I’m tempted just to give this a 4.5 rating simply because the line about the English Football team sent me into the zo...moreDisclaimer: Read via Netgalley.
I’m tempted just to give this a 4.5 rating simply because the line about the English Football team sent me into the zone of can’t stop cracking up. Fortunately, for non-football (you know, the REAL football) fans, this book has several other things going for it.
You might have heard of John Sutherland. He wrote those question books about literature, like Henry V War Criminal?. The books confront questions in literature and are well worth reading. This book is not like that. It is what it says it is – a short history of literature – written in a very easy to read almost chatty tone. If this book was a course, it would be the type that has a waiting list.
Sutherland starts with the question of what literature is and moves onto to myth. The book ends with a belief look at e-reading, including a very brief look at how fan fiction ties into literature. In many ways, the book is like that sightseeing bus tour that I keep seeing around every single city I go to. Here’s the high points, folks, type of thing. The difference is that while the bus may stop at Ford’s Theater to let people off, Sutherland strongly encourages you to go inside and then points out that you should visit the place across the street, walk a few books to that Chinese restaurant that use to be the boarding house, and plan a trip to Illinois.
It is this aspect that makes the book a joy to read even if you are a long time student or reader of literature. He might be telling you things you already know, but there is such joy in it. Not only that, Sutherland will most likely mention one author or book, even in passing that you haven’t read but now that he’s mentioned it you want to pick it up.
Part of this seems to come from Sutherland’s love of literature, and part of it seems to come from his look at literature related topics. I’ve read a few histories of English literature and this is the only history I’ve seen that actually addresses copyright, movies, ownership, and the reader among other things in chapters as opposed to asides in chapters about Yeats or whoever. Sutherland’s comments, in particular about the development of the reading public and influence of film on literature (or vice versa) are insightful and bring freshness to the style of book. It is like Fahrenheit 451, which Sutherland mentions as a response to the television. This book brings literary histories into the here and now, moving them out of academic circles. Unlike Bloom, this is done with a sense that the reading public is different than the academic reader. Bloom impresses you with his knowledge and ego. Sutherland just wants you to love literature as much as he does.
The book does contain a chapter on race and writing. There is attention to poetry. While feminist writing doesn’t get its own chapter, Sutherland does zero in on the topic not only in the section on Woolf, who gets her own chapter, but also on the Brontes and other women. There is a rather interesting chapter on censorship and another on empire. These make up for the fact that the book is largely English literature centric. At times, it does open up but the writers are pre-dominantly English language writers. At times, short sentences do awhile with a larger story, for example the comment about Wilde and his family. It’s true they were not a large part of his public life, but that wasn’t the only reason why they didn’t join him after his release from jail.
Still, Sutherland’s history is a wonderful history. Absolutely wonderful.
Despite the title, this isn't Old London, but London. The Beatles and Will and Kate make appears. If you know history, you know most if not all of the...moreDespite the title, this isn't Old London, but London. The Beatles and Will and Kate make appears. If you know history, you know most if not all of the stories. The ebook is lavishly illustrated with photos. Over half the ebook is a detailed section of walking tours, making this more of a travel book than a history book.
Still, the writing is good and the pics are nice.(less)
What is it with you and threatening women with death during your wedding? Do you think it is romantic?
Dear Wife of Bath,
You go girl!
Foxes like chickens in all the wrong ways. Just saying.
Dear Mr. Ackroyd, World's Greatest Renassiance Man,
I've read Chaucer in the orignal both Tales and Trolius. I've tried to read various modern translations.
Tried being the operative word.
Yours, I finished. It's wonderful.
In part, this must due to the fact that you are a poet. You keep the poetry of the tales, but since you write in prose, the forced rhymes of translation are non-existent.
But most of it is because you kept Chaucer dirty. You didn't try to clean him up as some other translations do. Therefore we have the line about Alison (in "The Miller's Tale") - She was meant to be f**ked by a prince and wedded to a yeoman. We know precisely what Chaucer means by that. You keep all the dirty words, all the dirty stories. In bringing Chaucer back to the earth, back to the mud, you have re-established his position among the stars for those who do not read Middle English.
