Extraordinary depictions of middle-class, middle-aged life in middle America in the middle of the last century. The priestly protagonists could be theExtraordinary depictions of middle-class, middle-aged life in middle America in the middle of the last century. The priestly protagonists could be the grandsons and nephews of George F. Babbitt of Zenith, Ohio, grown a bit more self aware than the old man but still vitally interested in fitting in and competing with their peers, ingratiating themselves to their superiors and keeping the pews filled on Sundays. ...more
I picked up R&J the other day only because I recalled (for some reason) that Tony Tanner, in his "Prefaces to Shakespeare" classified it as a comeI picked up R&J the other day only because I recalled (for some reason) that Tony Tanner, in his "Prefaces to Shakespeare" classified it as a comedy. I reread that preface and wanted to check something he had written. Two hours later I was still reading.
Tanner says that R&J misses by seconds clearly being a comedy--Juliet wakes up from her pseudo-death 27 lines after Romeo drinks the poison and dies. Although it clearly violates the classical definition of comedy--a positive resolution to the protagonist's conflict--and ALL five major characters and dead at the end, R&J contains most of the elements of classical comedy.
This may come through best in the theater when some of Shakespeare's funniest and edgiest lines are spoken by a standard malcontent--Tybalt, a superb clown, Mercutio and the comic bawd, Nurse. There is often a sense of holding back on laughter in the audience as if they are thinking (as I have more than once) "That's funny but they will all be dead in an hour".
"Romeo and Juliet" remains for now my current favorite of the 36 plays, definitely the one I have seen performed on stage most often and possibly read more than any other. And it remains brilliant, heartbreaking and funny. ...more
The pulpiest of pulp fiction resurrected from the early, scratching out a living work of Lawrence Block, it's almost all plot with a dash of soft-coreThe pulpiest of pulp fiction resurrected from the early, scratching out a living work of Lawrence Block, it's almost all plot with a dash of soft-core porn and a protagonist with a bit too much self-awareness. More violence than sex, neither depicted in detail....more
Janet Malcolm takes the title from “Iphigenia at Aulis” by Euripides in which King Agamemnon, leading the Greek army against Troy has been thwarted byJanet Malcolm takes the title from “Iphigenia at Aulis” by Euripides in which King Agamemnon, leading the Greek army against Troy has been thwarted by the winds that refuse to blow, his men cooped up in ships that can’t leave the harbor. Agamemnon has been convinced that the only way that the wind will rise allowing his troopships to sail to Troy is to sacrifice is daughter, Iphigenia”. Iphigenia here is Michelle, the four-year old daughter of Daniel Malakov and Marina Borukhova who are in a fierce post-divorce custody battle. Marina is accused of hiring a cousin by marriage to kill Daniel, who is shot dead while at a playground with his daughter. Michelle is Iphigenia, in this case a child whose welfare is used as a pretext in battles among adults, vicious battles indeed. Everyone hated Marina by the end of the trial as had many judges and court officials who had dealt with her in the custody case. Janet Malcolm seems to think that the evidence of Marina’s guilt was not persuasive, that the trial judge was biased against her (not to mention more interested in starting his vacation on time than seeing justice done or even running a fair and decorous courtroom) and that he clearly favored the prosecution. This last point seemed maddeningly obvious when the judge gave the prosecutor a weekend to prepare his closing argument while Marina’s lawyer had 12 hours.
The real subject of the book, something which Malcolm has approached from slightly different directions in wildly different settings, is the difference between a convincing narration of events accepted as true by courts and the public and that which is true to the participants in the events and, of course to the storyteller—Janet Malcolm. She is brilliant on journalist and journalism having created a lot of enemies in the profession by her ability to cut through the fiction of the objective chronicler simply telling it how it is.
No one is depicted as the way they think they really are. Malcolm’ protagonists, which might seem to be an odd term to use in non-fiction but as accurate as anything could be, are often outraged and feel betrayed by her when the book or article is published, thinking that by opening up to Malcolm they must have convinced her of their innocence/altruism/tolerance when they were actually giving her further insights that led to a depiction of them that outraged them. Malcolm has been sued, threatened, cursed, damned to hell and cut dead by those involved in events she has reported on. Everyone thinks she there for them, to tell their story and set the record straight when what Malcolm is always doing is showing how prejudice, ignorance and fear were much more important to the result of a court case or investigation than anything resembling truth. ...more
In Early Modern England justice was at war with property; property emerged victorious. Christopher Hill asks the questions 'whose law?' and 'whose libIn Early Modern England justice was at war with property; property emerged victorious. Christopher Hill asks the questions 'whose law?' and 'whose liberty?' The loosely structured essays explore a common theme: how the rise of Parliament and the rule of law masked the cold-blooded seizure of power by the upper classes, people who thought liberty was synonymous with property. Paupers faced being whipped out of town. Poor villagers entitled to grazing on common lands became totally dependent on wages when landlords enclosed those acres. The commons helped foster a way of life free of the market and offered insurance against destitution.
