hamlet, Much Ado, and As You Like It. There is a stunning Macbeth with Judi Dench and Ian Mackellen. The Olivier Othello, Lear, Merchant of Venice, and Richard III are good but avoid his Hamlet. There is an excellent Hamlet directed by John Gielgud and starring Richard Burton in the title role. Orson Welles never quite got Shakespeare right, though he tried several times, with the exception of his last, The Chimes at Midnight or Falstaff. This is a combination of the two Henry IV's with odd bits of Richard II, Henry V, and the Merry Wives. This is, arguably, the finest Shakespeare film ever made. I believe the BBC has done all, or most, of the plays. I have not seen them but would imagine them to be good, workmanlike productions at least. You might also look at other forms. Shakespeare has been a source for opera and ballet which could be helpful. Above all, be patient. His language is wonderful, but it is four hundred years old. It takes a little getting used to. His plays bear repetition and like a Mozart concerto, a Beethoven symphony, or a Wagner opera, there are things to be discovered on the fifth hearing as well as from the first.

Hope this helps and the best of good luck.
Jan 10, 2011 05:01PM

25350 Shay wrote: "Robin wrote: "Never heard of Lattimore. Elucidate for the uneducated, please?"

Richard Lattimore was a noted translator of Ancient Greek literature, including his superb translation of The Iliad. ..."

I am impressed. Shay, your reply is perfect. I was trying to find the time to phrase an answer. You said it better than I could have managed. Thank you.
Jan 07, 2011 07:38PM

25350 Shay wrote: "Howard, I suggested the Lattimore to someone and they reported that it was hard to find. And, someone told me that the Fagles is more accessible/readable than the Lattimore. I don't think that's true, but the Fagles is another good translation.

I would not quarrel with Fagles. My daughter's prep school used it and it worked well. I agree Lattimore is hard to find if you want to buy it. I had to get my copy used, but it should be available in a library or through inter-library loan. Any reasonably accurate and literate translation will do fine for this or any other ancient classic. I like Lattimore enough to take the trouble to get it but tastes and mileage will vary. It is the story and the characters that ultimately matter.
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