Some lovely passages - loved the creepiness of Alice getting hypnotised - and it'll be useful for comparisons with James and The Scarlet Letter, but fSome lovely passages - loved the creepiness of Alice getting hypnotised - and it'll be useful for comparisons with James and The Scarlet Letter, but fuck me, this was long, boring, and tedious. I think it gave me a headache, and my first thought after I finished was "thank Christ I don't ever have to read that again."...more
Honestly, the main thing that cost this the star was the fact that Crawford describes T.S. Eliot as "Tom." Constantly. Literally on every pag3.5 stars
Honestly, the main thing that cost this the star was the fact that Crawford describes T.S. Eliot as "Tom." Constantly. Literally on every page. Like, that's how he talks about him on every single page. He has some bullshit reason, like making Eliot seem intimate to us or whatever, but this is bullshit because it just seems creepy, distracting, and weirdly voyeuristic, especially when you consider in this period (up to The Waste Land), even Ezra Pound called him "T.S.E.", and the main people who called him Tom were his family and his wife. It is just so distracting, and I'm not sure if this kind of "cosiness" is really the point of biography. I'm not saying it isn't. I'm just saying I'm not sure.
(Incidentally, I saw Eliot's childhood pictures in Kings' archive and it's weird as hell. Baby Eliot looks like a puppet, and his eyes appear - at least to me - to be very out of proportion. He just looks like a very shrunken version of his grownup self and that is weird. Perhaps I shouldn't be lecturing Crawford on overfamiliarity when I got an archivist to show me Eliot's family pictures.)
There's also a tendency towards over-interpretation or clumsy linkings, which would be okay but this book seems somewhat confused as to whether it's a critical book or an autobiography. As an autobiography, it's really very good, but its weird forays into clunking into random bits of young Eliot's poetry often don't flow quite right.
Buuuuut...with all that said -- this book is invaluable to anyone doing an Eliot dissertation/long piece of work, especially if you're focusing on Eliot's early work (as I have this year). If your library doesn't have good resources or whatever, I seriously advise you to invest in this book. You don't necessarily have to listen to some of the stuff Crawford throws into the mix (in fact, I would suggest that you didn't), but the sheer volume of details, fragments, cuttings, and official documentation he's presumably scoured the globe (?) to find is...extraordinary. There's also a fantastic selection of the letters to choose from, if you can't face combing through around 10,000 pages (I'm not even exaggerating that much) of his letters to find the diamonds. So, yeah, do buy, but I would strongly advise you not to listen - but, thanks, Crawford, for the amazing amount of original research and compiling. Saved me this year....more
It's hard for me to compliment something - even something with as many virtues and plainly amazing writing in parts as this - when my first act afterIt's hard for me to compliment something - even something with as many virtues and plainly amazing writing in parts as this - when my first act after reading this is to pull up the Wikipedia summary and think, "Damn, I would've enjoyed this a lot more if I'd read this first."...more
The earlier you read this play, the more I think you'll enjoy it. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I'm no moral guardian - hell, I look at3.5 stars
The earlier you read this play, the more I think you'll enjoy it. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I'm no moral guardian - hell, I look at some of the stuff I used to read when I was 12-ish and shudder - but this isn't the sort of books kids should read, if only because I don't think it's safe for kids to read philosophically about whether it's possible for child molesters to love them (!). What I mean is that there is something so close to convention in its treatment of its dark subject, lean, mean writing, and shocking moments poised to cause shock and discomfort that it seems better suited to those who aren't quite as used to the particular style born out by "issue theatre" (not inherently a bad thing, and, certainly, Harrower comes up with an addictive and almost irresistible play to chew on.)
And, um, this is one of those plays with all the qualities of a Great Play. It's a great great play for student productions thanks to its stripped-down nature - one simple set, two meaty roles (one male, one female), pretty short run-time, edgy but provocative material. It's wonderfully written.
But it's so damn sparse. It annoyed me because of how much it feels like the archetypal Edgy British Play from around this time - told in jagged, disjointed sentences that are sort of a paradoxically stylised vernacular. Revolving around one dark, edgy subject (statutory rape, the repercussions of). There are fascinating subjects floating around it, but ultimately the play itself is focused on being "thought-provoking" that it doesn't actually feel like it tells a story. Fascinating elements are only alluded to in part, such as Una's loneliness as a child, Una's relationships with her parents after the 'truth' about her and Ray's relationship emerges, and the general repercussions on Ray's later relationships. Cliches (if, sadly, cliches with truth in them) like Una's promiscuity are dwelled upon far more than more interesting and complicated subjects such as her capacity for new 'love' and what would make her describe her sexual relationships in detail to her parents (!). Sometimes, this is a play that seems almost to be using all its edgy, dark, and twisted - but beautiful - writing, to sadly go for much more obvious and less daring targets than may first appear.
