Monthly Archives: August 2013

Best of the old & the new

Best of the old & the new

Followed along today with the first edition (First Quarto, 1600) of the greatest comedy ever written (isn’t it?). This was a lively reading (including fairy stints by some little kids) by Instant Shakespeare Company. Still would like a bit faster of a PDF reader on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0). But the free Radaee [sic] PDF Reader did an OK job.

The spellings and typography of an early edition (which the actors also read from) are evocative, and can be illuminating.  Noticed that the designation for one of the characters is “Puck” in some places, and “Robin” (for Robin Goodfellow) in others.  I asked one cast member about this, and she opined that when he is being naughty, “Puck” is used, otherwise it’s “Robin”.  However, based on a quick check of the text I just did, I’m not sure this is true …

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August 24, 2013 · 9:45 pm

The W.H. Ainsworth?

THE W.H. Ainsworth?

Two “great books” compilations here from the London Daily Telegraph, a century apart. The 1899 list includes The Tower of London, along with many other works which, from our 2013 standpoint, did not stand the test of time. Will the 1999 list end up correlating any better with literary longevity?   The survival (or not) of various books and authors is discussed in Allan Massie’s article, “The Problem of Predicting What Will Last“.

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August 21, 2013 · 9:58 pm

History of the 99%

History of the 99%, for the 99%

From the very beginning, Zinn tells things from the point of view of the downtrodden:

“‘They [Columbus wrote of the Arawak Indians] have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.’

“These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.”

Orig. posted on FB, 13jun2012

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August 20, 2013 · 11:16 pm

Wells before Welles (Orson, that is)

Wells before Welles (Orson, that is)

H.G. Wells’ 1898 classic is a bit creaky in places (and contains some improbable physics), but I think is still worth reading. The Martians’ heat-ray is a foreseeing of the laser. The Martians DON’T avail themselves of one piece of technology that on Earth goes back to prehistory … can you figure it out before Wells spills the beans? Here’s a telling quote (albeit one darkened by the racial views of Wells’ time): “… before we judge of [the Martians] too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior [sic] races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?” This book of course inspired Orson Welles’ legendary 1938 radio program, that sent terrified New Jerseyans fleeing down the highways …

Originally posted on FB, 14jan2013

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August 17, 2013 · 11:19 pm

Perry Mason without Raymond Burr

Perry Mason without Raymond Burr

Recently finished Erle Stanley Gardiner’s first (81 to go!) Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933). Crudely written, but somehow the more powerful for it. Lawyer-detective Mason is tougher than I recall Raymond Burr being in the TV series. Speaking of himself, Mason says: “If you look me up through some family lawyer or some corporation lawyer, he’ll probably tell you that I’m a shyster. If you look me up through some chap in the District Attorney’s office, he’ll tell you that I’m a dangerous antagonist but he doesn’t know very much about me. If you look me up through a bank you won’t find out a damned thing.” Another quote I like: “The two women maintained toward each other that air of aloof hostility which characterizes two dogs walking stiff-legged, one around the other.”

Orig. posted on FB, June 4, 2012

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August 2, 2013 · 12:20 am