Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Teaser Tuesday

I have been terribly absent from my blog for the biggest part of this month because I have been travelling, but now I am back! With the Olympics in the background I feel terribly inspired to do something creative. On another note, I reviewed the first two parts of the BBC's 'The Hollow Crown', but by now so much time has passed since they have been broadcasted that I am not going to make it a priority to review them.

So, on to the meme fun! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading and you grab your current read and share a teaser without adding spoilers. I am reading 'Moby Dick or The Whale' by Herman Melville and I really desperately wanted to share this teaser with you.
'Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. '
It is from the 24th page and I absolutely love it. I myself absolutely love water and the sea and I definitely feel as if there is something magical about water, the way it cleanses you and is both soft and strong at the same time.

So, what book are you teasing us with? Please leave behind a link to your post in the comments so I can come and visit!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine in which you can spotlight upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. It is well established that I am terrible at keeping up with releases so I am going to cheat a bit this week and talk about a book I am interested in and want to read soon.

At the moment I am reading a really interesting paper: Acclaiming the Future: A Critical Analysis of the Contemporary Value of High Fantasy Literature. In it, A van der Zee is comparing 'The Lord of the Rings' to Brandon Sanderson's fantasy series 'Mistborn'.
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)
Mistborn is an epic fantasy trilogy and a heist story of political intrigue, surprises and magical martial-arts action. The saga dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge?
I think it sounds really interesting, especially because it challenges the more stereotypical storyline that many modern fantasy novels follow. One of the main reasons I love Star Wars so much (I know, not fantasy) is because the hero is not really a hero. So I am looking forward to this series, even though the novels have been published for years. 


So, how about you? Have you stuck to the rules and found an upcoming release?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday's Memes

Gain New Blog FollowersFollow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.  This weeks question is:
Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

I would be so happy if someone gave me a giftcard; it really is like Christmas! I remember when I got one as a kid for £25 and I thought I was in heaven. I spent days picking out what I wanted. But let's return to the question. I would probably buy:

'The Prisoner of Heaven' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I am utterly ashamed I still haven't bought and devoured it!

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from THE SHADOW OF THE WIND have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel's father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him. 
Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel's surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words 'To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future'. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.
and

'Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece' by Gustav Schwabb. It was my childhood book and I think I lost it and now I want another copy desperately before I head of to university.

Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece (Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library)

From fire-stealing Prometheus to scene-stealing Helen of Troy, from Jason and his golden fleece to Oedipus and his mother, this collection of classic tales from Greek mythology demonstrates the inexhaustible vitality of a timeless cultural legacy.
Here are Icarus flying too close to the sun, mighty Hercules, Achilles and that darn heel, the Trojans and their wooden horse, brave Perseus and beautiful Andromeda, wandering Odysseus and steadfast Penelope. Their stories and the stories of the powerful gods and goddesses who punish and reward, who fall in love with and are enraged by the humans they have created, are set forth simply but movingly, in language that retains the power and drama of the original works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Homer. In Gustav Schwab’s masterful retelling, they are made accessible to readers of all ages.
Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader!


I am using Hesiod's 'Theogony' for this week. You might notice I am in a massive 'Greek Myth'-phase but that's because I am working on something :)


Book Beginnings:



'Muses of Helicon, let us begin our song with them, who hold the great and holy mountain of Helicon, and around its violet-like spring and altar of exceedingly strong Kronios, dance on dainty feet, and who, after bathing their soft skin in the Permessos or the spring of the Horse or holy Olmeios on the peak of Helicon, form their dances, beautiful dances that arouse desire, and they move erotically.'
I really like the beginning and how the author asks the Muses to assist him in his tale. And I wonder who it is that dances and moves erotically.


Friday 56I decided to go for the 56th verse instead of the 56th page. 



'For nine nights, the counselor Zeus was mingling with her apart from the immortals, going up into her sacred bed.'

Well, I knew Zeus was a bit of a ladies man, but 9 nights in a row is very impressive.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Booking Through Thursday


btt button

This week's BTT question comes from Vampira2468:
Series or Stand-alone?