The 17th century--here essentially from the death of Elizabeth to the mid-18th century have been described as England's golden age and for most the propertied classes it was golden indeed. Enclosure of commons, fens and forests led to increased production of food, sheep and wool for the clothing industry. Expanding trade led to increased customs revenues which nearly paid for the navy without increasing taxes, a navy necessary for protecting trade routes and making war on (especially) the French and subduing recalcitrant native peoples, all necessary to create the British Empire.
The wealth of the empire was based on slavery and the employment of slave labor in the West Indies and North America and the conquest and exploitation of the Indian sub-continent. It necessitated destruction of customary rights of the poor, with entire villages "depopulated" in the interests of large scale production. These customs were abrogated by acts of Parliament, the representative assembly of the gentry while the poor were "legislated against".
Outlaws, beggars and vagabonds correctly saw the law as the enemy, while what Hill calls "godly nonconformists" felt it their duty to break the law in some circumstances. Only the gentry and the better off merchants were satisfied with the law--about 20 percent of the population, although many historians have treated Parliament as representative of the all the people. It wasn't. The questions that Hill raises are "Who makes the law" and "Liberty for whom to do what". Liberty was for the ruling class to have secure ownership of property and guaranteed opportunities for acquiring more. This required subordination of the lower classes, by force if necessary but more preferably by convincing them that they have as much freedom compatible with the good of society and the will of God. However for the peasantry in the 17th century freedom meant custom, the security of livelihood at a relatively low economic level--the law aimed at turning the masses of peasants off the soil and into wage labor to produce wealth for their employers and their country although not for themselves. Since they were not represented in Parliament laws were tailored to this proletarianization of the countryside.
"Liberty Against the Law" is an excellent book. Hill knew the long seventeenth century as well as anyone--his card catalog was legendary and his work habits daunting to those who disagreed with him. Well worth reading, although it is not a unified history as such but a group of related essays. Hill's strength is as an essayist which comes through on page after page.
I grabbed "White Slave Crusades" from the digital shelf because of my interest in the parallels between the current moral panic regarding women traffiI grabbed "White Slave Crusades" from the digital shelf because of my interest in the parallels between the current moral panic regarding women trafficked into forced prostitution and the similar well orchestrated outrage against the "white slave" trade--white women (always white, of course) coerced into brothels by evil Russian Jews, devious Frenchmen and invidious Italians. They were innocent girls from the country lured into corrupt cities with promises of jobs or marriage only to be thrust into degrading commerce with "the worst mobs of Negroes, whites and Chinese in Chicago's slums".
While sex trafficking of women and boys is a real and continuing problem, it pales in comparison to the widespread and much better documented use of forced, often captive, labor in production of the cheap clothing and food (especially chocolate and the ubiquitous additive palm oil) sold in North America and Europe.
Donovan is one of many academics who have produced books on the white slave trade during the Gilded Age and early 20th century and it may not be the best place to start. Donovan's contribution to the discussion is the addition of race as part of the equation including gender, nativist fear of immigration and the social dislocation brought on by rapid industrialization and migration to the cities.
Good depictions of Christian's losing battle with alcoholism that continued until she stumbled across a controversial but effective in her case methodGood depictions of Christian's losing battle with alcoholism that continued until she stumbled across a controversial but effective in her case method of battling addiction, the Sinclair Method, which combines a drug that blocks the effects of alcohol--you don't feel good (or bad) along with some talk therapy. Recommended for those interested in her career, the story of a B to C level celeb and for those who are looking for something beyond the 12 step programs for dealing with addiction. ...more
This isn’t what one would generally call a book and although is it an article from a scholarly journal the best way to identify “Congress, the CIA, anThis isn’t what one would generally call a book and although is it an article from a scholarly journal the best way to identify “Congress, the CIA, and Guatemala, 1954” might be using the tried and true lit crit, pomo label, “text”. It became the basis or was part of the author’s book “The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story”.
