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Ed Waffle

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  1. I have long enjoyed novels by UK authors which center on crime and police. Generally they are also murder mysteries but often focus on the life including the interior and family life of the police officer who solves the crime and who (generally but not always with a subordinate partner) is in each of the series of books. Unfortunately many of the series are coming to an end, one way or another: P.D. James Commander Adam Dalgliesh is still tasked with solving murders but James (Baroness James of Holland Park) is 89 years old and may not have that many more books left to write. Dalgliesh was introduced in "Cover Her Face", 1962. Ruth Rendell Chief Inspector Reg Wexford and his long time partner Inspector Mike Burden continue to bring murderers to justice in Kingsmarkham, Sussex. They began as Inspector and Sargeant in "From Doon with Death", 1964. Rendell (Baroness Rendell of Babergh) is 80 years old and has said that she is not killing Wexford off. Which means she may be. Ian Rankin Detective Inspector John Rebus of the Lothian and Borders police, headquartered in Edinburgh has retired. Rankin hasn't ruled out bringing him back in a private capacity but this one looks to be over. Colin Dexter Chief Inspector Morse will not be coming back since his author killed him off--heart failure and diabetes--in "The Remorseful Day", allowing crime to run rampant in Lonsdale College, Oxford and the seedier areas of Soho. Reginald Hill Dalziel and Pascoe have aged with Andy Dalziel barely surviving "The Death of the Fat Man". Peter Pascoe and DS Edgar Wield could carry on. There are others: Bartholomew Gill has created a large team of detectives to support his protagonist Peter McGarr, head of the murder squad of the Dublin Garda; Peter Robinson has Inspector Alan Banks solving murders in Eastvale, North Yorkshire; Val McDermid has clinical psychologist Dr Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan solving murders that need the a criminal profiler. I enjoyed earlier books by Elizabeth George (who lives in California) more than her recent ones. She seems to have lost control of the characters. Killing off Inspector Lynley's wife didn't work and marooning Simon St. James on Guernsey for over 500 pages was a mistake. I have read most the Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) novels of suspense (the "non-Wexford" novels--they are excellent. Any suggestions from those who have read some/all of the above authors and also some I haven't mentioned? It looks like the snow is finally starting in earnest here in Motown and I would like to get a small stack of mysteries for some hoped for snowed in days.
  2. I read "Franny and Zooey" and the two novellas "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" and "Seymour", the last two in one volume, about 40 years ago when a woman I was interested in told me she was amazed that I hadn't read them. I can still recall a few passages from them (or at least para-paraphrases) since I was at the stage of hoovering up as many books in as short a time as possible and things seem to stick in one's brain under those conditions. He is not an author I have really thought of since then and haven't read any of his short stories in "The New Yorker". There will probably be another chance to miss them soon if a "Collected Stories" comes out although he may be able to stop that publishing event from beyond the grave. I was sad to see that Zinn had died. "A People's History..." is a wonderful example of history from below. Zinn is one of the last real public intellectuals in the United States who was personally involved in struggles from desegregation in the South to ending the war in Vietnam--Zinn, Chomsky, William Sloane Coffin, perhaps one could include Leonard Bernstein. To some extent one can judge a person of Zinn' prominence by his enemies, which included many of the leading historians of day, particularly those with star power and close connections to power. He will be missed.
  3. For Christmas--although bit late with this "Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems" Claire Tomalin's biography of Hardy. "At the Hong Kong Movies: 1988 to the Handover" Paul Fonoroff "Stardom, Italian Style" Marcia Landry
  4. (emphasis added)I look forward to reading any discussion of this amazing study--particularly the third one, "The Third Reich at War". It may be that I am simply too old or have read too much Holocaust literature over the years but Evans methodical and ultimately shattering account of the Final Solution as the Wermacht moved east was simply too much concentrated evil for me to continue reading. When I caught myself flipping through the index to find passages that described the destruction of German cities toward the end of the war in Europe--Marshall Zhukov lining up thousands of pieces of artillery wheel to wheel before beginning the final bombardment of Berlin for example--I realized that this was simply the wrong book at the wrong time at least for me. Which is not to criticize Evans in any way--he seems know more than anyone about Europe, 1933 to 1945 and the reviewers of the entire trilogy or individual books wore out the thesarus in coming up with new ways to praise them.
