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What are you reading?


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#61 Ray

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 06:20 AM

My list:

Colm Toibin's latest, Mothers and Sons (short stories)
Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian
A. Roger Ekirch's At Day's Close: Night in Times Past (nonfiction)
Cervantes's Don Quixote (in a newly republished ed'n of Tobias Smollet's late 18th-c translation--very witty!)
--and beginning to re-read Mann's Magic Mountain (new translation)

#62 Hans

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 08:06 AM

I haven't kept up with this thread, but I am currently reading Queen Isabella by Alison Weir.

#63 dirac

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:31 AM

I haven't kept up with this thread, but I am currently reading Queen Isabella by Alison Weir.


No need to 'keep up' with it, Hans, we're just glad to hear from you. I haven't read any of Weir's books, although I see her name regularly in the history section of bookstores, so I'd be interested to know what you think.

Ray, your post reminds me that I have a paperback of 'Memoirs of Hadrian' sitting at home - bought it two years ago and haven't yet got round to it. Embarrassing.

#64 bart

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 10:54 AM

Weir is good at what she does, at least it seems to me.

In general, British "popular historians" are trained at the best universities and are quite knowledgeable about locating and using sources critically. I don't think that Weir has that kind of education, but she clearly has been influenced by those who do.

Weir's series of royal women -- Elizabeth I, Henry VIII's 6 wives, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary Queen of Scots -- in some ways parallels the work of the more well-known Antonia Fraser, but Weir is a tighter self-editor and less likely to insert her own prejudices than Fraser, who most recently let her enthusiasm go in her attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Queen Marie Antoinette.

#65 Ray

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:12 AM

[Ray, your post reminds me that I have a paperback of 'Memoirs of Hadrian' sitting at home - bought it two years ago and haven't yet got round to it. Embarrassing.


You won't be disappointed (unless, of course, you're looking for sex. None there, really); interestingly, in the course of my own research I've seen many scholars refer to Yourcenar's work--pretty amazing (she did the translation too). By the way, plug the title into the IMDB--there is actually a Memoirs of Hadrian flim "in production"! We'll see if it ever comes out....... Perhaps Eifman should choreograph the story? ("Spartacus" meets "Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death" :) !)

#66 dirac

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:30 AM


[Ray, your post reminds me that I have a paperback of 'Memoirs of Hadrian' sitting at home - bought it two years ago and haven't yet got round to it. Embarrassing.


You won't be disappointed (unless, of course, you're looking for sex. None there, really); interestingly, in the course of my own research I've seen many scholars refer to Yourcenar's work--pretty amazing (she did the translation too). By the way, plug the title into the IMDB--there is actually a Memoirs of Hadrian flim "in production"! We'll see if it ever comes out....... Perhaps Eifman should choreograph the story? ("Spartacus" meets "Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death" :) !)


Thanks for directing me to the imdb link, Ray - interesting. Boorman is one of those directors who's either terrible or terrific, in my experience. I can't see Banderas as Hadrian, though - maybe the talks will fall through. :)


I haven't gone out of my way to read Weir because so many of her books appear to be retreads of familiar subjects, but I've been known to be wrong. I can't address the Marie Antoinette, not having read it, but Fraser's account of Mary Queen of Scots is excellent - in many respects definitive, unless there's been new research. She is opinionated, but I like that - her opinions are out front where you can see them right off, and it makes for lively reading.

#67 bart

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 12:12 PM

Didn't mean to imply that Fraser is inferior to Weir -- far from it. She's different, but very on top of the sources and issues she writes about.

But Weir has her virtues. I look forward to the Isabella book, especially since Iberian history of that period is so little known over here.

The Fraser Mary Queen of Scots is much richer and more interesting than Weir's more narrowly-focused Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley. Fraser's excellent Cromwell is very dense, very serious, and has little of the glamour reades look for in royal bios. Fraser's work also has the knack of getting used for major and expensive international films.

