Re-Reads, Read-Alongs, Shakespeare, Stephen King

Readalongs: Macbeth and Doctor Sleep

Hello, folks!  I have decided to take part in two read-alongs during the month of October.

macbethNumber One

The first is a read-along of Macbeth, which I guess I’m technically “hosting,” but it will be very informal.  The idea came about via a Twitter conversation (as is usually the case) with @Leeswammes and @bibliosue.  Anyone who would like to join in, please feel free!  Macbeth is a five act play, so we plan to read basically one (or 1+) act each week.

I will have a more formal reading plan posted on October 1st, which is when I plan to begin reading.  Macbeth is great fun, so if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It’s also PERFECT Halloween reading. You can find additional thoughts and a sign-up widget in Bibliosue’s announcement post, Here.

sleepalong

Number Two

The second read-along is hosted by Tif at Tif Talks Books.  This is for Doctor Sleep, which is the new Stephen King novel, a sequel to his incredibly popular (and awesome) The Shining.  Details about this read-along can be found Right Here. We’ll be keeping up with our reading on Twitter, with the hashtag #Sleepalong.

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Book Review, British Literature, Classics, Comedy, Drama, Gender Studies, Homoeroticism, Homosocial Relationships, Pastoral, Play, Shakespeare

Thoughts: As You Like It by William Shakespeare

386383As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0
YTD: 14

I have been away from Shakespeare for far too long. I have taken two courses in Shakespeare, one in college and one in graduate school. In both cases, we spent the majority of the time studying his histories and tragedies (Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, Henry V, etc.), as well as the history of the period, his contemporaries (Marlowe, Jonson, Lily, Nashe, etc.) and some of the sonnets. In only one class did we read a comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I firmly believe we only read this one because a) the instructor felt it necessary to include at least one example of Shakespeare’s comedic work and b) the instructor was also interested in mythology. So, I went into this play not having read any Shakespeare in more than 4 years and having very little experience with his comedies, though I’ve read quite a bit of his oeuvre.

While it is impossible to know just how much of As You Like It is still in its original form (this play, like all his others, was changed multiple times to suit stage needs and audience feedback, prior to having been printed for the first time), it is clear that it was likely written around 1599 (near the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign) and that it fits into the genre of the pastoral, which is inspired by ancient Greek literature. As in other pastoral stories, this one includes high-ranking members of society who must flee from court and hide in the countryside, for fear of imprisonment or execution. They abandon their princely lives to become shepherds, farmers, shopkeepers, etc.

As the play begins, we learn that Sir Rowland de Bois has died and his power and property have passed on to his eldest son Oliver. Oliver is charged with taking care of his brother, Orlando, but the brothers are not friends and Oliver instead completely neglects Orlando, leaving him without education, without property, and without any training which might allow Orlando to advance in the world and make a life for himself. There is a wrestling match at court, which Oliver attempts to “fix” so that the master wrestler, Charles, will kill Orlando during the match – but Orlando wins and during the match catches the eye of the beautiful Rosalind (who is the daughter of Duke Senior, who has been usurped by his brother, Frederick). After the match, Orlando learns that he must flee for his safety, so he heads for the Forest of Ardenne, where Duke Senior happens to be hiding, and is soon followed there (unknowingly) by Rosalind and her bosom friend Celia, both of whom are disguised (Rosalind as a boy, Celia as a darker-skinned peasant).

fraynglobeUltimately, Duke Frederick orders Oliver to find Orlando and bring back Celia (Duke Frederick’s daughter), and threatens him with destruction and poverty if he fails. In the Forest of Ardenne, Orlando meets Rosalind as Ganymede (that name should ring some bells!), who says he will pretend to be Rosalind so that Orlando can practice courting her. This is some of the most elaborate gender-bending in literary history and is somewhat shocking to find in a 17th Century play. Rosalind will eventually become the mastermind of a community wedding, where four couples get married, after agreeing to her terms (given as Ganymede) the day before. There was a woman in love with Rosalind (as Ganymede) who agrees to marry another man, if Ganymede can convince her not to want to marry him (which he does by revealing himself to be a woman) and an agreement from her father, Duke Senior, that he will allow his daughter, Rosalind, to marry Orlando, if only they could find Rosalind (which, again, comes true after Ganymede takes off his disguise).

It gets even more complicated when we recall that, at the time, women’s roles would have been played by boys. So, here we have a boy playing Rosalind, who then – in the play- pretends to be a boy (so a boy playing a girl playing a boy), who then reveals himself to be a girl (all the while still a boy in real life). Talk about a sense of humor!

The primary theme of As You Like It seems to be the complexity of life and the tongue-in-cheek spoofing of conventional romances, where men are love slaves to their ladies and where love itself acts like a disease, disabling its sufferer. This play is littered with arguments, possibilities, choices, and dichotomies, all of which are presented as realities of life, without much (if any) preaching on Shakespeare’s part. There are plenty of binaries, but few didactic absolutes – it is as if Shakespeare is saying, “these are the many ways man and woman can live, the many choices they could make, and who are we to say which is right or wrong?”