  5. Wow--an amazing book. Going to the Yale University Press website on can preview quite a few pages from this book. Yale/Crivelli Extremely detailed discussions of the paintings and since you have seen many of the original works perhaps even more meaningful. Looks like the work of a lifetime for Ronald Lightbrown.
  6. No Laughing Matter: The life & Times of Flann O'Brien by Anthony Cronin. Cronin is a sympathetic by not sycophantic biographer. He is well situated--a friend of Flann O'Brien from their days at University College, Dublin, a member of the Irish literary establishment who has done what O'Brien always desired--made a good living from writing. O'Brien's story is not a happy one as depicted by Cronin. He supported his widowed mother and his many siblings (including a couple of of older brothers) from the time his father died, joined the Civil Service and over time rose to senior status. He married late--not unusual in Ireland and began his own family. He spent much of his free time, along with an increasing amount of time for which he was paid by the Civil Service) in various literary pubs around Dublin. He was a serious, committed alcoholic in a time and place where that was less of a handicap than it is now. Ireland was a European backwater during O'Brien's life. They were neutral during World War II--monstrous as that may seem in retrospect it made a certain amount of sense given the revulsion felt toward England and the Empire--and were kept out of the United Nations until 1956. Its social and, to a great extent, cultural life was dictated by the Roman Catholic Church. Those great Irish writers of the past century or so: Wilde, Shaw, Joyce, Beckett, Yeats were known as exiles or at least expatriates. For a writer, it seemed, Ireland was a good place to be from. Cronin not only knows his subject but writes very well. He is given to the occasional outlandish statement, for example "Like most Irish Catholics of his generation he was a medieval Thomist in his attitude toward many things, including scientific speculation and discovery," although Cronin goes on to explain how a very Irish form of the thought of Aquinas was transmitted through the Irish Christian Brothers. While not a "life and works", Cronin does a very good job of summarizing and commenting on Flann O'Brien's novels.
  7. vagansmom wrote: What did you think of "At Swim, Two Boys"? I had it in my hand the other day at Barnes and Noble then decided not to get it because I had already selected a stack of books. The back cover copy sounded intriguing, as did the brief author's biography--working as a night porter at a London psychiatric institution for ten years while working on the book.
  8. I ask because I have been reading him recently, having picked up the Everyman's Library edition of his complete novels, the five of which only total about 800 pages. He is wonderful. Very funny--the more one knows about Ireland and the Irish the more hilarious his work becomes but it is hardly necessary to have even heard of Ireland to enjoy his writing. "At Swim-To-Birds" may be the first post-modern novel (unless one counts "Tristam Shandy"). This is from a NYRB review by Fintan O'Toole: "It is a book by a man (Brian O'Nolan) who invents an author (Flann O'Brien) who is writing a book about an unnamed student narrator who is writing a book about a man (Dermot Trellis) who is writing a book. The narrator openly declares that "a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham" and that "the modern novel should be largely a work of reference," since virtually all characters have already been invented. Its governing caprice is that fictional characters do in fact already exist, have independent lives, and are capable of revolting against the author who seeks to deploy them." I was reminded of "Molloy" by Samuel Beckett while reading "At Swim" although probably because I expected or even wanted O'Brien to be linked to one of the certified recent geniuses of Irish letters--O'Brien doesn't need any validation other than his work, though. In "The Poor Mouth", which is a commentary on and vicious satire of the movement that romanticized the Gaels of western Ireland--people who were desperately poor and who would stay that way because they remained an agrarian, non-English speaking remnant of a golden age of Gaelic language and culture that may never have existed. The Gaels live with swine in their huts, it rains constantly and potatoes are boiled and served at seemingly every meal. (One of the insults that I recall my parents and their parents using toward “those other people” was “pig in the parlor Irish” which finally made sense while reading “The Poor Mouth”). The narrator and his family live in a "small, unhealthy, lime-white house, situated at the corner of the glen” because all true Gaels live in such a house. “If there were a hundred corners in all that glen, there was a small, lime-white cabin nestling in each one”. At seven years old he goes off to school where the master asks “Phwat is yer nam?”