I was also interested in finding out that Memoirs of Hadrian is "in production". There may be "no sex," but there's the over-the-top relationship with Antinoos, his beautiful Greek boy. The current political climate may not be right for a big-budget movie about that. Although I enjoyed when I read it many years ago, a re-visit several years ago left me disappointed. I much prefer her book about a 16th-century outsider during a time of great religious intolerance and violence: The Abyss in English, but L'Oeuvre au noir in French.

Glad to hear there's a new translation of Magic Mountain. The old Vintage paperback translation is very tough going. But does a new translation mean that I actually might have to finish the book??? :)

#68 Ray

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 12:38 PM

Glad to hear there's a new translation of Magic Mountain. The old Vintage paperback translation is very tough going. But does a new translation mean that I actually might have to finish the book??? :)


Not only Magic Mountain, but Buddenbrooks, Doctor Faustus, and Joseph and His Brothers too! John E. Woods, the adept translator, has been very, very busy.... Of course, you could wait for the John Neumeier versions to come out first :)

#69 bart

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 12:52 PM

Thanks, Ray, for the information, which I'll pursue.

I :) to admit that Buddenbrooks is my favorite -- along with the wonderful stories and maybe Confessions of Felix Krull.

#70 Ray

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 12:57 PM

Thanks, Ray, for the information, which I'll pursue.

I :) to admit that Buddenbrooks is my favorite -- along with the wonderful stories and maybe Confessions of Felix Krull.


I agree absolutely! I hope Woods takes on Krull...

Wasn't there a Masterpiece Theater version of Buddenbrooks once? I can't find it anywhere, but I'm sure I remember the ads for it (I don't remember watching it, for some reason).

#71 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 04:46 PM

Wasn't there a Masterpiece Theater version of Buddenbrooks once? I can't find it anywhere, but I'm sure I remember the ads for it (I don't remember watching it, for some reason).


IMDB has a listing for a 1965 British 7-part miniseries and the 1984 Masterpiece Theater version you're talking about. One of the commenters says it's not on DVD.

#72 Hans

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 06:24 PM

I haven't read much history (except the usual public school textbooks) so I don't have much to compare to, but I love Weir. I've read her Eleanor of Aquitaine; Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley; and The Princes in the Tower. As far as I can tell, she seems to do an excellent job of substantiating her conclusions and presenting them in a very readable way, but I would like to read other well thought-of authors to compare.

Bart, I agree about Fraser's Marie Antoinette. Surely she deserves some sympathy, but I finished the book wondering whether she had been canonized yet.

I really enjoyed Andrea Stuart's The Rose of Martinique about Josephine Bonaparte, but I was not reading it with any sort of prior knowledge or objectivity in mind. However, it was very entertaining. :)

#73 richard53dog

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 07:29 AM

I haven't read much history (except the usual public school textbooks) so I don't have much to compare to, but I love Weir. I've read her Eleanor of Aquitaine; Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley; and The Princes in the Tower. As far as I can tell, she seems to do an excellent job of substantiating her conclusions and presenting them in a very readable way, but I would like to read other well thought-of authors to compare.



I like reading history , bios as well, so I read a lot of historical biographies.


I liked Weir's Eleanor, Mary S, and the Princes so I'll look out for Isabella.


Right now I'm reading Mountains of the Pharaohs by Zahi Hawass

#74 atm711

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 10:06 AM

I read mostly biographies and right now I am two-thirds of the way through Doris Kearns Goodwin "A Team of Rivals" on the presidency of Lincoln.---it is eye-opening to read of his Cabinet---(most of them did not agree with him)---it is a pleasure sometimes to sink back into the past.....

#75 dirac

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 01:39 PM

But Weir has her virtues. I look forward to the Isabella book, especially since Iberian history of that period is so little known over here.


I have the impression that Weir writes chiefly of English monarchs, although I suppose Eleanor of Aquitaine was hardly English, and I'd think the Isabella must be the French Isabella who married Edward II, Hans?


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