Still, it's wonderfully written, twisty and dark and sharp. Yet it doesn't really feel ambiguous because it's so short and kind of deliberately underdeveloped - so intent on making you, the reader, think that it doesn't really seem to think anything of its own. The characters exist mostly, intentionally, as archetypes for discussion and contemplation, debate that can never have an answer because Harrower has deliberately provided you with only enough to make you wonder, and not enough to make you decide or choose. Harrower doesn't take a stance on anything. The twists are so damn manipulative that you can pretty much feeling Harrower jabbing at you with the end of his pencil, saying, "Can you handle this yet?" It's so obviously designed to pique the audience's sensibilities, to make them wonder and question, that it's almost irritating. For a play about such a dark, horrible subject, it's also a play that can't make up its own mind - or didn't seem to have one in the first place. ...more
This is just a stunning reworking of Aeschylus's Oresteia. It is exactly what a retelling should be - recognisable, true to the spirit of the originalThis is just a stunning reworking of Aeschylus's Oresteia. It is exactly what a retelling should be - recognisable, true to the spirit of the original, yet profoundly disturbing, haunting, and fresh. It's a little overwrought in places - even taking into consideration the heightened and anachronistic nature of Greek drama - and the ending is disappointing for its abruptness - if only Klytemenestra's speech had been longer. Though I don't doubt that Farber's admiration rests with Elektra, the slave and victim of horrific torture and atrocities from her mother, her truly majestic, beautiful, and unforgettable rhetoric rests with Klytemenestra. Perhaps because Klytemenestra is the only member of the cast not asked to bear any strong moral significance, she is allowed to act and respond in a way that makes her perhaps the greatest (and worst, and most terrifying) Klytemenestra from the modern stage....more
Shakespeare's last tragedy, and arguably one of his worst, possibly because Coriolanus shows flickers of being the best. Unlike the big, bloody, nastyShakespeare's last tragedy, and arguably one of his worst, possibly because Coriolanus shows flickers of being the best. Unlike the big, bloody, nasty Titus Andronicus, there are moments of pure grace and ecstasy in Coriolanus - not least in the portrayal of the man himself: fickle, proud, dangerously out-of-step. The "man vs. ideal" tension that Shakespeare mines for such wonderful drama in Othello is richly present here, especially in the wonderful, challenging ending. I think no other author in the English canon has been capable of making oddness so damn fascinating as Shakespeare.
Yet the play suffers from an absurdly long buildup, full of idiosyncrasies of Roman history and almost bureaucracy. It just takes aaaaaages to go anywhere, dragging its feet through two rebellions, two wars, and several very long and dull Senate scenes. The rare Shakespeare play that made me go, "oh, just get to the point." But when it's on that theme? Sublime, make no mistake. ...more
This is the Diary of a penitent Sinner. We know she was Penitent because she tells Us repeatedly, despite the fact that she continues to Sin with a ReThis is the Diary of a penitent Sinner. We know she was Penitent because she tells Us repeatedly, despite the fact that she continues to Sin with a Reckless abandonment that should be Enjoyable but is not, Really. She essentially Runs around London prostituting herself for Around forty years, and stealing from people, insisting that she feels Bad while showing no evidence of feeling so. There is some Enjoyment to be had in its depiction of the completely Unstoppable "Mrs. Flanders" (not her Real name and, no, Mara Dyer fans, you don't find out what her real Name is, either). Nothing puts a dent in this Woman, whether it's being Seduced, stolen from, forced into marriage, Impregnated, bankrupted, Arrested, caught out in her various misbehaviours. I'm making this sound fun - it's not Fun. It's written Like This, for one, and there are also no paragraph breaks. Or very few. You will wonder if Daniel Defoe's Caps Lock AND his space bar were both Broken, and his creativity and source of literary talent. It's just dull. Somehow a story of a woman who Spends her whole life Cheating people, being cheated, and Spectacularly worming her way out of every single Nightmare that befalls her with a steely determination and only occasional Fainting fits can be dull. I don't understand it Either....more
Frankly, for how often people in this novel write this, the reader themselves may find themselves staring at the 1,400+ tigh4.5 stars
"I cannot go on."
Frankly, for how often people in this novel write this, the reader themselves may find themselves staring at the 1,400+ tightly-packed remaining pages in horror, and thinking, if only you bloody hadn't.
No, I did not read it all. I think my abridgement probably totalled over 1,00 pages though, which, in three days, is not bad. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this once I started. It's a surprisingly modern novel in many ways; though Clarissa may be a perfect, luminous "angel" - aren't many of the eighteenth-century heroines? - Richardson spares no blushes in his totalling of Clarissa's treatment and the novel was bizarrely addictive. It's thrilling in places, Clarissa is no passive fool, and the dialogue sparkles between Clarissa and her best friend, Anna, and particularly Clarissa and the horrible Lovelace, a preening, self-indulgent, narcissistic villain of whom writers of twenty-first century psychological thrillers would be proud. It really does feel like a pioneering classic in places, stretching its use of form and Richardson's talents.
Until it pushes its conceit too far. After the immediate fallout from Lovelace's sexual assault of Clarissa, the novel just seems to run out of steam, a sad thing given that there were still at least 500 pages to go. I read an abridgement of the Penguin edition that my supervisor recommended and, despite missing out chunks of the text, when Belford repented his actions and Clarissa levelled up so completely in sainthood that one could be forgiven for expecting her to suddenly grow wings at any moment, it seemed like I had missed absolutely nothing. (Unlike earlier in the text, where I could tell that I was missing nuances of the plot by skipping letters.)
Nevertheless, I'm giving this one 4 stars because...it's the classic, okay? I enjoyed this one a lot more - and read it a hell of a lot faster - than Richardson's other novel, Pamela, despite the fact that Pamela is about 1/3 of the length (still no mean feat - you will wonder if anybody in the eighteenth century experienced hand cramp.) In many ways, they could almost be two different variants on the same story, both featuring a virtuous young woman being pursued by a rakish and seemingly unreliable potential lover. However, while Pamela is stilted, dry, dull, and slow, Clarissa is dark, mesmerising, and fluent in its sustained skill. Its main dark topic - rape - is handled with a sensitivity, comprehension, and quiet devastation that many modern authors could learn from. Am I really giving 4 stars to a book for it not being Pamela? Yes. Yes, I am....more