. When he realizes that “Your name he wants”, our protagonist begins “Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen...” and on for a few lines. But before he has even “half-uttered” his name, he is smashed on the head by the master who is wielding a large oar. As he loses consciousness he can hear the master scream: “Yer nam is Jams O’Donnell!”. It turns out that all the young Gaelic men are called Jams O’Donnell by English speakers.. O’Brien is completely scornful of those who celebrate the backward Gaels including a man from Dublin who arrives with a gramophone to record the speech of the locals. He has no success until he accidentally winds up recording the “speech” of a pig dressed as a man. This gentleman then takes his recording to Berlin, where he is given a “fine academic degree”. I am reading “The Poor Mouth” which is subtitled “A Bad Story About the Hard Life” now and trying to read it slowly since it is a short book and full of delight on every page. I don’t want it to end.
  9. Have you visited the mild insanity of Fforde's website? Don't miss The Wonderful World of Toast. Thanks for mentioning his website--I hadn't visited it quite a while. The Toast Marketing Board is a very hard working bunch. And don't miss the SpecOps site. "SpecOps--Your guardians now, then, forever."
  10. Natalia Makarova, the Divine Miss NM. First full length ballet I saw was in the Auditiorium Theater in Chicago, 1973 or 1974. Makarova and Ivan Nagy (a late subsititute) in Swan Lake. She killed the audience dead. I could barely believe what I was seeing and was hooked.
  11. Nice to meet another Fforde fan Now I'm going to start soon "The big over easy" (by Fforde too) in the "nursery crimes" series. I'm reading it in English (it hasn't been translated into French yet), but am a bit afraid of missing many of the puns and references... I miss many of the references since I read Fforde pretty quickly but even getting just the obvious ones means that they are still quite funny. One of the joys of reading the series is the way he will mention that seems extraneous to the present action while while developing the plot. One example, and I can't recall which book, was when a veteran LitTec operative recalled the theft of all the humor from the novels of Thomas Hardy, a crime that had never been solved. Apparently there were parts of Hardy's Wessex that were as gently funny as the country houses where Bertie and Jeeves vacationed in P. G. Wodehouse. Goliath Corp. agents were suspected of the big robberty but it could also have been the work of a free lance literary footpad...
  12. The Criterion Classics release of “Tales of Hoffman” is a wonder. It has gotten the usual Criterion treatment, with impeccable color timing and balance and ultra-sharp restoration, so that when Hoffmann is shown with a fuchsia wig in the “Olympia” act the viewer knows that Robert Rounseville lost that particular argument and wore the odd wig. There wasn’t much effort to have those appearing on camera lip-synch with the soundtrack, a good decision by Powell and Pressburger. As noted already Moira Shearer was terrific as both Stella and Olympia, clearly knowing the ins and outs of dancing on a sound stage. Ludmilla Tcherina had little to do other than look dangerously beautiful which she carried off perfectly. Nicklaus is a role that a good singer/actor (or in this case, a good singer and a good actor) can do a lot with. Pamela Brown interpreted Nicklaus as rueful, knowing, long-suffering and always quick to help Hoffmann out of a jam even though he wouldn’t have been in the trouble in the first place if he had listened to his friend. Nicklaus was sung by the vocal star of the production, Monica Sinclair who was at the beginning of a long and distinguished international career. Robert Helpmann almost stole the show as the four villains. Amazing acting and he moves with such elegant grace it is breathtaking. He gave us a hint in the prolog during Lindorf’s pantomime with Phillip Leaver who is delightfully described in the opening credits as “Andreas, Stella’s Servant, a rogue”. He is evil as Dapertutto in the second act, particularly while dancing to the aria