"Beowulf is the most important Old English poem and perhaps the most significant single survival from the Anglo-Saxon period.
Though its composition wa"Beowulf is the most important Old English poem and perhaps the most significant single survival from the Anglo-Saxon period.
Though its composition was completed in England in the eighth century, the poem is set in the heroic societies of fifth-century Scandinavia. Against this background of feuding and feasting the hero, Beowulf, kills Grendel and Grendel's mother, but in killing the Dragon is himself killed.
We have here something more than merely a heroic poem of historical interest: Beowulf has a truly epic quality and scope, and this verse translation successfully communicates the poem's artistry and eloquence."
This got bumped up the list in order to have read it before the movie comes out. It was... something I kind of wish I'd read it in school, maybe FYP, because I think I would have gotten more out of it. Things like this, despite not being all that big, are still a little dense, just due to the language, and some help really getting into it might have been nice. I did go back through it with the notes included with the translation, and that helped, but yeah. Actually studying it would have been kind of cool. That's just hard to do when you're doing most of your reading on a bus.
That said, I certainly didn't hate it, although I find the style of storytelling a bit odd. Specifically, the fact that sometimes right in the middle of something else - sometimes even something big and dramatic, like the fight with the dragon - they'll refer back to some past incident, featuring other people, which could be sort of hard to follow sometimes. But of course, one must bear in mind that those listening to this story way back when would have also been familiar with the other stories, and thus would be much less confused. But anyway, I've read it, and am now ready for the movie. Yay me....more
Goethe's most complex and profound work, Faust was the effort of the great poet's entire lifetime. Written over a period of sixty years, it can be reaGoethe's most complex and profound work, Faust was the effort of the great poet's entire lifetime. Written over a period of sixty years, it can be read as a document of Goethe's moral and artistic development. As a drama drawn from an immense variety of cultural and historical material, set in a wealth of poetic and theatrical traditions, it can be read as the story of Western humanity striving restlessly and ruthlessly for progress.
Faust is made available to the English reader in a completely new translation that communicates both its poetic variety and its many levels of tone. The language is present-day English, and Goethe's formal and rhythmic variety is reproduced in all its richness. With stylistic ease the translation conveys both the sense and the tonal range of the German original without recourse to archaisms or to interpretive elaborations.
This was one that I decided to read for the sake of having read it, although I kind of hoped I'd actually enjoy it, too. I kinda didn't, really. The first half was OK, but the second was just so full of allegory and whatnot that you really lose the train of the story of Faust. And sure, maybe I can read it as "the story of Western humanity striving restlessly and ruthlessly for progress," but I didn't really get that from it, either. All I know is that Faust would just disappear for entire acts, during which we'd be introduced to a whole host of mythical and/or historical figures who would come in, say who they were (or not - this play would be even harder to follow onstage than it is on paper.), talk for a few lines, and then make way for the next one. I'm sure it all has a deeper meaning and everything, but I don't get it.
Beyond that, I'm really not too sure what else to say. It's a little difficult when you didn't have a clue what was going on half the time. Some passages were very pretty - I have a particular attachment to the passage where Gretchen is bemoaning her fate while she spins, because there's a gorgeous German song using that text that I'm just waiting for an opportunity to perform.
One other thing I observed is that I have absolutely no idea how on earth one would actually perform this play - especially in the time it was actually written. Nowadays, with enough money, you could probably pull off most of it. But there is some crazy shit in this play. A mountain erupts, people fly all over the place, burst into flames, there are instant set changes... Not to mention the bazillion characters. Even if you doubled, and tripled, and quadrupled, etc, the casting, you'd still need a massive cast. Perhaps it's not really meant to be performed. I'm sure it has been though, at least a few times, and it would be interesting to see.
In any case, it was a slog, but I got through....more
Paradise Lost is one of the greatest epic poems in the English language. It tells the story of the Fall of Man, a tale of immense drama and excitementParadise Lost is one of the greatest epic poems in the English language. It tells the story of the Fall of Man, a tale of immense drama and excitement, of rebellion and treachery, of innocence pitted against corruption, in which God and Satan fight a bitter battle for control of mankind's destiny. The struggle ranges across three worlds - heaven, hell, and earth - as Satan and his band of rebel angels plot their revenge against God. At the centre of the conflict are Adam and Eve, motivated by all too human temptations, but whose ultimate downfall is unyielding love.