The Tales is a group of stories mostly about sex and power between couples. Okay, there are other bits thrown in, but its mainly sex.
And Farting. There is lots of farting.
Little romance though. In fact, the Knight's Tale which should be the most romantic is the most sterile, perhaps Terry Jones has a point about the Knight.(less)
Recently there were some really wonderful reviews written as Literary Celebrity Deathmatches. They are really quite funny, extremely creative, and sho...moreRecently there were some really wonderful reviews written as Literary Celebrity Deathmatches. They are really quite funny, extremely creative, and showcase the vast knowledge and talent that the readers who use this site have.
I have to say, however, they have nothing on Peter Ackroyd.
Take for instance:
On Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon - "I have sat and slept though this novel for five days and words would fail me if logorhoea were not so catching." and "It [Rocket] may have been of such heavy symbolic intent that it went under my head"
On The Decay of the Angel - "This is not writing, this is Barbara Cartland - and Barbara Cartland at least has the courage not to commit hara-kiri over it"
On Ted Hughes - Every time I open Ted Hughes's latest book, there is something about testicles, bone tissue or vomit. It's like watching General Hospital . . . "
Or "Apcolypse Now, in other words, would have been more entertaining as a silent film"
Or, on Faye Dunaway (whom he likes) in Mommie Dearest - "She is Lady Macbeth who cannot find a missing button, Clylemmenstra who has mislaid her bus past",
On Shelley Duvall in The Shining (he likes the actress and the movie - . . . she looks like Bugs Bunny carved out margarine"
On Octopussy - "Roger Moore has grown old in our service (perhaps the film should have been called the Octogenarian"
On Robert Frost"A man who paosed as an American sage while possessing the familial virtures of Caliguila"
Not that Ackroyd is all negative. When he loves, he loves. His review of Victim of the Aurora made me want to pick up that book then and there. His comments on both The Shinning and The Company of Wolves are not only thought provoking and right, but those "yes, that's it" type. Ackroyd is at his best, though, when writing about London, and there are a few beautiful essays about the city in this collection as well as thoughts on some of Ackroyd's own books.
For the American reader, the weakest part has to be the section of television reviews, simply because those shows, with the exception of Eastenders were not shown, at least widely if at all, on American telelvision. Though his comment on a show about homosexual and the sing Tom Robinson - "who has 'come out' so many times on television that he might pull off a major feat of public relations by going back inside again" - were not only funny but raised legitmate points about the media and causes.(less)
Simmons is extremely well read, and the references in this book draw heavily from English literaure, in particular the Romanitics, and especially John Keats.
The story concerns seven pilgrims who are making thier pilgramage in the midst of what might be the beginnings of a interseller war. Along the way, the pilgrims each tell the story of why they are making this journey. Like Chaucer's tales, the stories range in subject matter. There is romance, old fashioned sci-fi adventure, humor. Each one is different in style and tone. There is even horror of the old fashioned type; who doesn't get a thrill of terror when the words vagina dentata appear. (There is apparently an anti-rape device that works in the same way). The most affecting story is that of Sol Weintraub. Heartbreaking.
The characters are well and compassionately drawn. I actually enjoyed Lamia (note the Keats reference) the best. She must be the love child of the Wife of Bath and Miss Piggy.(less)
What is it about Terry Jones? He's not very physically attractive. He's funny; that's true. But there is something very sexy about the way he writes h...moreWhat is it about Terry Jones? He's not very physically attractive. He's funny; that's true. But there is something very sexy about the way he writes history.
Jones makes a good case for the knight being a satire upon English mercenaries who fought in Italy (Sir John Hawkwood got quite a bit of play in Jones' Medieval Lives). The book is factual withouot being dull.(less)
I understand that Ackroyd is trying to present a version or a take of The Canterbury Tales. I love Ackroyd'...moreI would've given this 1.5 stars if I could.
I understand that Ackroyd is trying to present a version or a take of The Canterbury Tales. I love Ackroyd's writing, honestly.
This book proves one thing.
Only Chaucer can write Chaucer.
Ackroyd's tales are somewhat interesting, but dijointed. It feels like the ground is shifting all the time. Ackroyd, at least here, lacks Chaucer's humanism, his dirt, his grime, his humor, his sure touch.
