OMG! :) :) :) It's a bright breezy Big Bill Bryson book about Bill!!!!!!!!!! :)
I hope I'm not maligning Bryson more than is strictly speaking necessarOMG! :) :) :) It's a bright breezy Big Bill Bryson book about Bill!!!!!!!!!! :)
I hope I'm not maligning Bryson more than is strictly speaking necessary by saying this feels like a book one could write in a week or three via google. Shakespeare scholarship? He pretty much sweeps the lot aside as being out to lunch. For example, of these lines from Love's Labours Lost:
KING. O paradox! Black is the badge of hell, The hue of dungeons, and the school of night; And beauty's crest becomes the heavens well.
he says 'What exactly he means by 'the school of the night' is really anybody's guess.'
This suggests to me a complete ignorance of the idea of The School of Night which for a period kept some academics in wages and the masses like me entertained. It's a lovely romantic idea that completely fits the period. Indeed, Cambridge University Press saw fit to reissue The School of Night A Study in the Literary Relationships of Sir Walter Ralegh by M. C. Bradbrook as recently as 2011.
I’d been hearing about Megan Dansie for a while, so I was pleased to be able to see her splendid production of Much Ado About Nothing at Adelaide UniI’d been hearing about Megan Dansie for a while, so I was pleased to be able to see her splendid production of Much Ado About Nothing at Adelaide Uni during a recent visit. Talking with her pre-performance, I gained an insight into the setting of Shakespeare out of period. I’d always thought it was to satisfy the creative monsters inside directors, but she made the point – obvious, though I’d never thought about it – that it could be about budget. The trappings of Shakespeare in period cost more and for a small group like hers are out of the question. She had hers set at the end of WWII, the men in uniform, which seemed to me to be neither here nor there, incidentally, in terms of affecting the interpretation of the play.
I was really taken by the depth of acting, no weak points and some marvellous comic performances. It’s a fun play and easy to follow. My mother reminded me in the interval that we first saw it when I was about nine, and I’m the eldest of four.
Söderberg states at the end of this short work that it will probably prove more interesting to him than to others. It is certainly an unsatisfactory bSöderberg states at the end of this short work that it will probably prove more interesting to him than to others. It is certainly an unsatisfactory book from the reader's perspective and this dissatisfaction derives at least in part from the very thing that makes it interesting to the author: as a young writer he started the story and put it away. Much later he came upon it and decided it was worth carrying on with. Consequently it is rather disjointed in tone and subject, rather confusing to this reader until I came upon Söderberg's explanation.
The point of reading this might be as much sociological as literary, it serves to detail much about social life around the late nineteenth century in Sweden. It might also be used as a warning -
In London recently we saw the Almeida Theatre’s interpretation of The Merchant of Venice. Concerned that I hadn’t seen it before, I set out to watch tIn London recently we saw the Almeida Theatre’s interpretation of The Merchant of Venice. Concerned that I hadn’t seen it before, I set out to watch the film version with Pacino and Irons first – half way through there was a hitch in reception and I was happy to abandon the exercise as by then it was clear that this was a straightforward exercise by Shakespeare, background research not needed.
Imagine my surprise, those of you who might also have watched the first half of Pacino’s Shylock and Iron’s Antonio, to discover that this is a comedy. The production in Islington was in a long line of productions that serve to demonstrate the incredible robustness of Shakespeare’s work. It is set in Las Vegas, complete with an Elvis look-a-like performing Elvis songs. Portia is a southern belle, an absolutely hilarious performance with, as the play demands, the capacity to wear an entirely different hat as well.
For one who professes distaste for biography/autobiography, I’ve been reading a lot of it lately. But it was easy to make an exception in this case.
I’For one who professes distaste for biography/autobiography, I’ve been reading a lot of it lately. But it was easy to make an exception in this case.
I’ve read Anton Chekhov’s letters, a form of writing which might distinguish itself from autobiography by being both more honest and of greater literary worth. Letters are, after all – or where when people used to write then, at any rate – small literary gifts. I had a friend who used to send me letters hand-written and tied with a ribbon in a bow. They insisted upon being read in a special place with some degree of devotion. The experience is the very opposite of receiving an email and scanning it while logging onto facebook.