Barrett describes the coup against the democratically elected President, Jacobo Arbenz, and writes that while the CIA and the U.S. ambassador supported and helped plan the coup, delivered money and gave political cover by planting falsehoods in the U.S. press, the real culprits were in Congress and in the upper reaches of the Eisenhower administration including Ike himself. Ambassador John Peuifoy backed and even directed disloyal Guatemalan military leaders in overthrowing the government. The coup was soon acknowledged as an American led operation and even became, in the words of one newspaper article, “one of the CIA’s well-known successes”.
Whichever parts of the U.S. intelligence, diplomatic, military and even industrial establishment were responsible for the 1954 counter-revolution, two issues are indisputable: first, every bit of the planning and action was illegal, breaking laws of the U.S. and the provisions of treaties this country had entered into. Secondly, the dictatorial regimes that followed the coup over the next 50 years were far more repressive then the elected Arbenz government had ever been. They engaged in mass slaughter of peasants during a 36 year civil war, employed death squads for extra-judicial executions of opponents—or even potential opponents—and insured that the needs of American corporations were always served.
The 1954 coup became the model for undermining and destroying Latin American governments considered not sufficiently pro-American during the Cold War. Everyone involved had blood on their hands. ...more
“The Year of Lear” is not an academic book—no aspiring assistant professor shooting for tenure would want to hang his career prospects on it as a firs“The Year of Lear” is not an academic book—no aspiring assistant professor shooting for tenure would want to hang his career prospects on it as a first or even second book. It isn’t about how the academy views Shakespeare’s late works. Shapiro doesn’t attack scholarly rivals nor does he break new ground analyzing the plays. It is, however, a serious book, or at least a book for serious readers who are familiar with “King Lear”, Antony and Cleopatra” and “Macbeth”. Shapiro assumes the reader knows the basics of the religious/political conflicts of the time--Catholic recusancy, Puritan intransigence and Anglican willingness to sanction torture and disemboweling of heretics.
Shakespeare’s response to the chaos that ruled the social and political Stuart world was a burst of sustained creative energy. 1606 was dominated by the foiled Gunpowder Plot and the government response to it. “Lear”, “Macbeth” and “A&C” are focused on regicide, civil strife and anarchy; they have devils, witches and hellfire much in keeping with the Stuart government’s presentation of the plotters as Catholic servants of Satan. . The unease expressed in these tragedies is as much a reaction to government hysteria – the anti-Catholic propaganda, the reprisals and interrogations, the extravagant displays of judicial butchery – as to the actual threat of Catholic terrorism. Government hysteria and blood soaked reprisals were given the sheen of legality by the courts where torture was just another tool used by the prosecution and defendants weren’t allowed to question witnesses.
It is an incredible year of artistic labor, and Shapiro shows how powerfully these plays addressed the political and social upheavals of the time: they “collectively reflect their fraught cultural moment”. As Hamlet had said, in his famous advice to the players, the “purpose of playing” was not only to hold that universal “mirror up to nature”, but also to “show … the very age and body of the time his form and pressure”
Talk of “equivocation” was everywhere in 1606. The word appears just once in Shakespeare before Macbeth, and even then it seems to be a mere synonym for ambiguity. By 1606, it has acquired a more specific meaning, one that Macbeth himself explicates when he says that “I…begin/To doubt th’ equivocation of the fiend,/That lies like truth.” In the early years of James’s reign, the practice of equivocation, of constructing lies that have the appearance of truth, acquired an urgent political currency. The Gunpowder Plot of November 1605, in which a well-organized group of Catholic conspirators installed thirty-six barrels of gunpowder under the chamber where Parliament was to meet, with the aim of killing James, his heir Prince Henry, and the entire government, concentrated royal attention on the threat of Catholic disloyalty.
A particular source of anxiety was the Catholic doctrine of “mental reservation,” which allowed those being questioned under oath to give answers that seemed true even while they withheld the real truth. Shapiro quotes a broadsheet ballad that sums up the accusation against Catholic leaders: “The Pope allows them to equivocate,/The root of their abhorred intents to hide.” That Shakespeare expects the previously arcane word to be widely understood and associated with religious treason is evident from the monologue of the Porter in Macbeth, imagining who might be hammering on the gate as if it were the gate of Hell:
“Knock, knock! Who's there, in the other devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.”
“Macbeth” is so full of equivocal statements by the principals that following the dialog can be mentally exhausting—but exhilarating. The audience must be alert and will still be fooled, as is, for example, Macbeth, by the prophecy of the weird sisters. He feels he is safe in his treachery since “none born of woman/Shall harm Macbeth” and that he will never be vanquished until “Great Birnam Wood” shall come to Dunsinane. Macbeth, master of evasion, ambiguity and mental reservation is done in by his faith in the words of the greatest equivocators, the sisters on the “blasted heath”. ...more