The drawback to this book is a drawbook inherent in most similar projects. If the literary history is too long, it gets boring and feels list like. Pa...moreThe drawback to this book is a drawbook inherent in most similar projects. If the literary history is too long, it gets boring and feels list like. Parts of this book do read like a list, and other parts feel like Schmidt is trying to show off how he himself writes.
The book, however, is also good despite its flaws. Schmidt writes wonderfully when dealing with the Romantics, Transendentalists, and early Victorians. Those chapters are the best in the book, and Schmidt's love for poetry really comes out in that section. The introduction is also wonderfully written, and Schmidt does include a chapter to explain why he includes some authors and not others (I disagree with the absence of Wilde and near absence of Sexton). He also writes, for the most part, in a manner that appeals both to the student of literature and a lover of poet. The book is a good guide and a good starting source for a study of English poetry.(less)
Geoff Chaucer – football hooligan! Well, maybe but somehow it warms my heart to know that badly behaving football fans are a historic tradition in Eng...moreGeoff Chaucer – football hooligan! Well, maybe but somehow it warms my heart to know that badly behaving football fans are a historic tradition in England. It is very fitting that Chaucer might have been one. After all, he writes about farting. Chute deals very well with the historical information though some of her analysis of the tales lack depth. She makes a misstated and calls Emily, Thesus’s sister, instead of sister-in-law. But she does succeed in making Chaucer come alive. The book does at times show an incredible amount of depth and understanding. Nice to read someone who doesn’t presume that Chaucer’s marriage was a bad one. She is especially right about Chaucer’s mocking tone and everyone knows he mocks and yet most critics presume the tone tells about his marriage in a serious vein. Nice to read a different view. But it raises the question, why do people want Chaucer and Shakespeare’s marriages to be unhappy? Would a happy marriage detract from them in some way? In Chaucer there is no proof that the marriage was bad. We presume too much and base theories on the slimmest of fact. The closest I have ever truly seen to an objective view is a critic’s comment about Donne’s marriage. The critic said that the marriage was good and Donne loved his wife, but spent much time at his club because his wife did not do much from his intellect, in addition to the crowded living conditions at home. Does having a bad marriage show a reason for their genius? Is that the reasoning behind the idea? Do except writers to suffer or is it better to suffer then to have a normal life (whatever that is). Chaucer’s life does seem to be refreshingly “normal”, no big major family tragedies or sudden deaths, yet some of his children must have. Do critics sprout off the bad marriage idea in order to compensate for this? If so, what does that say about society? (less)
One of the questions that people ask is why do we still read old books? What's so great about them anyway? My brother asked me this after I was shocke...moreOne of the questions that people ask is why do we still read old books? What's so great about them anyway? My brother asked me this after I was shocked that he hadn't read Canterbury Tales. I undoubtably get the same shocked expression when I hear someone hasn't read over a dozen other things.
So why should we read Canterbury Tales? Well, I suppose the technical answer would be because each tale represents a style or type of writing. The collection is different forms that were popular in the day, making it some type of historical document (at least, according to my local bookstores if their shelving is anything to go by).
Okay, I hear the no name complainer say, that's good for you English people, but I only take English because they make me. Why should I read it?
Because it is the funniest thing in the whole world! You have farting! You think The BFG started it? You're wrong! Chaucer used the funny fart long before. It has sex! There's lots of sex! Everything is having sex! Okay, not everything, but even the chickens. There's chickens! There's marriage! There's love! There's fighting! There's the Wife of Bath! She is awesome. Who doesn't like the Wife? Even Shrek! knows the Wife of Bath. There's the second flood (maybe)! There's a knight, who to believe Terry Jones, isn't as honorable as he thinks he is. See, there is a Monty python connection! There's May/December romance!
Canterbury Tales is one of those works of literature that is going to last simply because it is about the truth. True, you have very dated tales, such as the Nun, but there are also tales that are still current today, that would make good television even. Chaucer, like Shakespeare and Dickens, speaks to the human condition. He shows use that such speaking isn't a late idea, but started well before we think it did.
I also think people should read it aloud so we can all sound like the Swedish Chef.(less)