In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are separated by a disastrous shipwreck. Viola, believing her brother dead
In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are separated by a disastrous shipwreck. Viola, believing her brother dead, finds her way to the court of Duke Orsino in Illyria. There, dressed as a man, she becomes the confidant of the Duke under the name Cesario. Orsino is madly in love with Olivia, a wealthy countess. The duke sends Viola to woo Olivia in his name, but Olivia falls in love with Viola and Viola falls in love with the Duke.
While all the wooing and falling in love is happening, Sir Toby Belch, kinsman to Olivia, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a friend of Sir Toby's and suitor to Olivia, pull a practical joke on Olivia's steward, Malvolio. Maria, Olivia's lady in waiting, forges a letter that she drops where Malvolio will find it. The forged letter convinces the steward that Olivia is in love with him. It instructs him to dress and act in a way guaranteed to annoy the Duchess. Upon doing so, Malvolio is thought to be mad and finds himself confined to the cellar.
Sebastian, rescued by the sea captain Antonio, now arrives in Illyria. Antonio gives Sebastian his purse to use while sightseeing. Antonio cannot go with Sebastian because he is a wanted man in Illyria, and so leaves to find lodging. Meanwhile, Sir Toby decides to prank Sir Andrew, convincing him to challenge Viola/Cesario to a duel over Olivia. Sir Toby conspires to convince both would be combatants that a duel is unavoidable. When the fracas begins, Antonio stumbles in and intervenes, mistaking Viola for Sebastian. Antonio is promptly arrested. He asks Viola for his purse, hoping to pay his way out of his legal troubles, but she of course knows nothing about it. Antonio curses the confused Viola.
Sebastian, while wandering about the city, encounters Olivia. The countess takes him for Viola and bundles him off to the church where they are married in secret. Later, Orsino visits the Countess. When he once again proclaims his love, Olivia reveals the secret marriage to Sebastian. But it Viola in attendance, not Sebastian. Viola denies the marriage, but the priest is called in to verify it. Orsino curses Viola as a betrayer and Viola is finally forced to reveal the truth that she is a woman. Orsino falls in love with Viola. Sebastian returns to the court and is reunited with his sister. Malvolio is freed from the cellar. Everyone agrees that his was badly used, but Malvolio remains angry and stalks off at the end of the play.
I rather enjoyed this play. It is certainly not on the level of Hamlet or King Lear, but it was a delight to read. I would recommend it if you have already read Shakespeare's great plays already, but this is not where I would recommend the new reader of Shakespeare begin.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's newest novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, is about a professor Cass Seltzer. Cass is a professor of psycholog
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's newest novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, is about a professor Cass Seltzer. Cass is a professor of psychology and his field of academic study is the psychology of religion. Cass has written a book, "The Varieties of Religious Illusion", that discusses the novel's eponymous 36 arguments. The book, a best seller, has propelled Cass to fortune and fame. If academic success weren't enough, Cass has garnered the affections of a beautiful mathematician, Lucinda Mandelbaum. Cass, in the midst of this extraordinary luck, feels as though he has been mistakenly given someone else's life.
The novel alternates between Cass' famed present and his past. We learn about his ex-wife, Pascale; his ex-girlfriend, Roz; and his ex-mentor, Professor Klapper; as well as his relationship to Lucinda. Goldstein does a fantastic job of moving events in the past and present forward toward toward a climax. Will things work out with Lucinda? What about Roz, who, retired from an academic career as an anthropologist, has resurfaced in Cass' life? What about Azarya, a child prodigy who must choose between his phenomenal mathematical gift and his duty as the next Rebbe to the Waldeners?
I loved this book. It is everything a novel is supposed to be, an engaging narrative about human life and relationships. It is full of memorable characters: Professor Klapper, Azarya, Pascale, Roz, and Lucinda. The characters are so wonderfully developed I found myself rooting for a particular outcome. I cannot recommend you read this novel enough.
Two Erotic Tales by Pierre Louÿs includes The Songs of Bilitis, which I have already reviewed, and Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the story of Demetrios and
Two Erotic Tales by Pierre Louÿs includes The Songs of Bilitis, which I have already reviewed, and Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the story of Demetrios and Chrysis. Chrysis is a famous courtesan in Alexendria; Demetrios the famous sculptor and lover of the queen. During a chance meeting between the two Demetrios falls in love with Chrysis. But she is disdainful and says she will only bestow her favors upon him if he gets her three gifts. Demetrios must steal a silver mirror from Rhodopis, another famous courtesan; an ivory comb from the wife of the high priest of Alexandria; and the pearl necklace from around the neck of the statue of Aphrodite in the temple. All three are bold crimes which Demetrios commits. After the crimes Demetrios finds that he is indifferent to Chrysis, but she, convinced that his crimes means he loves her, has fallen in love with him. When Demetrios tells Chrysis where he has hidden the three gifts he rejects her loving advances and demands that she put all three gifts on and walk through the middle of Alexandria wearing them. Chrysis, her passion for Demetrios driving her on, does so. She is arrested and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. Demetrios, however, escapes punishment.
Louÿs' poetic language made it a treat to read Aphrodite and The Songs of Bilitis. Aphrodite has more of a narrative; The Songs of Bilitis is a series of prose poems with a looser narrative arc. I really like the plot of Aphrodite. The crimes and their consequences, while horrifying, were riveting. Demetrios' eventual rejection of Chrysis followed by her execution lend the story a sense of tragedy. Aphrodite is a great story, but with its erotic themes, it is not for everyone.
Pierre Louÿs was a nineteenth century French author known for lesbian and classical themes in his writing. His short work The Songs of Bilitis include
Pierre Louÿs was a nineteenth century French author known for lesbian and classical themes in his writing. His short work The Songs of Bilitis includes both of these themes. It is a sensual collection of prose poems that were originally published as translations from the ancient Greek. Louÿs alleged that Bilitis was an actual lesbian poetess from Sapphic antiquity. But this was a hoax; Bilitis and the poems are the creation of Louÿs.
Many of the short prose poems are very beautiful. Some are erotic, but in a subtle rather than graphic or lascivious way. I rather enjoyed the short work. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I read two translations of The Songs of Bilitis. One by Michael Buck published by Capricorn Books in 1966. The other by Mary Hanson Harrison published in 1995 by Evanston Publishing. Buck's translation is more archaic, a thee and thou kind of translation. Harrison's uses more modern language. Both are beautiful in their own way, but Harrison's is often easier to read. Harrison's translation is part of Two Erotic Tales by Pierre Louÿs, which includes The Songs of Bilitis as well as Aphrodite, a better known work by Louÿs.
What can I say about The Old Man and the Sea? It lived up to all the hype I had heard about Ernest Hemingway. The sparse prose, the theme of man again
What can I say about The Old Man and the Sea? It lived up to all the hype I had heard about Ernest Hemingway. The sparse prose, the theme of man against nature, and absolutely brilliant writing. The story is rather minimalist. An old man, fishing in the sea hooks a large marlin. What ensues is an epic battle between the man and the fish. Written so beautifully, Hemingway kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire novella. I know that I am gushing, but really I cannot say much more than brilliant, simply brilliant! If you love literature and you have not read The Old Man and the Sea, do so as soon as possible.