This is a pretty difficult question, as all of the questions seem to be. I really like series such as 'Harry Potter' if they are well executed. You are able to identify with them, grow with them and discover so much. This possibility for development is probably what I love most about series. Take a character like Severus Snape from 'Harry Potter'. For years, J.K. Rowling toyed with our feelings towards him. First we disliked him and were suspicious of every word he said. Then we thought he was actually a good guy who simply had a bad attitude. Then he commits the biggest crime possible and we hate him. And then we all cried when he died. It is almost impossible to do this in a stand-alone because it simply requires a lot of words. I always try to remember, when it comes to stand-alones, that Tolkien meant for 'The Lord of the Rings' to be one book. Imagine how massive that book would have been!! Probably heavier than the Bible! 


But I do love stand-alones. I love being able to pick up a book and find everything in there. I sometimes really dislike cliffhangers, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I want to read a story, that's why I pick up the book. I don't want to feel as if I have to buy the next book in order to be able to finish a story. That's what I liked about Harry Potter, each book has its own story that finishes at the end of the book, next to the bigger story arch. Sometimes authors know they are writing a series and the storyline seriously starts to slacken half way and the end is just a big swamp. Stand-alones, I think, are sometimes harder to write, because the author does not have an unlimited amount of pages. The storyline has to be concise enough to fit into 1 book, which means the author has to put more thought into how it is planned out.


To be honest, I can't choose. I love to many books in either category to be able to discredit one. How about you?



I quickly want to thank everyone who commented on my "rant-post" yesterday about the sexual rewrites of classics. It was great to see I wasn't the only one who felt that way! :)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Why? Sexual Rewrites of Classics


 
I want to apologize in advance because this post might turn into a rant but I am sorting out my thoughts while writing. Yesterday I was watching Channel 4 News when they brought an item about the rewriting of some classic novels to "be more modern", which was a fancy way of saying that they added sex, just because 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is popular.

I believe that there is a fundamental difference between novels such as 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', 'Jane Eyre', 'Moby Dick' or 'A Christmas Carrol' and books such as 'Twilight' and 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. The former are classics which means that throughout the years and decades these novels have proven they have a pull and are attractive to people from every generation. They make the reader think, question him, even if the reader isn't aware of it immediately. They have the ability to be more than entertainment. The latter are fads, they are novels that garner interest, become a craze, cause a whole mountain of similar books to be written and then the public is interested in something else and the process starts again. It is a momentary pleasure. First it was vampire novels, now it is bondage and who knows what it will be next. But why would we subjugate books that have proven themselves to be valuable to a temporary craze?

My problem is not so much the writing of sex scenes including literary characters. I see it as a way of spoofing or parodying the original work for entertainment. I have been looking through the reviews on Amazon of some of those rewrites and most of the people comment on the fact that it is funny to read. There is nothing wrong with this. Classics have always been spoofed because people have read the actual works and are able to appreciate the way that the added scenes change or enrich the story. But last night, I felt it went beyond that. According to Zoe Margolis, 'sex-blogger and author', these rewrites are a way for a 'new audience to access' the books who would otherwise 'never access or read this content' and that it would be snobbish to not want to change the books.

It is not snobbish to want to preserve the classics the way they were written. They are the intellectual property of an author, even if he/she is dead, who intended a novel to be written and structured in a certain way. Every amateur author can testify how difficult it is to structure a page of writing or to find the right word. By adding sex scenes and presenting them as a new version, not just a parody, you are changing the book and the plot and, in my opinion, lose some of the essence of a novel. If a reader has no interest in 'Sherlock Holmes' until he/she finds out someone rewrote it with a homosexual relationship between Holmes and Watson, then I dare to say that they are not introduced to the book as Margolis seems to think, but they are simply part of a craze and will immediately move on to the next book.
Raunchy remix: In the e-book, Elizabeth thinks Darcy is 'hot, spicy and all man'
John Sutherland felt that the rewriting classics with sex scenes and presenting it as more accessible, portrayed the original novels as 'inadequate', as if the lack of sex scenes was a deficit that had to be made up for. Is something missing from these novels that is quintessential to our time and does that mean that young people cannot appreciate them nowadays? I don't think so and all I can do is take myself as an example. I am very much a creation of my generation and circumstances. I am used to Internet being always accessible, being able to contact everyone everywhere and that entertainment is delivered at my door. But I still love the classics the way they are. Novels such as 'Wuthering Height's, 'Pride & Prejudice' and Shakespearean plays write about core human values such as honour, friendship, love and trust. They tread the fine line between representing the time in which they were written and representing humanity. Take a novel like 'Pride and Prejudice'. Of course Jane Austen was restricted by the time in which she wrote, sex wasn't discussed as openly and perhaps didn't have the same importance. But the physical and emotional attraction between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is obvious in Austen's writing.