So when I saw this book half-price at The London Review Bookshop, I had to buy it, fully expecting it to add to my reading of Anton’s letters.
The book does not pretend to be more than it is: various pieces published over a period and now cobbled together. If you are expecting the book itself as a whole to be some sort of technical triumph, a remastering of the very idea of The Book, it isn’t. It’s a cobbled together collection of bits and pieces. But what marvellous bits and pieces they are.
Looking at these two works now, one is so struck by the similarities, it is remarkable to consider their differing fates at the time of their appearanLooking at these two works now, one is so struck by the similarities, it is remarkable to consider their differing fates at the time of their appearance. As it happens I finished reading The Awakening the same day as I went to see Strange Interlude, so the points of comparison stood out. Both are American, experimental in form, controversial in content. Continue here:
Finished. What an achievement. Writing it, not reading it.
I marvel that he has written a book with no character for which one could have a shred of s Finished. What an achievement. Writing it, not reading it.
I marvel that he has written a book with no character for which one could have a shred of sympathy and yet somehow we sit there caring what happens. I mean, really caring, reading through breakfast caring.
I kept thinking of The Great Gatsby when Nick says to Jay "They're a rotten crowd...You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." and isn't that what makes the book work, that there is somebody worthy of our caring. But here there isn't one character to redeem the story and yet, even so, even though they are rotten without exception, still Flaubert gets you to care. Amazing.
And then again, I marvel that the book is a complete shambles -
What I really want to do here is an investigation of the missing pizza murder - UK readers will know the one - in Wilkie Collins style. But even if IWhat I really want to do here is an investigation of the missing pizza murder - UK readers will know the one - in Wilkie Collins style. But even if I were good enough to do that, I'd have to read one of the books again because I last read it when I was about eight along with all the other murder mystery stuff of pre WWII.
So if you all could just imagine I'd done a clever parody as, say, Manny would.
I read way too much Victorian stuff when I was little. Girls were always fainting and I would sit in church on Sundays, eyeing the altar boys and deciI read way too much Victorian stuff when I was little. Girls were always fainting and I would sit in church on Sundays, eyeing the altar boys and deciding which one’s arms I was going to faint into. It seemed such a romantic thing to do. On the other hand, the likelihood of ever fainting seemed poor. I didn’t have a clue how or why one would, let alone time it for when a loved one was standing, arms to the ready.
Subsequently, as an adult, I have done so a couple of times and it is nothing like the books make it out to be. Sigh.
The first time was 1994. I’d got up late morning – 1pm, to be exact and when you are a card playing type that IS still morning – smoked a joint and went to the shower – an over the bath affair. I stood there brushing my teeth and it occurred to me that I was going to pass out. ‘Interesting’, I thought, and went on brushing. I know the obvious thing with this warning would have been to sit down in the bath, or get out, but I’m not very good at the obvious. And I did indeed pass out quite directly. Unfortunately I hit my face on the taps on the way down, with a couple of cuts so deep they almost went right through my cheek. Where was the gallant guy who saves you as you faint? On duty somewhere else, I guess. I shakily got myself up and dressed and went down to my local doctor who sewed me up. Romantic it was not.
The second time was last night. No loved one then either, no chivalrous man to save me from myself. What’s the point of fainting if there is no one to save you? I’m doing something wrong here. My timing is shite. But it’s like I suspected when I was little. It was all very well fantasising about fainting into the arms of the cutest altarboy…but it’s all in the timing and how on earth was I going to get that right?
Bugger it. I’m giving up fainting. Consider it a belated New Year’s Eve resolution. ...more
On the matter of sex. What I got out of this book was exactly one thing. That in some parts of Europe at the time, women and men were equal in this reOn the matter of sex. What I got out of this book was exactly one thing. That in some parts of Europe at the time, women and men were equal in this respect: everybody had lovers. It wasn’t something men did to women. This makes scenes that might otherwise be repugnant resonate with eroticism. Perhaps the equality is merely in the minds of men – but Stendhal is a realist and so I doubt that. An expert in the area might demolish my illusions, however….though I’m not sure I want you to, if you are reading this.