My thoughts are all over the place on this one, because there is so much going on (within the play) and so much being said (by Shakespeare, through the play). That being said, the plot and story are surprisingly easy to follow, despite the play’s complexity. It is also highly entertaining and enjoyable because of the novelty of the story, for its time, and also because of its farcical nature and its ability to laugh at the ridiculousness of love, all the while being a love story. Enjoyable, interesting, thought-provoking, and funny. Classic Shakespeare.

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School +

Interest: Gender Roles, Primogeniture, Patriarchy, History, Comedy/Drama, Identity, Homoeroticism, , Cross-dressing.

Symbols/Motifs: Ganymede, Poetry (Orlando), Cuckoldry; Exile, Artifice, Homoeroticism.

Dichotomies: City (Court) vs Country; Nature vs Fate; Realism vs. Romance; Old vs. Young; Noble Birth vs. Social Advancement; Reason vs. Foolishness.

Notable Quotes*:

“The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.” (11)

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” (25)

“I shall ne’er be ware of mine own wit till I break my shins against it.” (33)

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” (44)

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (89)

*Page numbers correspond to the 2000 Pelican Shakespeare edition, ed. by Frances E. Dolan.

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African-American, Andy Behrman, Book Review, Drama, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay Lit, J.D. Salinger, Langston Hughes, Rick Riordan, Scott Heim, Shakespeare, Short Story

Review: Previously Read, Briefly Reviewed

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

This collection of short stories has been sitting on my shelf for about a year. I love J.D. Salinger, but I suppose I was a bit leery of reading his short stories, as I’ve only read his novel The Catcher in the Rye and his dual-novella Franny and Zooey (Both of which I highly recommend). I had nothing to worry about, though. These short stories – admittedly, some more effective than others – are pure Salinger. They’re witty, sarcastic, sad, entertaining, and original. I particularly enjoyed the elliptical stories (the first and last stories in the collection) “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “Teddy.” They were incredibly moving and fantastically written. I will definitely read most of these stories, if not the whole collection, many times over.

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim

Probably one of the best gay fiction(?) novels of all time. Painful, funny, dangerous, sexy, mature, and playful. Fantastic read.

Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania by Andy Behrman

Nothing special. Behrman tries too hard to be psychotic.

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes

Absolutely beautiful collection of short stories, chronicling race relations in the American Jazz Age. Hughes writes a stunning anthropological study of the white race, in response to Dubois’s The Souls of Black Folk.

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan

Just another fantastic installment of the great “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Each new story is better than the last – the action is getting more intense, the danger more real and more powerful. Plus, Riordan’s knowledge of Classical Greek Mythology is superb. He turns that knowledge into something both useful and entertaining – education can be fun! I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or similar fantasy genre series’. It’s not nearly as sophisticated as Lord of the Rings and the narrative construction doesn’t “progress” through time the way that the Harry Potter novels do, but it’s still a worthy, exciting read. Light but fruitful. Can’t wait to get number four!

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s exploration of the human conscience – the meaning of “madness” – is what made this play so revolutionary and it is what has kept the play so popular for over 300 years. Hamlet breaks tradition from previous revenge tragedies of the Jacobean, Elizabethan, and classical tragedies in that Shakespeare provides a “method” for the madness. The purpose of the “ghost” of Hamlet’s father remains debated today. The discussion of protestant vs catholic vs pagan beliefs is exciting.

The Arden edition is especially beneficial to students of literature or of Shakespeare because it provides excellent explanatory notes, appendices, introductions, etc.

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Appignanesi, Creative Non-Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Gay Lit, J.T. Leroy, Jonathan Culler, Rick Riordan, Shakespeare, Theory

Review: The Earlies Part 2

Freud for Beginners by Richard Appignanesi

Doesn’t go into much depth about Freud’s theories, but it is a fun and fast introduction to all the major ideas. Definitely recommended for newcomers, such as myself. I’m a graduate student lterature and was looking for an introduction to Freud’s thought so that I could then apply/discuss it with regards to literary theory, and this book gives a solid platform.

The Heart is Deceitful Above all Things by J.T. Leroy

Very interesting. Very interesting.

King Richard II by William Shakespeare

Probably my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays – at least of those I have read. It is one of his earlier plays, and it shows. While the poetry and wordplay is quite fun and definitely the work of genius, the plot and story are quite superficial.. befitting a “history” play, I guess. It really was just an answer to Marlowe’s Edward II – which I found much more interesting. This is called a Tragedy, but I don’t think that’s fitting. His later tragedies are much more interesting in the complexity and psychological study.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

All I could think of throughout the novel was “name-dropper, name dropper, name drop…annoying!” It wasn’t anybody’s autobiography, least of all that of Alice B. Toklas. In the end, she likens this to what Defoe did for Crusoe, but no. No. While it was interesting learning all about the times and relationships of Gertrude Stein, Hemmingway, Picasso, etc.. well, it just wasn’t enough.

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler

A good start… theory and criticism is an extremely deep pool, and this text is a great way to “dip your toes.” Perhaps the most beneficial section is the Appendix, in which Culler outlines the major schools of theory – a bit more added to these brief summaries would have been perfect for new-comers.

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan

Pretty awesome read – as good as the first (The Lightning Thief). Exciting, fun, educational, suspensful… I dig it. Can’t wait to finish the series with The Titan’s Curse.

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