I just finished reading this play for what I think was the third time. It's a very elusive play, and I only started to apprehend it on my second readiI just finished reading this play for what I think was the third time. It's a very elusive play, and I only started to apprehend it on my second reading. Its vocabulary is obscure, its characters are terse and changeable, and the passage of time is more abrupt and dreamlike than in any of Shakespeare's plays.
But the more I read this play, the more diverse and lively it seems. Only upon this third reading did I gain a feeling for the absolute loveliness of the Duchess and Antonio's initial love scene, a completely unperverted and sad-sweet episode of star-crossed romance.
The characters in general are quite good. The Duchess is all stony resilience and brave, quiet rebellion; her damning critique of the brutal world around her is to see it take her own life, and the world seems very cold and rash in doing so. (Perhaps something of an overstatement. The Duchess has moments of teasing and fun girlish flirtiness which seem essential to the character, though they may go unnoticed in a less nuanced appraisal of the play.)
Ferdinand, who I once admired for the otherworldliness of his vampiric sadism, seems to me more boyish, pathetic, and weak each time I review him. But isn't that the story of the real-world sadist?
I hazard to say, though, that the chief triumph of characterization is Daniel de Bosola, who can easily be included on the short list of the greatest characters in renaissance drama. Once a choleric and uncritical "intelligencer," he finds his moods of sadism and his coldness of blood are sloughing off him like an old hide. The monstrosities around him wake him up to a new world, and turn him into the most melancholy of men, who sees that no good can be done for the blasted mortal plane other than to weep for it. His changeling style of social conduct makes him seem like an Iago, while his cramped and neurotic style of speech is like that of Shylock's, but he shares his sharp, blisteringly sad moments of lucid clarity with Prince Hamlet.
What can he say upon the cruel and untimely death of the Duchess?
I wish I could give this a 4.5, because it's (at least structurally) inferior to the finely-plotted Part 1. But Falstaff's delightful world is given fI wish I could give this a 4.5, because it's (at least structurally) inferior to the finely-plotted Part 1. But Falstaff's delightful world is given full breadth here, and that counts for a lot. Ancient Pistol and Robert Shallow are utter joys to behold, though I feel Doll Tearsheet deserves more development than she received.
The cost of these wonderful supporting characters? Henry IV is hardly in this play. Whoops....more
With all this darkness around me I feel less alone. (Pause.) In a way. (Pause.) I love to get up and move about in it, then back here to . . . (hesitaWith all this darkness around me I feel less alone. (Pause.) In a way. (Pause.) I love to get up and move about in it, then back here to . . . (hesitates) . . . me. (pause.) Krapp.
What can we do but sit in the dark and use mild expletives, which at once are our own names? In the purest sense of the phrase, this is a work of genius....more
In Rilke there is the last ember of romanticism, shown in his reverence of nature, his wealth of compassion and his love of quiet reflection. And hisIn Rilke there is the last ember of romanticism, shown in his reverence of nature, his wealth of compassion and his love of quiet reflection. And his goodwill for the world! Truly a humanitarian.
Ballard poses a fairly orthodox story, a"And I awoke into the war I knew I must wage for all eternity." -William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night.
Ballard poses a fairly orthodox story, at least for an adherent of Beckett’s school; a man is stranded by an automobile crash and must survive, injured and disconnected from society, like a pathetically modern Crusoe. With this glimmer alone the novel could have been angry drek, the ranting of a lesser Palahniuk, but Ballard applies excellent craft, and I don’t think any writer could have used the material as well as he did. He pulls emotive strings with the slightest turn of language. I feared I would become nauseous as the delirious Maitland limped into rush-hour traffic, waving his arms in a symbol of S.O.S. and predictably getting hit. In a similar vein, I’ll never look at a soggy, discarded chicken sandwich the same way again. With a nearly subliminal agency, Ballard toys with the heart in a manner both effortless and gravely effective.