Does it have to be written down explicitly because we can't imagine it anymore? Where has our imagination gone? It is almost as if an author has to write down that two people in love will have sex, because if they don't the reader will think they won't. If an author writes about a relationship, can the reader not imagine what else happens? When you read the strawberry scene in Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' the sexual undertone and innuendo is obvious enough. He is pushing a strawberry in and out of her mouth, how much clearer can you get! And is it not much more fun to be able to use your imagination and create a personal reading experience than having it all written out for you so you can read it and then move on?

Claire Siemaszkiewicz of Total-E-Bound, which is publishing the collection, said that there is so much sexual tension underpinning these books that if they had been alive today the novels would most  certainly have been more risqué, if not erotic novels in the first place.’ I dare to disagree. The suspense and tension in 'Wuthering Heights' is created by the fact that Heathcliff and Cathy cannot have each other and bringing them together destroys the plot. Emily Bronte would not have done that. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester cannot truly be united until Jane has her independence and her own money, at which point they become true equals. By her subjugating herself to Rochester in BDSM sex Jane loses some of her pride and ideals. Charlotte Bronte would not have done that. They wanted to write about more than just that and expected more from their reader. Look at the examples below. In whose world does this fit into the novels? Jane Eyre is 'schooled' by Rochester and is 'weak'?

Sexed Up


Something Margolis seems to believe is that sex is 'hushed up' in our society and that by adding sex to classics we are able to be more open about it. Where has that belief come from? John Snow, the Channel 4 News presenter, mentioned the Sexual Revolution that has taken place and I really don't feel that there is not enough attention for sex in our society. 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' has been openly published in the UK for 50 year  and deals with sex very openly. And who hasn't seen the many novellas in which a duke seduces a poor maid or in which a lady is ravished by a young squire? We have realized that sex sells and companies, movies, tv series and the music industry have caught onto that. In a society where sex is really hushed up, 'Fifty Shades of Grey' could never become a phenomenon. 

In short, I feel the classics do not have to be changed every time the public is interested in something different. There is nothing wrong with writing parodies, but the key element to parodies is that the reader has to know the original work to be able to appreciate the changes. And as long as the changes are made for the sake of the change themselves and the sake of selling more Ebooks and maintaining a craze, I think it is silly to blow it up into an issue of getting more people to read or make sex a more open subject.

Rant finished. So, what are your thoughts? Do you think the classics would be served with more sex?

UPDATE:
Thanks to Claudia over at Lit Hitchhiker, I was alerted to another great post on sexual rewrites of classics that shows it is not just a thing of our age.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Booking Through Thursday

btt buttonBooking Through Thursday is hosted over at BTT and this week's question came form SammyDee:
What book(s) have you read that you’re secretly ashamed to admit?



Oh help, this is an embarrassing question. I usually try to only read books I know I don't mind people knowing I read, but hat doesn't mean that afterwards sometimes the shame doesn't hit me. The 'Twilight Saga' is probably a likely answer. Let me first of all say: I really liked the first book. I was 14 and the book fit perfectly with all of my teenage angst and weird ideas about relationships. But then I read the second and I just thought: 'What? Why? How?' But once I started reading the series, I felt cruel to stop. And after 'Breaking Dawn' I felt ready to die. I do feel slightly ashamed that I read all four of them and think I should have just quit halfway through the second one. 

But I try to make a point out of not being ashamed. The 'Twilight Saga' got loads of people back to reading books and I am happy about that. Strangely enough, I don't mind admitting I read '50 Shades of Grey'. It made me laugh so many times it was actually a rather amusing read. And compared to some of the "naughty books" (she calls them that) that a friend of mine is convinced she needs to read to me out loud in public, the sex scenes were relatively tame. 