In Chapter 3, two of Stendhal’s friends decide to cheer him up by taking him to see a courtesan.
Alexandrine appeared and surpassed all expectations. She was a tall and slim girl of seventeen or eighteen, already mature….she was quiet and gentle but not at all shy, fairly gay and not unseemly in her behaviour. My friends’ eyes goggled at the sight of her. Lussinge offered a glass of champagne, which she refused, and disappeared with her. Mme Petit introduced us to the two other girls who weren’t bad but we told her that she herself was prettier…..Poitevin took her off. After a dreadfully long interval, a very pale Lussinge returned.
---Your turn, Beyle [ie Stendhal:], they cried. You’ve just come home; it’s your privilege. [not at all sure why getting to go second is special:]
I found Alexandrine on a bed, a little wan, almost in the costume and in the exact position of Titian’s Duchess of Urbino.
---Let’s just talk for ten minutes, she said in a lively way. I’m a bit tired, let’s chat. My young blood will flare up again soon.
She was adorable, I perhaps had never seen anyone prettier. There wasn’t too much licentiousness about her except in the eyes which gradually became suggestively animated and full (you could say) of passion.
I failed entirely with her; it was a complete fiasco. So I had to rely on a substitute which she submitted to. Not quite knowing what to do, I wanted to try this manual expedient again, but she refused. She seemed astonished. Considering my situation, I said several quite good things and then went out.
Of course, I had to hurry off to Google to look up Titian’s Duchess of Urbino. What was she wearing?
I should have guessed….
That’s what she’s wearing.
It turns out that this picture is a matter of great controversy – nothing to do with whether you like her outfit, by the way. Mark Twain said of it:
You enter [the Uffizi:] and proceed to that most-visited little gallery that exists in the world --the Tribune-- and there, against the wall, without obstructing rap or leaf, you may look your fill upon the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses -- Titian's Venus. It isn't that she is naked and stretched out on a bed --no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude there would be a fine howl --but there the Venus lies for anybody to gloat over that wants to --and there she has a right to lie, for she is a work of art, and art has its privileges. I saw a young girl stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gazing long and absorbedly at her, I saw aged infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest. How I should like to describe her --just to see what a holy indignation I could stir up in the world...yet the world is willing to let its sons and its daughters and itself look at Titian's beast, but won't stand a description of it in words....There are pictures of nude women which suggest no impure thought -- I am well aware of that. I am not railing at such. What I am trying to emphasize is the fact that Titian's Venus is very far from being one of that sort. Without any question it was painted for a bagnio and it was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong. In truth, it is a trifle too strong for any place but a public art gallery.
What Twain is saying here, in Tramp Abroad I think, is that if you wrote this picture in words – it would be obscene rather than erotic. Indeed, it has been referred to as the masturbating Venus…so you see what I mean. Interesting in this context, that Stendhal, whether intuitively or consciously knew that to be the case, and thus refers to Alexandrine in this most sexy way without any sex in his language whatsoever. A mere reference to a painting says it all. I’m completely ignorant of art, but I expect back then educated people reading this book would have understood the reference immediately…indeed, maybe everybody else does!
But permit the matter to be more complex. Is it not fair to say that although in this case the exquisitely erotic painting of the Duchess/Venus looking directly as us, her invited lover, hard nipples, touching herself, does the job no words would, to Twain’s chagrin; at the same time, one could readily imagine a tacky picture rendered delicate via choice words. Tit for tat – if you will forgive me putting it this way? ...more
Such was the power of Svengali to mesmerise the world that his name became a word. In brief he takes a tone-deaf girl and turns her into a great diva,Such was the power of Svengali to mesmerise the world that his name became a word. In brief he takes a tone-deaf girl and turns her into a great diva, as long as she is hypnotised before she sings. Alas at one performance he is incapacitated and as Trilby tries to sing, but cannot - to the disgust of the audience – she is in a strange situation where she is aware of her life with Svengali but has no conception at all of her singing career. In fact this is not exactly how hypnotism works, but never mind that, the idea is fascinating.
If you’d asked me I would have thought the most likely reasons people want to be hypnotised is to give up smoking and to lose weight. Not so! The most asked for thing is this – can I be hypnotised to forget a person?