in which he charms Giulietta with a gaudy necklace he creates from candle drippings. Bruce Dargavel the bass who sings the aria rolls out the low notes effortlessly. Helpmann and Tcherina make a wonderfully horrible pair—great casting. Leonide Massine was as slender and deadly as the saber he planned to use on Hoffmann. He looks coiled and ready to strike when just standing and watching the action. When Dr. Miracle enters during the third act we know we are in the presence of pure, unexplained and unexplainable depravity. Dr. Miracle has killed Antonia’s mother and now plans to kill Antonia, simply, it seems, because he can. The mother is represented by a life sized statue which I kept expecting to do something—sing, talk, something, like the dead Queen Hermione in “Winter’s Tale”. Helpmann’s acting here has all the mugging and playing to the camera/audience that we associate with silent films and he pulls off a real coup never overplaying how depraved he is, often approaching the edge but never quite straying into caricature. Since his second act character is Giulietta’s “satanic master, a collector of souls” it was quite a stretch for Miracle to be even more malevolent. The isolation, immediacy and intimacy of the claustrophobic set in the third act helped him bring this home. There is a lot going on throughout “The Tales of Hoffman”. Powell and Pressburger and their cinematographer Freddie Francis (credited as “camera operator” which probably doesn’t tell the entire story) made superb use of crane shots and just the sheer height available on the stages at Shepperton Studios with shots from above to begin the orgy scene in Act II and single room sets with columns that disappear into impossibly high ceilings. I will try to post a bit more about this and other stuff I haven’t even touched on after watching this disc a few more times.
  13. 4 by Eric Ambler I recently re-read four of the pre-World War II political espionage thrillers by English author Eric Ambler. They are among the books I re-read every five or ten years. The American titles, in copyright/publication order, are: “Background to Danger”, “Cause for Alarm”, “A Coffin for Dimitrios” and “Journey into Fear”. They have a lot in common in addition to their lurid titles. In each of them the protagonist is a middle class or upper middle class Englishman abroad in central or Southern Europe. He is always a person in whom England could be proud—while not serving for King and Country like those in the armed forces or diplomatic service, Ambler’s heroes uphold the finest traditions of the gentleman. Each of them always keeps his word, no matter what difficulties may arise. In “Background”, for example, the journalist Kenton makes a promise to Herr Sachs, an odd character he meets in a compartment on a train from Berlin (much of the action in each of the books takes place while traveling). That Herr Sachs’s story becomes less likely as he tells it—his mother is Jewish, his family’s fortune will be seized by the Nazis, he has liquidated everything, converted it to bonds and has it all in large envelope. All he needs is a person above suspicion, a person who won’t be searched at the border, perhaps an Englishman to take his envelope to an address in Linz—doesn’t change the fact that Kenton has promised to help him. That Kenton is in need of funds, having had a bad turn at a poker dice game in Berlin, and that Sachs is willing to pay a tidy sum for his help doesn’t change things. A man’s word is his bond. So we follow Kenton to a seedy hotel where he is to deliver the envelope. We find, as he does, that the man to whom he is to make the delivery is dead having met his end recently and violently. If only he hadn’t agreed to Sachs crazy story... But he did and the rest of the book gets Kenton further into trouble with the Austrian police, a nasty group of Germans and a nastier group of hard men in the pay of a shadowy financier in England. He is helped to escape by the heroic Comintern agent Andreas Zaleshoff and his network of Russians. That a Soviet spy is a positive character wasn’t surprising, either in “Background” or in “Cause for Alarm” because the real evil lies with those who paid for the bullets, not who pulled the trigger. In “Cause” the protagonist helped by Zaleshoff is Marlow, an engineer who is made redundant in England and must go to Italy as a sales engineer for a British firm. Since the firm supplies machine tools that the Italian navy uses for making large cannons his appearance is noted by agents from the Soviet Union, the Third Reich and even Yugoslav intelligence. Zaleshoff, accompanied