So, how about you? Are you ashamed about any if your books? Leave a link in the comments so I can stop by and check  out your answer!

The Hollow Crown: 'Henry IV Part I' - Review

I unfortunately missed 'Henry IV Part I' last Saturday but was able to catch up last night. This is the second part of Shakespeare's tetralogy about Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. The director for this play was Richard Eyre. Shakespeare wrote a superb play. In typical Shakespeare fashion, tragedy and comedy mix to create a play that has so much to offer. In tragic irony, the man King Henry IV wishes as a son leads a rebellion against him. The insults uttered by Falstaff and Hall and both hilarious and eloquent and none of the characters can be hated. Although at times historically incorrect, i.e. Hal faces Harry Hotspur in the final battle and they are of equal age, his changes add to the dramatic moment. Shakespeare makes a point and for the sake of drama, it did not matter in Elizabethan times and does not lessen the brilliance of the play now. 

Image for Henry IV - Part 1

'Richard II' was a very serious play mostly concerned with the rights of kings. 'Henry IV P.1' is a much lighter play since there is a very strong focus on comedy, mainly manifested in the character of Falstaff. An old fat man who is very fond of Prince Henry (Hall) and almost seems to have a paternal affection towards him. Yet he Richard Eyre takes care to always underline the fact that Hal will be king.  Perhaps my favourite moment, in which Simon Russel Beale as Fallstaf shone, is where Fallstaf's affection for Hall shines through when they impersonate respectively Hall (Fallstaf) and Henry IV (Hall). It is a truly touching moment, acted superbly, which changes the tone of their relationship and even succeeds to create suspense for the Part II, to be aired next Saturday. 

Whereas the last play focused on kings, this play focuses much more on the story of a father and a son. The former is disappointed in his son, who, in his eyes, fails to live up to the standard of a prince who is heir. Henry IV wishes that Harry Hotspur, who seems much more honorable and princely, was his son instead of Prince Harry. An alternative however, is also given to Prince Harry in the form of John Falstaff. The struggle between father and son seems very natural, yet extra gravitas is added by the context of the play. Henry's position on the throne is not secure and questioned by Harry Hotspur and the King feels that his son could not care less. It makes Henry IV a lonely figure who you almost pity. He is plagued by guilt about how he got to the throne and when faced with a plot, 

Again, the cast was stunning. This series is quickly turning into an assembly of Britain's finest actors. Simon Russel Beale has been called "the greatest stage actor of his generation" and he lights up the screen every time the camera locks upon him and achieves to make us both laugh and cry. Julie Walters was also very enjoyable as Mistress Quickly. For an hour, I kept on wondering who she was, until I finally recognized her. But perhaps the most important performance is Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal. Not only is he crucial in both Henry VI's but is central to Henry V. Together with Simon Russel Beale he is hilarious and has a roguish charm, together with an amazing Jeremy Irons, he seemed a lost boy. Joe Armstrong  as Harry Hotspur was a great enemy to the other two Henry's. He seems honorable, even if he is hotheaded, and he was able to not make me laugh with his accent.

In another interesting episode of  'Shakespeare Uncovered', Jeremy Irons explored not only Henry IV and his fears, but also Henry V and how he changes throughout the three plays. His exploration of the historical kings and his own thoughts on the mind of Henry IV are very interesting and not only explain the first play, but also prepares the viewer for the other two which are still to come. Also, to my shame, I have to admit I cannot seem to warm to Laurence Olivier. It is perhaps largely due to how Shakespeare was acted back in the day. It just seems a bit overacted and I much more appreciate the acting in 'The Hollow Crown'.

Did you see 'Henry IV' and did you enjoy it as much as I did?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

WWW Wednesday

I just got back from a week in Barcelona and I desperately missed blogging, so I decided to throw myself onto a new meme! WWW Wednesday is hosted by MizB. at Should Be Reading.

To play along, just answer the following three questions:


- What are you currently reading?
- What did you recently finish reading?
- What do you think you'll read next?

My answers:

I am currently reading 'Vanity Fair' by William Thackeray and I am about a third through. I never really wanted to read this book, but I felt I should. I am really happy I started it though because I am really enjoying it.