Milton's influence has been felt by many writers since, none more so in recent times than the novelist Philip Pullman. His acclaimed trilogy His Dark Materials takes its title from a line in the poem, and the worlds he created for Lyra and Will have entranced readers across generations. His introduction to the poem is a tribute that is both personal and full of insight; his enthusiasm for Milton's language, his skill, and supreme gifts as a storyteller is infectious and instructive. He encourages readers above all to experience the poem for themselves, and surrender to its enchantment.
I have to confess that epic poetry is not really my thing, so I have very little of any great insight to say about this one. I'm sure it's full of delightful symbolism and whatnot, but I just read it superficially, I guess you could say, without delving into much. Which makes this edition probably a good one for me, because that's kind of what Pullman suggests as a first reading of this poem. Just read it - out loud; he insists this is critical - and go back to it after to worry about the deeper layers. I don't think I'll do that, though.
Mostly, I just found the thing a study in rampant sexism. Can't really blame Milton for that, as it was that time period, and, well, the source material he was working with is pretty sexist too, so what can you do, really? Nevertheless, I found it got somewhat tedious to hear over and over how women are ever so pretty, but not too bright, and how all the troubles of humans are the fault of women. Also, I just can't get behind the idea that man is supposed to rule the earth and all its inhabitants. I realize that we essentially do, but I just don't buy that it's divinely-ordained. And even if it is, I really don't think he would have quite meant it the way we seem to have interpreted it.
I will say for it, though, that it was less convoluted and difficult to follow than the last epic poem I read (Faust).
Anyway, I wanted to read it for the sake of having read it, and now I have....more
Fifteenth-century Spain is one of the most enlightened cultures on record - one in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexist within an atmosphere ofFifteenth-century Spain is one of the most enlightened cultures on record - one in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexist within an atmosphere of respect. Then the zealous Queen Isabella enacts policies that put an abrupt end to the peace. Violence, mistrust, and intolerance shadow everyone as the Spanish Inquisition takes shape. In this fear-filled atmosphere, fifteen-year-old scribe Ramon Benveniste must hide the family's secret. They are conversos: Jews converted to Christianity.
One day a young man is delivered to the door. Amir wears the robe and red patch of a Muslim. Soon, both Ramon and Amir are caught up in dramatic events they cannot escape.
This book is very intriguing in premise, as it's all in blank verse. As you know, I'm not a big fan of poetry, but this was OK. What's interesting about it is that it proves that when you tell an author that they can cut more, they can. Seriously, this story was cut to down to the bare minimum, without much description, localization, etc. that normally fills out most books. Each section, most no longer than a page, is just a quick snippet of what the narrator's thoughts are at a given moment. And it's a testament to Little's skills that she's able to do this without ever leaving the reader lost or confused by what's going on. It was very well done.
As for the story itself, it really was a barbaric period in history, made all the more so in contrast to what came just before it. Little did a really good job of telling this story through the eyes of two very small characters, and getting across the overwhelmingness of the situation, and the helplessness of the people before it. I truly felt for these people, even Ramon when he was being an arrogant ass.
I also actually kind of like the fact that it didn't end entirely neatly. There was a satisfying endpoint, but it didn't resolve everything, they didn't get a nice, pat "and then they lived happily ever after" ending, but it wasn't left hopeless, either. It just had the same feeling as the rest of the book: that this was a snippet of these people's lives. There's more to them, obviously, but this is the piece you get, and I liked that.
I think this book makes a great young person's introduction to medieval Spanish history, and the Inquisition, and is an excellent lesson in tolerance and acceptance of other people. Which makes it sound like a dull shlock-fest, but it definitely isn't. Great book. Read it....more
The hubby picked this up a little while ago, and I read through it in bits and pieces. It was an interesting read, giving me an overview of many musicThe hubby picked this up a little while ago, and I read through it in bits and pieces. It was an interesting read, giving me an overview of many musicals I don't actually know. I particularly like that he provides recommendations for recordings of the shows (although of the ones I actually know, I don't agree with all his assessments - especially when he states that the Complete Miss Saigon has no weak links. I personally feel that John on that recording is dreadful.).
I also don't entirely agree with his list of the 100 best musicals. He gets credit for including some more avant-garde and modern selections, and he wins my favour by including just about everything Stephen Sondheim has written to date, but he's also left out some that I think should be on there. Of course right this second, I can't remember which ones, but in any case, surprise surprise. His and my lists wouldn't be identical.
Ultimately, it's a handy little reference book, and Inverne provides some amusing little bits of trivia and anecdotes that make it a pretty entertaining read as well....more