by his attractive sister and fellow spy Tamara, is part of an intriguing set of characters that Ambler created for his protagonists to encounter. Another, who appears in both “Journey” and “Coffin” is Colonel Haki, the cunning but oh so charming director of Turkish military intelligence. In “Journey” yet another English engineer, Graham, is the target of Balkan assassins who are trying to keep him from returning to the home office with the plans for the destroyers his firm is refurbishing at their shipyards. The bad guys will have won if they scare him enough that he goes to ground in Turkey, since the delay of a several weeks would put the project off for a year. Colonel Haki decides the best way for him to travel is via a freighter that takes passengers and that is leaving for Genoa in the morning. But there are complications on the high seas. Nazi spies might be aboard, a lovely burlesque performer has set her cap for Graham while her protector keeps track of thing and there are others who are not who they seem to be. “Coffin” is more of the same, this time with a professor of political economy who writes detective stories in his spare time stumbling into a nest of spies in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. It is full of local color with plenty of double-crossing and backstabbing (literally in one case) and Colonel Haki intervening to keep things on track. It is my least favorite of the four because one has to work to suspend one’s disbelief. I haven’t done these books justice, but I strongly recommend them to those who like sophisticated espionage tales with political overtones full of good guys who are really good and bad guys who are really bad.
  14. A trio and a quartet from "Fidelio". While I have a weakness for almost anything on the lyric stage--for me bad opera is better than no opera--if I had to chose it would be either of two pieces from "Fidelio". The first is the "canon" quartet, Mir ist so wunderbar This is from theGlyndebourne Festival Opera with one of the great Fidelio/Leonora of all times, Elisabeth Soderstrom, lyric soprano Elizabeth Gale as Marzeline, Curt Appelgren, who has the low notes, as Rocco and Ian Caley as Jacquino Particularly from 3:35 to the end. --- The other is a trio, also from Act I of "Fidelio" This one has Gundula Janowitz as Leonora (!!) Lucia Popp as Marzelline (!!!) and Manfred Jungwirth Rocco. At the very end--the beginning of the "March of the Prisoners" check out the conductor. The video is a little annoying at first--problems with the sound synch but it smooths out (or one just gets used to it) after a bit. Every bar of this is sublime but from 3:30 to the end is sublimer and 4:18 to the end sublimest. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MktL_qQqRs
  15. Estelle, I love the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I may re-read it starting with "The Eyre Affair", which actually begins with the theft of the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by an arch criminal who shows his ruthlessness and power by killing a minor character in the book, thereby alterting every single copy in print. In one of the books--it might be "First Among Sequels"-- the Goliath Corporation (real rulers of England) are planning to make Pride and Prejudice into a reality-TV dating show and in doing so will destroy Austen's classic forever. It isn't really possible--at least for me--to do justice to these books and it is always nice to find another fan.
  16. I had been looking through this book at Borders for quite a while and finally decided to get it when a "40% discount" coupon arrived via email. I am an undisciplined consumer so I not only got the Gottlieb book for $27.00 but also paid full price for "Red Carpet: 21 Years of Fame and Fashion" by Frank Trapper. I should return it and purchase it through the Ballet Talk Amazon.com link. Questions of commerce aside, this like a terrific book, something one can open almost anywhere and get lost for an hour or an afternoon. Gottlieb rounded up most of the usual suspects and it is nice to see, in addition to Leigh, that Nancy Dalva's work was included. I happened to open it to a very brief notice by Denby for the New York Herald Tribune in 1944 entitled "The Rockettes and Rhythm" which is a compact and illuminating discussion of the different uses of rhythm in ballet and tap. It also contains the following: "The Music Hall has a charming chorus of classical-ballet girls too..." which made me smile. I love books like this--perfect for wintertime, staying inside during a blizzard and wallowing in its 1300 pages.