Thackeray is an intrusive author, which means he is constantly commenting on his characters, the plot and how it stands in comparison to literature. I am absolutely loving it. His comments are funny, the characters are great and he very gently mocks literature.

What really makes em want to finish this novel is that I want to watch the movie desperately. The trailer is so colourful and it has Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in it and I cannot resist that man!

I had taken 'The Glass Palace' to Barcelona, but also packed my Kindle and I could simply not resist! I read 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Pride and Prejudice' and then started 'Vanity Fair'. I really love 'Wuthering Heights' and rereading it was great. Heathcliff is a great character and I think Emily Bronte is an amazing writer. But the highlight for me was probably 'Pride & Prejudice'. This is the second time, only, I have read it. The first time was when I was 14 and I read it within 24 hours and was in love with Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy ever after. I had a massive, ridiculous grin on my face, every time Darcy talked to Lizzy and felt like a little teenage girl all over again, in a good way. I also finished 'Hideous Kinky' by Esther Freud', hop over here for the review.

I honesty don't really know what I will be reading afterwards. There is a whole selection of books I want to start reading. 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville, 'Ulysses' by James Joyce,
'Paradise Lost' by John Milton and I want to re-start 'The Picture of Dorian Grey' by Oscar Wilde.

So, how about you? What are you reading? Leave your link in a comment so I can visit!





Review: 'Hideous Kinky' by Esther Freud

HideousKinky.jpgI came back from Barcelona yesterday and fund myself in a terrible position. My book was in my bag and my Kindle had ran out of battery. That meant I had a 2 hour wait, a 2 hour flight and a half hour train journey ahead of me in which I had nothing to read. But thankfully I had a brilliant friend who had 'Hideous Kinky' on her by Esther Freud. After 4 hours of reading pleasure, I was satisfied and the book was finished.


Escaping gray London in 1972, a beautiful, determined mother takes her daughters, aged 5 and 7, to Morocco in search of adventure, a better life, and maybe love. "Hideous Kinky" follows two little English girls -- the five-year-old narrator and Bea, her seven-year-old sister -- as they struggle to establish some semblance of normal life on a trip to Morocco with their hippie mother, Julia. Once in Marrakech, Julia immerses herself in Sufism and her quest for personal fulfillment, while her daughters rebel -- the older by trying to recreate her English life, the younger by turning her hopes for a father on a most unlikely candidate. 
The story centers around Lucy, who visits Morocco with her mother and sister, Bea, and the narrative is from her perspective. Starting the book I was wondering how it would work out, but since I had recently read 'What Maisie Knew', which is also from a child's perspective, I was more than willing to give it a try. And it worked very well. Set in a country like Morocco which is filled with interesting sights and stories, a child's perspective allows for magic where adults might see problems. Lucy is adorable in her naivety, but at the same time she, like all children, notices everything. Of course the vocabulary is too impressive for a 4 year old, but the impressions it conveys are very child like, in a good way. 


I really liked the way Esther Freud wrote this book. I haven't read any of her other novels, but after finishing the book I really felt I had read a warm and true description of Morocco. Yet the story was a bit strange. Although I really liked the child's perspective, the reader looses out on a huge amount of information. The time in which it is set, where they came from, where the father is, none of this is really explained. This has both good and bad consequences. On the one hand, we get a snap shot from Lucy's life, as if we are one of the many people they meet and then move on. On the other hand, it means it is a bit hard to relate to the characters, especially to the mother, who just seems very strange. 


The book is autobiographical, since Esther Freud traveled a lot with her mother as a child. This could explain some of my objections to the book. It is, perhaps, really a snapshot from her life and the lack of knowledge about her surroundings could be very realistic. 


I give this book...

3 UNIVERSES!!!


Overall, the book was great a a travel read. It was quick, not too difficult and it is filled with beautiful images that are sure to pass your time. Yet it did not blow me away and at times I felt that there were plot holes, or at least, plot lines that should have been explored more.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Monday, 2 July 2012

The Hollow Crown: Richard II - review

Last Saturday, the BBC started its Shakespearean tetralogy, consisting of 'Richard II', 'Henry IV Part 1', Henry IV Part 2' and 'Henry V'. Personally I have only seen 'Henry V' being performed and I have read none of the plays, so I was quite excited to see how it would turn out.