Great craft is found in his manipulation of subtle shifts in tone. Bloated, pussy Maitland is a truly pathetic creature, with his inoperable limbs and his miraculous excitement initiated by discarded food items. His dismal states make his moments of triumph very sweet, to where the reader may forget that he’s rejoicing over Maitland’s sluice of gooey restaurant giblets. The novel’s most striking symbol, the tall fronds of neglected island grass, shows Ballard’s talent for tone in spades. Early on, they’re a hindrance to Maitland, and a reminder of how godforsaken his position is, but as he gains strength Maitland begins to love the gentle, windswept waves of the green ocean and even finds some perverse, anthropomorphic affinity with them (no wonder Ballard is sometimes compared to Max Ernst). The author’s skill in exploring the cerebral world of changed perspectives and shaky convictions matches that of the genre’s more renowned practitioners, Kafka and Borges.
Concrete Island is precious and vital, like the shards of automobile fiberglass lodged into the flesh of so many deranged Ballardian heroes. It closes with Maitland resolving to leave the island on his own terms, once his leg is healthy and he needn’t rely on anyone else. Of course, that says much more about you and me than it does of Maitland....more
Burroughs seemed to have been ruminating on Shakepeare's old cliche about all the world being a stage when he wrote this. It's thick with fourth-wallBurroughs seemed to have been ruminating on Shakepeare's old cliche about all the world being a stage when he wrote this. It's thick with fourth-wall breaks, metafiction, false openings (not to mention entire false sideplots), imagery from theater, time travel and reincarnation. Discombobulated, sure, but I wouldn't give the experience back for this world or any other.
Fun fact: This is the work that gave us the "thermal jockstrap"....more
There's real wisdom in this novel, like when Hank sarcastically adopts Nazism in college just to have allegiance to something, but what's most strikinThere's real wisdom in this novel, like when Hank sarcastically adopts Nazism in college just to have allegiance to something, but what's most striking about it is that it's a Beckettian study of a personal failure.
It's not a typical bildungsroman; Bukowski portrays the young man's life to show how the old man became the way he was. Young Chinaski/Bukowski comes from an impoverished childhood with no father figure, loads of sexual frustration, an unsupportive group of friends and an early reliance on alcohol. The novel's function is to show how failings in childhood can create a failure of an adult. Bukowski did not think of himself as a physically strong person, and his surrogate in Ham on Rye is constantly walking away from battles and lying to himself to conceal weaknesses.
At its core, this book is pessimistic as hell, but it's conceived with such a seedy grace that it's hard to not strike a macho pose and read it with an eager participation....more
It was the beginning of my junior year in boarding school, and during the previous summer I had seen many of my friends leave the school. I, already pIt was the beginning of my junior year in boarding school, and during the previous summer I had seen many of my friends leave the school. I, already prone to depression, took the change horribly, and seeing dozens of eager and attractive new students join the small school in their place did nothing to alleviate my sadness. Out of everyone I knew, it was Frank O'Hara who provided me the most comforting companionship during that autumn and winter.
Through his poetry and prose works which showed a wit, intelligence, determination and, most importantly, a genuine love for all people, I was able to bask in my selfish and silly depression without having it come to any serious end. Many post-romantic writers have written on the honest portrayal of emotions, the genuine expression of sentiment without the loss of tasteful literary craft. Of all the cottony old men who dispense this dogma, O'Hara is to my taste the only one to carry through with his promise. His verse is like some vast diary, rich with deeply felt emotions welled from a lifetime of rumination.
The poems are, of course, intensely personal. From his poems about his many hometowns, to his early sexual experiences, to his artist friends and favorite writers, it's in this volume especially that O'Hara seems to spill his heart out, and the effect is humbling. By his poems from 1952 (the French Zen period, as John Ashbery called it) I felt a connectedness and empathy with Frank that I had never felt (nor expected to ever feel) with an author before.
Scott Fitzgerald called Three Lives "a new realism", but I think this is where the praise should rightfully have gone. The Counterfeiters is exceedingScott Fitzgerald called Three Lives "a new realism", but I think this is where the praise should rightfully have gone. The Counterfeiters is exceedingly modern, with no real plot aside from its lazy, meandering course through the tremulous lives of a few Paris elite. And although this may seem to contradict what I've just written, it's never quite so far from fantasy, either; look at Bernard's 'wrestling match' with the angel, or Gide's characteristic fairy tale narration.
My favorite scene? The night of the Argonaut's dinner. Olivier is in Edouard's arms. Edouard: "You've had quite a night. It's time to go to sleep." Olivier: "I cannot go to sleep as long as I'm in your arms." Gide: "And so they stayed up all night." It's goofy, but it gives me chills....more