  17. Passionate, well written and learned literary criticism can be exhilarating. While the farthest thing from an expert, there are critics whose work I really love. Terry Eagleton and Denis Donoghue are two of them also they seem miles apart in their views of most things. Whatever their critical approach and political beliefs—Eagleton’s politic views are front and center in many of his books—they have spent decades reading widely, deeply and creatively. Which is a wonderful thing to have done. I think he would stick to his pantheon of “great”: Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James and Joseph Conrad and his judgment of what made them great—a serious moral purpose and their study was essential to understanding of law, politics, philosophy or history. I may have that wrong—it is cribbed from some notes I made in a copy of “The Great Tradition” a zillion years ago—but it is an attempt at an answer to dirac’s question. But what Leavis might think of William Chace and his revulsion at the current state of Englsih study I couldn’t begin to guess. On another subject entirely, I won’t bother quoting any more from Chace but much of his essay drips with class deprecation bordering on scorn. He longs for the old days when elite people at elite universities studied elite subjects because they didn’t have to worry about learning things like the tensile strength of ¼” carbon steel or the effect of accelerated profit realization on next year’s bottom line or if a recent Supreme Court case applies to the matter at hand.
  18. I avoided this thread for a few days, not wanting to impose my curmudgeonly self on it--and then read the entire American Scholar article that dirac pointed to. Compared to William Chace, its author, I am a raving post-structuralist. He gives a nod to what many consider the real reasons for the decline in undergraduate (and therefore graduate) humanities programs--the desire for pre-professional education, preperation for further study in business, law, accounting, engineering or medicine. What he really wants to talk about, though, is how nobody teaches English the way he did 40 years ago and puts forth a most unconvincing plea for a return to the canonical view of the study of literature. My problem is that I agree with much of the article--many years ago when I was an undergrad in an undistiguished English department in Chicago I was astounded at how my professors could somehow pick up a poem and simply pour meaning out of it. One of them had studied with Cleanth Brooks and was a master the close reading of a text--at first he seemed like a magician. During this Pleistocene era more than a few grad schools expected applicants to not only have at least one class in Shakespeare but one in Chaucer or Milton as well. Undergrads didn't study criticism--obviously we picked it up from professors in their discussions of how to approach different works but the idea was you learned the literature (as it was so quaintly called then) as an undergrad and then started with criticism and theory in graduate school--but you better know the works already. I loved studying literature--imagine having a job that paid you to read and talk about books--was able to spend part of a summer doing some drudge work on the Melville project at Northwestern U. I was ready for trying to figure out how to pay for both a family and many years of education in grad school when other things intervened which put an end to my formal study for about 15 years. My only connection now with an English department is through two friends who are PhD candidates in English at Wayne State. One of them is specializing in film and doing his dissertation on the works of Spanish erotic horror and sexploitation director Jesus Franco whose works include Vampyros Lesbos and Greta The Mad Butcher. The other is close to completing his dissertation on the images of video games. I have given short lectures to introduction to film classes that each have taught as grad assistants or adjuncts on Hong Kong movies. Both of them are smart, articulate, able to devour books, know their subjects backwards and forwards and may be the future of English departments over the next 30 years or so. Don't tell William Chace. It would only add to his pain. This passage tells his story as well as anything from the American Scholar article:
  19. I will see Inglourious Basterds over the long weekend but I wanted comment on the reviews of Waltz. Two NPR shows interviewed Tarantino recently and both interviewers gushed over Waltz, making his performance seem like the best screen actor since the Lumiere Brothers ran their first metre of film through a camera. It was so over the top to make one think that he couldn't be quite that good and I am glad to read your dissenting opinion.