First of all let me start by saying that I was really impressed. I think it is quite difficult to bring a Shakespeare play to the screen. Compared to movies, the scenes are long and set in one place, there are long dialogues or soliloquies/monologues and of course, Shakespearean English isn't always easy on the ear. And then it has also to be taken into account that 'Richard II' is the hardest one of the 4 plays. It is written entirely in verse, there are no jokes in it, no battle scenes and a lot of long speeches about the right of rulers.

Episode image for Richard II

Therefore, it is a great accomplishment that 'Richard II' worked so well. Rupert Goold, known for his visual staging of plays, created beautiful "pictures". Everything seemed to fit together; the costumes, the words, the staging and the filming. For example, when Richard II talks to Bolingbrook, his enemy, he is dressed in a golden armour, studded with diamonds, and flanked by two golden angels. He seems quite impressive, giving his speech, yet then Goold shows us the sweat running down his face, his knees wobbling, his hands trembling. This is just one example of how he tried to show visually what the text is saying. I also appreciated how Goold tried to make the TV-audience part of the play, as happens when it is performed in the Globe. During the speeches and soliloquies, the camera was very close to the actors, creating the feeling that they were actually talking to you.


The acting was superb. Sarah Crompton over at the Telegraph called Ben Whishaw's performance 'a virtuoso performance, but not a moving one'. I quite disagree. He blew me away as Richard II. When he returns from Ireland, Richard is confronted with the news of Bolingbrook taking over large parts of England. In this scene, Whishaw somehow achieved switching from the frivolous, to the deeply sad and betrayed. When he starts the 'to tell sad stories of the death of kings' speech, I felt truly sorry for Richard, which is quite an achievement since Richard is a character that generally feels very sorry for himself.  Throughout the entire play, Whishaw's performance was poignant and immensely interesting to watch. 


The same can be said about all the other actors. The BBC truly gathered an amazing cast for this tetralogy. This week we enjoyed the brilliant performance of Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, David Suchet (who I will always know and love as Poirot) and Patrick Stuart. I remember seeing Kinnear as Hamlet in the National Theatre and thinking he was perhaps too serious. Yet he was great as Bolingbrook and worked very well with the camera to show the character's emotions. 


What I enjoyed a lot as well was 'Shakespeare Uncovered: Richard II' which was presented by Derek Jacobi, himself a Shakespearean actor. In an hour, he explained Richard's character, his own experience playing Richard II in his youth and he went through the play with some Globe actors. Perhaps I enjoyed the latter a bit too much since one of the actors was Jamie Parker, who I've seen as Henry V in the Globe and I have developed a slight Shakespearean crush on him. It was great to see the actors discuss their characters, their motivation and then see them act it out again.


On one point I did disagree with Jacobi. Jacobi, apparently, is convinced that the plays weren't written by William Shakespeare but by the Earl of Oxford and that Shakespeare was simply allowed to take credit because it was below an earl to write plays. I think this theory is ridiculous. Jacobi says the Earl's education and background creates a much more likely author for the plays, naming its expertise in courtly traditions and warfare as an example. However, I believe that Shakespeare's characters are way too human and "normal" to be written by someone of nobility. It would have been nearly impossible for a man of high ranking to empathize with the working classes. Yet Shakespeare's plays are filled with humour, sexual innuendo and characters who portray common emotions. Next to this, there is absolutely no historical proof for this claim and the Earl died before some of the plays were even written. Hop over to this article from the Guardian about the movie ('Anonymous') made about this claim. 


Did you see The Hollow Crown: Richard II? If yes, what did you think?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



This meme is hosted by BookJourney.

I am going on a holiday to Barcelona tomorrow, so I have to be very economical with the books I bring. Thank the Lord for my Kindle! I really do not know what I would do without it!

Last Week:

'Tis  A Pity She's A Whore' by John Ford.
I finished this play last week and wrote an analysis of it: Gender and Power in 'Tis A Pity'. It was quite a challenging read!


Next to this one I reread 'The Shadow of the Wind' and 'The Angel's Game' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.


This Week:


So, to Barcelona I am taking 'The Glass Palace' by Amitav Ghosh. 