The uneasy reply is somewhere between a reluctant ‘yes’ and ‘this isn’t the right thing to do.’ What the experts want you to do, apparently, is trash the person you want to forget. There seems here to be a presumption that if you do want to forget them, they deserve to be trashed – ie it isn’t an artificial construct to get you over somebody who doesn’t deserve to be thus treated in your head. So, my first question is, but what if you don’t think that? I know the answer is supposed to be that you are a sucker who hasn’t gotten over a bad person in your life, but that can’t possibly always be true. Must there not also be some chance that this is a fabulously wonderful person and that trashing them as being undeserving in some way is a terrible thing to do? I find it hard to believe this is seen as the healthy option. If it comes down to it, maybe you are a scumbag and he isn’t.
My next question revolves around the idea that you have been hypnotised to forget a person and this has worked. How has it worked? If you forget a person successfully, what impact does this have on the rest of your memories? A person isn’t a discrete unit. He is time and space, sensation, touch, sound, he has a context, a background, he is part of a social setting. You went to dinner with this person and had the most divine meal. What impact does hypnosis to forget the person have on the memory of the meal? Instead of a picture in your head of some wonderful romantic occasion where you shared spaghetti together, you have what? The same picture, but your lover is erased? It is just you and a plate of spaghetti? Is there an empty chair next to you? Has the waiter filled two water glasses? Does the other fork move, but there is nobody attached to it???? Most importantly, do you get more spaghetti in this changed memory than you did on the real occasion? How much is erased with the memory of the person?
Maybe you can do that, I imagine. Maybe the mind’s eye picture of this whole occasion is erased. But add to this, a social setting, for example. Now there are three of you at dinner. How does the removal of one person from the memory of this work? You recall person ‘a’ asking a question but there is no answer because you have erased the memory of person ‘b’ to whom the question was addressed? I can’t see that in forgetting the required person, you would also forget the innnocent bystander, so to speak.
And there are the things that will be fundamentally imprinted on you, in a way spaghetti might not be. (MIGHT not, mark you…) How would you forget the way you made love, slept, woke up? And even if you forgot in a passive sense, surely you would be reminded of them by – well, it could be anything. Putting out the washing and noticing that a cardigan has been undone that isn’t usually and there is a whole memory attached to that. How it was taken off, what happened next. You are made love to exquisitely. It involves all of him, he is completely joined to you. What happens to that? Does it become an Immaculate Orgasm?
Note to self: discuss this with the VM next time in church, maybe she knows. Hey, though. That makes me think. Maybe this is exactly what happened. She shagged someone who was a bad ‘un, a couple of sessions with a hypnotherapist and voila, the Immaculate Conception. ...more
I don't understand why anybody would be surprised that this guy could be a Nazi.
Super easy to read, a few hours, no more. The guy understood that a onI don't understand why anybody would be surprised that this guy could be a Nazi.
Super easy to read, a few hours, no more. The guy understood that a one-idea book with no plot has to be short. I don't mean that to be deprecating. It's gripping, on the edge-of-your-seat-stuff. Well, I read it on the bed, lying down, but....more
Frayn is on record as regretting his fate - to be an all-rounder inspired in limitless ways. If he were only a translator or columnist, only a novelisFrayn is on record as regretting his fate - to be an all-rounder inspired in limitless ways. If he were only a translator or columnist, only a novelist or philosopher, only a playwright his talents in any of these would see him more highly regarded than he is today for being wonderful at all of them. He would make more money too. If only he lived in a period where a man was admired for talent that went in many directions, instead of in a period in which specialisation is worshipped and we view with suspicion those who are constitutionally unable to live the narrow life, or think the narrow thoughts, that result from specialisation.
This collection of writings about his theatre work, both his own plays and his translations, being a renowned Chekhov translator in particular, spans his career from the very beginning. And I do mean very beginning, with hilariously charming accounts of his productions as a small boy in which he took on all roles - writer, producer, set designer and maker, cast maker in the case of his puppets. The diversity is astonishing, from his discussions of the difficulties in developing his farces to a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the history that inspired one of my favorites, Copenhagen. Throughout, however, two things stood out for me.