  20. Thank you indeed, Mashinka and Germaine Greer. So much of the commentary/reviews of Ms. Behrens has ranged from damning with faint praise to really vicious that it is nice to read such a heartfelt appreciation. An example of this is from the John Rockwell review of her in "Gotterdammerung" from 1990: "Of the principals, Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde was announced as suffering from a cold, and she has an inconsistent, patched-together dramatic soprano anyhow. But she sang well enough, and her dramatic involvement goes a long way toward compensating for her vocal eccentricities." She appeared as the "Valkyries" Brunhilde on the Met broadcast in (I think) 1995, also under Levine and so much had been written about how her voice was in shreds, that she might have the high notes but her middle was gone, ad nauseum that it was a real heart in the mouth experience for her fans, one of which I was. The big draw was Domingo singing his first Siegfried but the hero could have been sung by Mickey Mouse for all the difference it made to those who wanted to hear if Behrens could still sing the role. She did and was wonderful. I will have to dig out the tape of that performance...it has to be somewhere. Behrens was the best "Fidelio" I have ever experienced--vocally and dramatically it was perfect for her. Greer is only too right about her "Tosca". In the video with Domingo as Cavaradossi it is hard to concentrate on the music because her appearance is so un-Tosca-ish. A great singer, a great actress, a real creature of the stage whose recordings were sublime. She will be greatly missed throughout the music world.
  21. I realized that if I am going to re-read all of Shakespeare's plays in the next however many years I have left to read it is time to get moving on them. Most recently, Richard II. By the time that Bolingbroke has Richard cornered in Flint castle I was thinking that communication would work much better if we all spoke in iambic pentameter.
  22. In a favorable review of “Shakespeare & Co. by Stanley Wells in the “Guardian” , Robert McCrum uses the term “popular scholarship” three times in describing the work and comparing it with two other recent big Shakespeare books “1599” by James Shapiro and “Will of the World” by Steven Greenblatt. Wells is the pre-eminent Shakespeare scholar of the day—general editor of two(!) complete works, author or co-author of several essential works on just about every aspect of Shakespeare studies, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. When I first picked it up I thought that “Shakespeare & Co.” might be no more than an old academic mining past articles and lectures to cobble together something publishable. It is a terrific book—Wells writes beautifully with a ready wit and easy turn of phrase. The mantle of learning sits lightly on his shoulders. In the review McCrum’s reference to popular scholarship doesn’t seem denigrating or slighting in the least although I have a feeling it often might be. Is “popular” scholarship, meant for an interested non-academic audience generally thought to be of lesser quality than “real” scholarship? Or is it considered a form of literary journalism--not much of which survives in the United States—popularizing and therefore simplifying the hard work done by academics? In other words, is it a backhanded compliment, should it be always read with an unwritten but assumed “only” in front of it? Wondering what the eclectic group of readers here might think. Guardian review
  23. Another terrible thing is that critics feel free to use such inexact terms as "dimension" and (not quite as bad) "bloom" and then modify them with weak adjectives: "some" and "lots". To me, Michael White is saying: "I liked her better when she was fat". __ There can be real problems, of course. A number of years ago we caught Alessandra Marc in "Turandot". While one could accept her as ravishingly beautiful--eye of the beholder and all that--her first entrane was a disaster. Not because of anything she did but what the audience was waiting for her to do. She appeared at the top of a very long and steep staircase. I was thinking, as were many I talked with later, "She is never going to make it all the way down without a mishap." The way she and the director dealt with the problem was to have her turn sideways and come down the stairs very carefully, bringing one foot down, then the other on the same stair, pausing for a moment, then moving the the next stair. It was one of the most unqueenly entrances I have ever seen. But that is a certain singer in a specific role in a specific production. If all the overweight singers were disqualified from singing the title role in "Turandot" there would be significantly fewer productions of it. Which is another story...
  24. I agree ... and remember those experiences quite vivdly. The joy of getting older is "re-visiting" such works. For me, at least. I have found I really enjoy re-visiting books from the past. I just picked up a huge volume with seven of Robert Louis Stevenson's novels. Currently re-reading "Kidnapped" and I can understand why I was so caught up in the trials and triumphs of David Balfour and the "notorious Highland Jacobites" when I was eleven or twelve years old.
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