Rajkumar is only another boy, helping on a market stall in the dusty square outside the royal palace, when the British force the Burmese king, queen and all the court into exile. He is rescued by the far-seeing Chinese merchant, and with him builds up a logging business in upper Burma. But haunted by his vision of the royal family, he journeys to the obscure town in India where they have been exiled.
The picture of the tension between the Burmese, the Indian and the British, is excellent. Among the great range of characters are one of the court ladies, Miss Dolly, whom he marries; and the redoubtable Jonakin, part of the British-educated Indian colony, who with her husband has been put in charge of the Burmese exiled court.
The story follows the fortunes – rubber estates in Malaya, businesses in Singapore, estates in Burma – which Rajkumar, with his Chinese, British and Burmese relations, friends and associates, builds up – from 1870 through World War II to the scattering of the extended family to New York and Thailand, London and Hong Kong in the post-war years.

It just sounds very exciting! And because I am taking my Kindle I will probably dabble in some Emily Bronte, Austen, Shakespeare or Zafon while lying on the beach!

What are you reading this week? Anything special planned for your bookshelf?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

'The Heart Asks Pleasure First' by Emily Dickinson

This is one of the few, if not the only, poem by Emily Dickinson I enjoy reading. It was the kind of poem that just wouldn't let me go. So I thought I would share it and my thoughts with you.



The heart asks pleasure first
And then, excuse from pain-
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;

And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.

It is a relatively short poem, yet it carries a lot of meaning. Take the first line: 'The heart asks pleasure first'. It is immediately clear that Emily feels that passion, pleasure, any kind of emotion come from the heart, not from the head. love is therefore, in her eyes, not a rational thing. It also implies that her heart is subordinate to something else because she 'asks'. She is in no position to demand love, affection or pleasure, she has to ask for it. Perhaps Emily is trying to say that even in love, a woman is subordinate to a man and has to beg for love. On the other hand, she could be making a more general point about lovers. One is always pining for love and affection from the other, who is therefore stronger. This interpretation might be more valid when taking the rest of the poem into account.


What the heart asks for becomes increasingly more disturbing. Emily goes from 'pleasure' to 'pain' to 'suffering'. Whereas she has asked for the first, the second and third are being done to her. Yet she does not ask for the pain to stop, she asks for an 'excuse' or something to 'deaden' her suffering. It seems she cannot or will not be angry about her pain but perhaps sees it as her own fault. That might be logical from the perspective of courtly love, where pain had to be overcome in order to be worthy of your lover. Yet here it seems the pain is leading towards the inevitable end of the relationship. Emily's narrator is being hurt, yet there seems that she is too in love to mind. She would rather be in pain with hr lover, than painless without him. 

The 'Inquisitor' mentioned by Emily could be interpreted as being her lover. She has completely and utterly given herself over to him and therefore he is the one who can decide her destiny. An inquisitor was part of the inquisition who were meant to eliminate heresy in the name of the Church. This reveals something about the nature of the relationship. Perhaps she feels she is being punished for loving too much or for not being the way people, especially her lover, expected her to be. The line also seems to take the metaphore of 'giving your heart to someone' a bit to the extreme since he is 'its' Inquisitor, not hers. She has given herself over to him completely and is at his bidding. And yet it is still her wish to die. He does not demand it of her, but she feels that death would be a 'liberty' compared to the prison of pain she has been stuck in after the end of her relationship. 

The poem clearly states Emily Dickinson's views on the end of love. She sees it as something unnatural. She emphasizes this by linking love to the 'heart'. The end of love must therefore also be the end of her heart beating, inevitably leading to death. Other poets often express this through imagery of nature dying, to show how it is not in the nature of man to love and then lose love.
In both stanzas, all lines except the fourth have six syllables whereas the fourth and eighth have eight syllables. Because Emile uses free verse (she doesn't use consistent rhyming) this rhythmic structure is crucial to knowing how the poem should be read. There is something about those two lines that is important, namely those 'little anodynes' that sooth her pain and the 'Inquisitor', who both causes her pain but also has the power to release her of it. 

What do you think of the poem and the way that Dickinson presents love and especially the end of it?  Do you have a different Dickinson poem you like?